WICHITA, Kan. – It’s easy to tell that Komets coach Al Sims has an affection for rookie blue-liner Bryant Molle.
Molle is just a special defenseman, Sims said.
So it wasn’t surprising that Sims had Molle in the lineup for Game 7 of the Turner Conference finals – a 6-4 victory over the Missouri Mavericks on Thursday – and he started again Saturday night in the opening game of the President’s Cup finals against the Wichita Thunder.
Molle had suffered a knee injury in the Komets’ 5-4 double-overtime victory at Independence, Mo., on April 19. He actually was knocked out of that game twice.
After a week off, he played big minutes in the Game 7 victory at Memorial Coliseum.
He’s a kid that’s in great shape, keeps himself in great shape, and a week off for Molls doesn’t affect him at all, Sims said.
Putting Molle back in the lineup came at the expense of David Starenky, one of the Komets’ most physical players. But Sims said not to read much into that, and it’s likely Starenky will have a role against Wichita, one of the CHL’s most physical teams.
Molle is one of our best defensemen and as soon as he was ready to play, we got him back in the lineup, Sims said. Not that Starenky had done anything wrong. He had a great fight with David Simoes (in Game 6 of the last series).
Molle had three assists and a minus-1 rating in 11 playoff games. Starenky had two assists and a plus-1 rating in six games.
Twice will be nice
Whichever team wins this series, it will mean back-to-back titles for someone.
Fort Wayne’s Brett Smith and Jamie Milam both played last year for Bossier-Shreveport, which won the President’s Cup before folding. Also on that team was Wichita’s Kevin Young.
Russo in spotlight
Heading into Game 1 at Wichita, all eyes were on Wichita goalie Adam Russo, whose dislike for Komets goalie Nick Boucher was expressed on Twitter in February.
Russo has faced the Komets 13 times over the last three seasons with Wichita, Quad City and Port Huron of the IHL, and he’s gone 6-7-0 and stopped 395 of 435 shots for a .908 save percentage.
Boucher has won three championships with Fort Wayne. Russo’s two titles came in Italy.
In head-to-head meetings, Boucher had gone 6-5-1 over the last three seasons.
Against Wichita, Boucher was 2-3-1 and had stopped 121 of 140 shots for a .864 save percentage.
In these playoffs, Boucher was 8-4-0 with a .907 save percentage against Rapid City and Missouri. Russo was 8-3-0 with a .922 save percentage against Rio Grande Valley and Texas.
Mavs like Komets
Despite the disappointment of blowing 2-0 and 3-2 series leads to Fort Wayne, the Mavericks were pulling for the Komets to win the President’s Cup against their rivals.
Do us a favor and #BeatWichita, the Mavericks posted on their Twitter page.