FORT WAYNE –
Fort Wayne: 3.45 goals per game, 3rd in CHL; 3.38, 2nd in playoffs
Wichita: 3.50 goals per game, 1st in CHL; 3.36, 3rd in playoffs
Fort Wayne: 2.83 goals against per game, 5th in CHL; 3.23, 6th in playoffs
Wichita: 2.74 goals against per game, 4th in CHL; 2.00, 1st in playoffs
Fort Wayne: 19.7 percent, 2nd in CHL; 22.2 percent, 4th in playoffs
Wichita: 18.7 percent, 6th in CHL; 7.1 percent, 7th in playoffs
Fort Wayne: 84.2 percent, 3rd in CHL; 75.9 percent, 8th in playoffs
Wichita: 81.8 percent, 11th in CHL; 88.6 percent, 2nd in playoffs
Fort Wayne: 19.27 per game, 4th in CHL; 16.54, 2nd in playoffs
Wichita: 16.32 per game, 6th in CHL; 15.73, 3rd in playoffs
Komets goalie Nick Boucher vs. Wichita’s Adam Russo
Boucher’s résumé is more impressive. He’s backstopped the Komets to three IHL championships in his five seasons with the team, and he’s gotten them to the finals this season. Along the way, he has been in net as the Komets came back from 3-1 series deficits in the 2008 finals and 2010 semifinals, and as the Komets recovered from 2-0 and 3-2 deficits against Missouri in the last round.
However, he has had some bad games in these playoffs. He’s 8-4-0 with a 2.85 goals-against average and a .907 save percentage. When the chips are down, though, Boucher comes up big, as he did in the Games 6 and 7 victories over the Mavericks.
Much of Russo’s career has been spent in Europe, where he won two championships. And he played for Italy in the World Hockey Championships, so he’s no stranger to performing on a big stage.
But he also hasn’t faced as potent an offense in the playoffs as the Komets. In the playoffs, Russo is 8-3-0 with a .922 save percentage and a 1.98 GAA against Rio Grande Valley and Texas.
In the regular season, Russo was 27-11-3 with a .910 save percentage, a 2.61 GAA and three shutouts. Boucher was 32-12-4 with a .919 save percentage, a 2.44 GAA and three shutouts.
So both goalies are workhorses. With the Komets coming off two grueling series and having only one day to rest, Boucher is going to have to save the Komets more than Russo probably will.
Russo lambasted Boucher on Twitter for Boucher’s sucker-punch in a regular-season game against Bloomington. Boucher took the high road and didn’t respond.
Other matchups to watch
Brett Smith vs. Matt Robinson
The Komets’ Brett Smith and Wichita’s Matt Robinson are two of the most respected players in the league, both for their skills and their leadership.
Smith had 20 goals, 61 points and a plus-13 rating in 55 regular-season games, and his production has dropped off in the playoffs to three goals, eight points and plus-4 rating in 12 games because of a neck injury suffered in the first round.
Robinson had 34 goals, 58 points and a plus-20 rating in 64 regular-season games – many thought he should have won MVP instead of Quad City’s Brandon Marino – and he has two goals, six points and a plus-2 rating in 11 playoff games.
It will be fun to see Smith and Robinson chasing each other all over the ice.
DeAngelis-Milam vs. Mohr-Tetrault
Both teams have a pair of great offensive defensemen.
Frankie DeAngelis and Jamie Milam combined for 38 goals and 89 points in the regular season. Jarred Mohr and Daniel Tetrault combined for 13 goals and 59 points. Both teams rely on offense starting from the blue line, particularly on the power play, so these guys will be important, as will Fort Wayne’s Jamie Lovell and Wichita’s Kevin Young.
Even though the Komets are the slightly better team on paper, one must think the grueling nature of the first two series will eventually catch up with them. Throw on to that the quick turnaround into this series and the Thunder’s home-ice advantage, and I see the Thunder winning in six.