FORT WAYNE – Years from now, people may remember the Komets’ Turner Conference semifinals series against Rapid City more than they remember the Presidents’ Cup finals against Wichita.
The teams hated each other that much. The controversy was that high. The Komets’ six-game victory was that memorable.
The Rush played physical games against the Komets like they did in last year’s best-of-five series.
Jeff Kyrzakos’ brutal hit from behind early in Game 1 injured the neck of his former Bossier-Shreveport teammate, center Brett Smith. Kyrzakos wasn’t penalized or suspended for the hit.
Fort Wayne’s Brent Henley was controversially suspended one game for kneeing Collin Circelli in Game 4, a 5-3 victory that put the Komets up 3-1.
Many thought the hit was clean and Henley had been back in the lineup only two games after serving a three-game suspension for punching Damien Surma and kneeing Brett Lutes of Dayton in the regular season.
In Game 5, a 4-1 Rapid City victory at Memorial Coliseum, the Rush’s Les Reaney hit Jamie Milam in the head and was suspended for Game 6 in South Dakota. However, Reaney was allowed at the last minute to play when a five-member appeals committee unanimously overturned the suspension.
On that committee was a member of the Missouri Mavericks, whose team would face the winner but didn’t abstain himself from voting.
The Komets won the series 51 seconds into overtime of Game 6, when Henley sent a pass to forward Mike Vaskivuo, whose cross for Colin Chaulk caromed off the stick of Rush defenseman Michael Couch and past goalie Tim Boron for a 4-3 victory.
Vaskivuo had been waived by the Rush in March and went on to be Playoff MVP.
He had four goals and eight points against the Rush, while linemate Chris Auger had two goals and eight points.
Rapid City’s Jesse Schultz had five goals and nine points.