WICHITA, Kan. – WICHITA, Kan. – It wasn’t in the fashion they would have liked. But the Komets won the opening game of the President’s Cup finals 5-3 Saturday over the Wichita Thunder before 5,209 fans at Intrust Bank Arena.
“I don’t know what to say. It’s the same story every game,” captain Colin Chaulk said Saturday night, after the Komets squandered a two-goal lead and then got late heroics from goaltender Nick Boucher and the game-winning goal from forward Chris Auger.
Game 2 is tonight in Wichita.
“We don’t make it easy on ourselves, and I don’t know what our problem is. Let’s just play our strengths, get the puck down low and hold the puck, try to have a lot of offensive-possession time. … Let’s grind it out and we believe that’s championship hockey. When we get away from that, we’re an average team and you saw glimpses of that tonight.”
The Komets led 3-1 on goals by defenseman Jamie Milam, forward Bobby Chaumont and Auger, before forward Thomas Beauregard got the Thunder storming back in the second period.
Beauregard, the brother of former Komets star David-Alexandre Beauregard, who was at the game, netted a 15-foot shot 17:16 into the second period. And after he blocked a shot from forward Mike Vaskivuo, setting off an odd-man rush, Beauregard tied it at 18:34.
“I told the guys after the second period, ‘We’re all down but we’re tied with the best team in our league after two periods on the road. And we just played two nights ago,’ ” said Komets coach Al Sims, who team ousted Missouri in Game 7 of the Turner Conference finals Thursday at Memorial Coliseum.
“And besides that, we (were) 5-0 in the playoffs when we (were) tied after the second period. We’ve never lost. And I said, ‘Go out there and do the same thing you did to Missouri in the third period the other night and the game will be ours.’ ”
But first, Boucher had to stop a flurry of shots from point-blank range, including one on a breakaway by forward Matt Summers less than two minutes into the third.
“They had a minute of madness and came hard,” Boucher said. “Again, we made a couple of mistakes and they’re deadly. If you turn the puck over, they don’t fart around with it. They move the puck up and they catch you sleeping sometimes. But it was a gutsy game for us,”
After a five-minute break to tend to Wichita forward Alex Bourret, who sailed backward into the boards and missed only one shift after getting tangled up with defenseman Brent Henley, Auger netted a shot from the right circle.
Defenseman Jamie Lovell added an empty-net goal with one second left in the game.
“It was a draining game, for sure,” Auger said. “I thought we played well in spurts. But, again, we sat back after we got the lead and made mistakes by being tentative and not being aggressive. But we took (something) away from Game 7, going into the third period tied and winning (6-4).
“We’re very confident, especially on the road. So it’s very nice to get this first win. We knew we couldn’t go down like we did against Missouri.”
Boucher, whose team recovered from 2-0 and 3-2 series deficits against Missouri, stopped 21 of 25 shots. Wichita’s Adam Russo stopped 21 of 25.
The Komets opened the scoring 10:15 into the first period, when Chaumont had his back to the Wichita net and dropped a pass for Milam, who broke in alone on Russo.
Two shots and 1:55 later, Komets center Brett Smith fired a slapshot from 45 feet out and Chaumont redirected it underneath Russo.
The Thunder scored 5:04 into the second period, after Bourret’s shot from the point caromed off a Fort Wayne player and sailed wildly into the air and onto Boucher. He gave up a rebound and forward Garret Bembridge swiped it into the net.
A Thunder turnover behind their own net just over seven minutes later allowed Chaulk to kick off a tic-tac-toe passing play that culminated with Auger chipping the puck in for a 3-1 lead. Chaulk had three assists against the Thunder, who had been off since defeating Texas on Monday night.
Notes: League disciplinarian Jim Wiley was in attendance. … Former Komet Rob Weingartner, who played for Fort Wayne in the AAA-level IHL, has his No. 15 retired in Wichita and dropped the puck for the ceremonial opening faceoff. … David-Alexandre Beauregard plays in England and lives in Tulsa, Okla. … Former Komets goalie Kevin St. Pierre, who lives in Wichita, may attend the game tonight. … The Komets played without defenseman David Starenky and forward Derek Roehl. However, Starenky was on the ice during warm-ups and jawed with Wichita’s Erick Lizon, who gestured a heavyweight belt in the direction of the Komets’ tough guy.