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Ben Smith

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Boucher gives champs attitude

I know what I’m seeing here, as Nick Boucher turns flying rubber into another contemptuous olé. I’m seeing why you can kill these Fort Wayne Komets, but, like Dracula, they never stay dead.

You thought they were finished, coming home down three games to one with their penalty kill in shards and their smarts occasionally gone missing.

You thought it was time to call in the priest and the gravediggers, when two soft clearing passes turned into a 2-0 Port Huron lead 15 seconds into the second period of Game 4 Friday night.

You thought, well, nice try, boys, but you can’t turn the penalty box into a condo and expect to survive, can’t give up seven power-play goals in four games and do a lot of other dumb-suffers that tends to get you beat in the playoffs.

Well. Once again, you thought wrong.

You thought wrong, and maybe now you’ll remember that they are harder to get rid of than kitchen mold, these Komets, and exhibit A for why is down there in their goal.

He’s the guy snatching the puck out of the sky and then deliberately, sneeringly, turning his back on the shooter. He’s the guy taking a swig of water, and – without so much as bothering to turn and acknowledge anyone – holding the puck out behind his back for the official to take from him.

It was as if this was all no big deal, being down 3-1 in the series and 2-0 in the potential close-out game. No big deal getting shelled with 28 shots through two periods. No big deal, robbing Derek Patrosso blind when Patrosso came steaming in on a breakaway with Port Huron leading 2-1 and the second period half gone.

“I knew if he scored, that could have the icing on the cake,” Boucher said, after Komets 7, Port Huron 2. “But I was already feeling pretty good …”

And so he slammed the door, Boucher did. Slammed it, well, impertinently. Gave the night its ultimate up-yours moment on a night when Boucher – and, following his lead, the Komets themselves – was in full up-yours mode.

“I thought the last half of the game he looked like his old self, and like he knew he was going to win the hockey game,” Komets coach Al Sims said. “And I think the team took confidence from that, seeing him back there.”

And confidence led to, well, a full-blown cave-in for the kid in the Port Huron net, Raffaele D’Orso, who played well and had his team halfway to the next round before it all unraveled. Matt Syroczynski scored and Colin Chaulk scored, and then the goals came in batches, five in the third period, three between the 13:39 mark and 17:36 – warm up the bus for Port Huron.

The Icehawks still lead 3-2, of course. But suddenly this feels like the Komets’ series to lose, because D’Orso likely plays again tonight, and 24 hours likely won’t be long enough for him, or the Icehawks, to forget what happened down the stretch Friday.

What happened, above all, was this: Boucher, and, mostly, Boucher’s ’tude.

He gave up a goal early when physics kneed him in the groin: a shot sailing out of the corner that ricocheted off Guy Dupuis and spun weirdly past him like a cue ball thick with English. He gave up another on a giveaway before he’d barely settled into things in the second period.

Visibly steamed after that one, he gave Port Huron nothing but up-yours thereafter.

“I thought to myself, if I can keep it at 2-2 and keep us in the game, we can turn it around,” he said.

He did. They did. On they breathe.

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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