The season of a lifetime ended with a game that seemed to last a lifetime.
When Justin Hodgman grabbed Guy Dupuis' slap shot out of the air, dropped it to the ice beside the Port Huron net and shoveled it behind goaltender Larry Sterling at 12:22 a.m., the Komets stopped feeling like dog-tired old men and turned into joyous little boys. They had finally beaten the Icehawks 3-2 at 23 seconds of the third overtime to claim the revived International Hockey League's Turner Cup 4-3 before a sellout Memorial Coliseum crowd of 10,462. That was May 12, 2008.
“I'm so tired right now I don't even want to wake up this afternoon because I know everything is going to hurt so bad,” defenseman Kevin Hansen said. “The only thing that doesn't hurt is my smile.”
It was the longest Game 7 in the 57-year IHL history and the third-longest game in the Komets' 56-year history to that point. During a playoff that was all about endurance and resiliency, the Komets were pushed way beyond what they thought their limits were, coming back from a 3-1 deficit to win three games in five days.
The Komets had some good bounces early in the game and then almost lost it. Fort Wayne led 2-0 halfway through the second period on goals by Hodgman and Dupuis, but Port Huron rallied on Jeff Zehr's backdoor goal to give the Icehawks a chance in the third period.
That chance almost ran out. With Sterling pulled in the final minute, defenseman Joe Markusen fired a shot on net that forward Tab Lardner deflected with 52.2 seconds left in regulation.
“We tried to stay as loose as we could,” Dupuis said. “It was ours to win. It wasn't that we were losing the cup, because we had never won it. It was just an opportunity for us to win it. That helped us stay loose.”
Hodgman was only 19 years old at the time, one of the youngest Komets ever, and was named the playoffs Most Valuable Player after scoring five goals and eight points during the finals and scoring seven goals and 14 points in 13 playoff games.
Colin Chaulk, Reggie Primeau and Hodgman are the only Komets who have scored two playoff overtime goals.
The Komets won a record 25 straight home games during the regular season to post franchise records for overall wins and total points with a 56-12-8 record.
“They are the best team in the league,” Port Huron coach Stan Drulia said. “We didn't blow this. They won it. We had some bounces early that they got late in the series. This series is great for our league. This night was great for our league.”
Before this Game 7, the Komets had never won a game that had gone past the first overtime.
Seven times in their history they had lost games in double-, triple- or quadruple-overtime.
This was also the third Game 7 overtime in Fort Wayne history, and the Komets won all three.
About This Series
Ever wonder what a Northeast Indiana Sports Hall of Fame might include? During a time when it may be difficult to look ahead to great sporting events, The Journal Gazette is going to offer you a look into Fort Wayne and Northeast Indiana's fantastic athletic past. Over the next few weeks, we'll offer some suggestions on the people and events which could be featured in such a facility.