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Swikar Patel | The Journal Gazette
K’s goalie Gerry Festa defends with David Starenky, right, against Bloomington’s Brandon Richardson.

K’s backup goalie ready to face former team

– His text line began buzzing or chirping or whatever a text line does as soon as the Komets left the ice Tuesday night, with Rapid City done and the Missouri Mavericks filling up the windshield.

“Little bit of banter,” recalls Gerry Festa, no doubt understating it.

A smile now.

“Yeah, it’s pretty funny, actually,” he goes on. “But once the puck drops, everything is serious.”

Until then, though, it’s on, between Festa and his homies who are no longer homies. They’re back in Missouri and he’s here, but it’s on: Talkin’ Junk A Keystroke At A Time, Vol. I.

Festa smiles again. It’s the end of practice in Memorial Coliseum, and his goalie mask rests on the bench next to him, along with the towel he’s used to politely wipe the sweat off his palm before shaking hands with a visitor. Everyone else is still on the ice, forming the usual post-practice firing squad around Nick Boucher, the man to whom Festa is understudy.

Such an odd feeling this is, to be so much a part of everything in Fort Wayne and yet still connected to so much back in Missouri. Odd, and yet … not really.

“You know, when I first got traded, the first thing I thought about was, ‘We’re probably gonna meet in the playoffs,’ ” says Festa, who spent parts of three seasons with Missouri. “So, here we are. It’s worked out that way, and it’s pretty exciting. It’ll be fun.”

And maybe not as odd as you’d think. Most of that went away, Festa says, the first time he went back to Missouri after being traded to Fort Wayne on Jan. 3 for defenseman Tristin Llewellyn.

“I think I got most of the emotion out and the initial shock and that stuff then,” Festa says. “Now it’s more I just want to win, and it’s not really about that anymore.

“But it’ll still be fun to go back there. A lot of those guys I played with all last season, so I made some really good friends for life.”

And now it’s his job to help beat them, by any means necessary. He hasn’t played a minute in the playoffs yet – Llewellyn, on the other hand, has four points in four playoff games for Missouri – but Festa went 6-4-3 with a 2.98 goals-against in 14 games for the Komets in the regular season, and Al Sims has never been shy about switching things up in the playoffs. So who knows.

In the meantime, Festa does what he can, which mostly involves feeding tips to Sims and assistant coach Gary Graham they likely already know.

“I think watching Missouri … they’re very similar to Rapid City in the way they play, and that helps us a lot,” Sims says. “Our preparation for Rapid will work against Missouri as well. Obviously there’s some different things on the special teams that they do, but I think for the most part we don’t have a whole lot we have to do to counteract what they do.”

Festa agrees.

“I can throw a few pointers here and there as far as their tendencies, but everybody has video in this league,” he says. “Maybe I can share a little bit of individual tendencies of certain players, but again, when you go out there on the ice, all that kind of goes out the window.

“And, of course, they’ve done their study on us and they have their game plan, too. So it just ends up being who executes better and who works harder and who ends up doing things right.”

Last word for now.

Ben Smith has been covering sports in Fort Wayne since 1986. His columns appear four times a week. He can be reached by email at; phone, 461-8736; or fax 461-8648.