FORT WAYNE – The Komets always needed a bit of adversity to get them going this season.
It was almost fitting, if not necessary, that they gave up an early goal to Wichita's Aaron Davis on a penalty shot after he was pulled down from behind by Brent Henley in Game 5 of the Presidents' Cup finals.
The Komets answered the penalty shot by scoring five of the next six goals in a span of 11:58 and gave the 9,560 fans at Memorial Coliseum quite a Monday night party as they captured the Cup with a 6-3 victory over the Wichita Thunder.
The Komets took down the regular-season champion in a best-of-seven series that lasted just five games. Fort Wayne has won Cups in four of the last five seasons, including three straight in the now-defunct IHL. The Cup was also coach Al Sims' fifth with the Komets, dating to 1993.
"I wouldn't want it any other way," defenseman Jamie Milam said of the Davis goal 2:29 into the game. "It can't be easy. You don't win championships by taking the easy routes. We earned this from the start to the finish. We battled all year long, through highs and lows. We had dry spells. We lost guys to injuries. We recruited new guys. There was a lot of heart in our locker room."
The Komets got two goals from Bobby Chaumont and one apiece from Colin Chaulk, Lincoln Kaleigh Schrock, Frankie DeAngelis and Mike Vaskivuo.
Vaskivuo was named the playoff MVP by the CHL front office. He had 10 goals and a league-leading 24 points in 18 postseason games.
"I can't believe it," said Vaskivuo, who was released by Rapid City in April. "There are so many guys in this room that could have been the MVPs of these playoffs. I was fortunate enough that they picked me, but I want to share it with all the guys."
Though Monday was likely the Komets' last CHL game before moving to the ECHL, no one was thinking about that during the celebration. Instead, they were basking in the glory of the Komets' ninth championship in their 60th season. All but one of those titles was clinched on home ice, where the Komets lost 4-3 to the Thunder on Saturday night.
There was no letdown Monday. Chaulk made sure of that by scoring at 5:19, just 2:50 after Davis' goal. The Komets' captain redirected DeAngelis' shot below goalie Bryan Hogan, who stopped 19 of 25 shots.
Then Schrock netted a shot from the right circle, forward Chaumont scored off a rebound and DeAngelis scored on a 50-foot shot during a power play.
Wichita forward Matt Robinson answered with a 40-footer past Nick Boucher, who stopped 22 of 25 shots. But the Komets stormed back with Vaskivuo tipping Chris Auger's backhander under Hogan for a 5-2 lead.
The Komets have overcome plenty during the playoffs. The six-game first-round series against Rapid City was marked by injuries to key players and officiating that never seemed to go in Fort Wayne's favor.
In the seven-game Turner Conference finals, the Komets lost the first two games at home and later trailed 3-2 to Missouri.
The Komets gave up the first goal in seven of their last 12 playoff games but came back to win four of those.
"We've made it hard on ourselves all year long," Brett Smith said.
"We didn't want to give up the first one, and it was a weird way for it to go down. But it's something we've done all year – we worked hard, came back and found a way to do it."