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Komets win in OT to advance

RAPID CITY, S.D. – If the Komets leave the CHL after this season, as most people expect they will, they'll probably never face the Rapid City Rush again.

That'll probably be just fine with the Komets.

Their 4-3 overtime victory Tuesday night at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center gave the Komets a 4-2 win in the best-of-seven Turner Conference semifinals and advanced them to the CHL's Final Four.

Center Colin Chaulk ended it 51 seconds into extra time, redirecting a pass from Mike Vaskivuo underneath goaltender Tim Boron.

The Komets will play host to the Missouri Mavericks on Friday and Saturday at Memorial Coliseum, with the rest of the schedule to be announced today.

But ousting the Rush wasn't easy and the Komets are plenty bruised, bloodied and fatigued to show it. The Komets had a 3-1 lead in the series before dropping Game 5 at the Coliseum, 4-1.

And on Tuesday, the Komets' early two-goal lead evaporated quickly. But it was only fitting that these teams ended things this way, after so many rough-and-tumble playoff games.

It took five games of a best-of-five series for the Rush to eliminate the Komets from the conference semifinals last year, after Fort Wayne fell two games behind.

If there's been a longer goal in the Komets 60-year history than the one that defenseman Jamie Lovell had to open the scoring – one with a goalie in net, anyway – no one seemed to remember it.

Lovell was bracing to absorb a hit from the Rush's Andrew Smale in the left circle of his own zone, and he dumped the puck toward Boron. The puck took a funny hop close to the net and went in at 3:42 of the first period.

Defenseman Brent Henley gave the Komets a two-goal lead at 11:56, attacking from the point, accepting forward Mike Vaskivuo's pass from behind the net and blasting it past Boron.

Lovell had only five goals during the regular season. Henley had only three.

But the Rush answered at 16:56 when forward Les Reaney redirected defenseman Dave Grimson's shot from the point past goalie Nick Boucher.

The Komets played without center Brett Smith, who was still feeling the effects of a hit from behind by in Game 1 by Jeff Kyrzakos that injured his neck. Despite reports to the contrary, Komets president Michael Franke said Smith didn't undergo any procedure and remained day-to-day.

Smith was replaced by forward Derek Roehl, who made his professional debut out of Western Michigan.

When Roehl and Chris Auger took penalties midway through the second period, it gave the Rush a pivotal 5-on-3 power play for 1:04. The Komets held the Rush to only two shots until Roehl came out of the box, then Scott Wray scored after a pass from behind the net by Konrad Reeder for a power-play goal and a 2-all tie.

The Komets regained the lead with a power-play goal 16:00 into the third period, when center Jean-Michel Rizk deposited the rebound of a Jamie Milam shot into the net.

The Rush got another 5-on-3 power play, though, and the Komets killed off the first penalty only to have Reeder tie it by redirecting a Riley Weselowski shot from the point at 18:20.

The Rush almost won the game with 20 second remaining, but Boucher kicked away a shot from Jesse Shultz, just as it was getting to the goal line.

The Komets outshot the Rush 40-29.

The Komets opted not to play defenseman David Starenky, who is still not 100 percent from the shoulder injury sustained on a hit by Reaney in Game 3, for which Reaney was suspended one game by the CHL.

jcohn@jg.net

Justin A. Cohn, pro sports coordinator for The Journal Gazette, has been covering the Fort Wayne Komets since 1997. His reporting includes game stories from home and away, features about the players and personalities associated with the Komets, plus coverage of issues affecting hockey at all levels. A native of Bloomfield Hills, Mich., Cohn graduated from Emory University in Atlanta. He can be reached at 260-461-8429 or by email at jcohn@jg.net.

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