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Ben Smith

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Once again, big deficit is no big deal for Komets

Game 7 once more, and once more the Port Huron Icehawks are lining up to shake hands with a bunch of dead guys, wondering what the h-e-double-hockey-sticks is going on.

Game 7, and once more a foot in the grave turns into a leg up, once more a three-games-to-one deficit in a playoff series becomes the sort of grim foreshadowing you see in all those teen slasher movies, where the unsuspecting kid opens the closet door and nobody’s there, and then he turns around and Jason Voorhees is waiting with a chain saw.

“Hey, we’re up 3-1 in this series,” the unsuspecting Icehawk says. “What could happen?”

Well. We know the answer to that one, right?

What happens is Game 7, and a 4-0 Komets win that was over after 5 minutes, and the Icehawks, to whom this has now happened twice in three years, skating off toward their tee times, muttering to themselves. And meanwhile the Hockey Team Not Even Jason Voorhees Could Kill skates off toward a third straight Turner Cup Finals, having concocted a novel two-step formula for playoff success:

1. Get down 3-1.

2. Open can of whup-ass.

“Apparently you just start out every series down 3-1,” I told Komets coach Al Sims when it was done Monday.

He laughed.

“Yeah, I think if you look in the history books … It doesn’t happen very often,” he said. “It’s something you definitely don’t want to press your luck on. We’ve only got nine lives, and I think we’ve used most of them the last three years.”

And, listen, whether you want to hear it or not, this one turned the moment Port Huron goalie Larry Sterling went behind the net in Game 4 and got himself cold-cocked. It was a different series after that, with the kid Raffaele D’Orso between the pipes. The Komets put 17 pucks behind him in four games; who knows if that happen with Sterling in net.

What we do know is this: this is a hockey team with a survival instinct that works on it the way spinach works on Popeye. Not only does it have no quit in it, “quit” doesn’t even know where it lives.

“(It’s) all the clichés, like don’t give up and never say die,” defenseman Kevin Bertram said. “But you know what? It just comes down to we’ve got guys who’ve been playing a long time. No one was negative, no one was hanging their head.”

Here’s something else, too: when offensive pacemaker Justin Hodgman went off for two games for slashing Nick Lindberg in Game 3, other people stepped up.

Leo Thomas, who had no goals and two assists in the first four games, finished with three goals and two assists in the last three.

Sean O’Connor, who had one goal and no assists in the first four games, scored two goals and had an assist in the last three.

David Hukalo had no points in the first four games; in the last three, he had four. Lincoln Kaleigh Schrock entered Game 7 with one assist in the series; in Game 7, he scored two goals. And P.C. Drouin had one assist in the first four games; in the last three, he had six.

“We have a pretty balanced offense,” Drouin said Monday night. “Obviously not every line’s gonna go top-notch every game. I think it was just a matter of time before our line really stepped up and started scoring. We just kept plugging, kept working hard.”

Words to live by. Or live on by.

Ben Smith has been covering sports in Fort Wayne since 1986. His columns appear four times a week. He can be reached by e-mail at bensmith@jg.net; phone, 461-8736; or fax 461-8648 or at the “Ben Smith” topic of “The Board” at www.journalgazette.net.

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