FORT WAYNE – So now they hit the road again, with their chins stuck out a mile. Go ahead, Road. Hit back. Take your free shot, and then these Komets, these GPS junkies, will laugh and take their own.
Down 2-0 in the best-of-seven Turner Conference finals?
Three straight coming up now in the Missouri Mavericks’ barn?
Bring it on.
It’s gonna be fun, lots of fun, Colin Chaulk said after Game 2, and don’t you dare read that as irony.
We feel confident on the road, agreed Lincoln Kaleigh Schrock at the opposite end of the dressing room.
The résumé would certainly suggest as much. This was the best team in the CHL away from home this year, winning 21 on hostile ice against just 19 at home. They won two of three in Rapid City in the first round, and maybe should have won all three. And Rapid City was 21-9-3 at home, while Missouri was 19-11-3.
What a building that is, Chaulk says of Rapid City. You can’t hear yourself breathe it’s so damn loud. And it’s hostile, I tell ya.
Here’s what’s noteworthy about that: He’s grinning when he says it.
There’s a light there in his eyes you’ve seen before, mostly from the bottom of a well as deep as this one is right now. This is the Chaulk who, years ago, down 3-1 to Rockford and logging entire seasons of ice time every game for an injury-riddled team, threw out a line that’s since become immortal.
Tired’s for losers, he said.
That Chaulk is back now, and you could see it in the third period Saturday night. Down 4-1, he hit everything in sight, got in the Mavs faces, was as defiant as a man down 4-1 can be. And everyone else followed suit.
Yeah, they got mugged by the penalty shot at the end of Game 1 Friday, a bit of what-the-bleep thievery they might or might not still be getting over. And, yeah, Charlie Effinger in the Missouri goal thinks his name is Ken Dryden right now, having faced 82 shots in two games while emerging unbowed, and victorious, in both.
Never mind. You look at Chaulk, and you realize he’s in his wheelhouse now. You look at the Komets, with those 21 road wins and two in Rapid in the playoffs and a bunch of rings in the room, and you realize they’re in theirs.
I think the more guys you’ve got who are wearing a ring – the more guys you’ve got who have been here and have been through the wars and know what to expect – it definitely gives you an advantage, coach Al Sims said last week.
They’d better hope so. Because the season’s going to end if the best road team in the league doesn’t prove it yet again in the next three games.
Losing teams change. We don’t change, Chaulk said Saturday night. We play the same way, we stay the course no matter what. When we face adversity, we’ve just got to come out harder, like you saw tonight.
And the fact that they’ve got to do it on the road now?
Chaulk practically sneered.
I’m looking forward to it, Chaulk said. It’s how I made my living at this level, and a lot of other guys have fed their families this way. And you’re gonna see it in the next game.
And so: Swing away, Road.