FORT WAYNE – After winning the first two games of the Presidents’ Cup final at Wichita, the Komets now look forward to three straight games at home (if there are three) to try and win the CHL championship.
Normally, that might be reason for confidence. But the Komets know all too well that things can change quickly.
In the best-of-seven Turner Conference finals, they were the team that lost the first two games at home before going to Independence, Mo., winning back-to-back games and climbing back into the series against the Missouri Mavericks.
Now the Komets need to make sure the Thunder doesn’t do the same to them.
“Momentum is a huge thing, and we know that come (tonight), they’re going to be an extremely desperate team,” Komets forward Chris Auger said. “But so are we. We want to step on them. We want to take control real early. It’s going to be great to be back home in front of our fans. Hopefully, we’ll be able to build momentum off the crowd and take it to them.”
There was reason to think the Komets would be successful on the road in the conference finals. They had won 21 of 33 road games in the regular season, and Missouri had won only 19 of 33 at home.
The Komets don’t have the same worries at home that the Mavericks did. Fort Wayne is 23-11-6 in the regular season and playoffs at Memorial Coliseum, including victories in Games 6 and 7 of the Turner Conference finals. Regular-season champion Wichita is 22-14-2 on the road.
The Komets have been led in the Presidents’ Cup finals by the line of Auger, Colin Chaulk and Mike Vaskivuo. They combined for five goals, including both game winners, and nine assists in the 5-3 and 6-3 victories last weekend at Intrust Bank Arena.
Wichita’s Thomas Beauregard has two goals and an assist, and Kevin Young has three assists.
“We need to just continue playing our systems,” Komets forward Leo Thomas said. “We knew when we were down against Missouri that we had to keep playing our game, and if we got that third game there it gave us a chance. So we’ve got to do the same thing this time around, even if we’re up. It’s just that we should feel a little bit more comfortable. That’s still a good team over there, and we just need to stick to the way that we’ve been playing and we should be all right.”
Thunder goalie Adam Russo stopped 37 of 45 shots before getting yanked midway through Game 2, and the Wichita Eagle reported he has a concussion. Alex Bourret also has a concussion and a broken rib. Both will be game-time decisions.
If Russo cannot play, it will be Bryan Hogan in net.
Fort Wayne’s Nick Boucher has stopped 57 of 63 shots.
“We’ve just got to stay focused as much as we can,” Komets center Jean-Michel Rizk said.
“They’re a great team. They’re very strong offensively. They move the puck very well. We need to stay grounded, stay focused and make sure we’re ready to go in Game 3.”