There was only one moment, about two minutes into the Komets’ 4-0 win in Game 7 of the IHL semifinals Monday night, during which the 7,454 raucous fans at Memorial Coliseum came to an eerie silence.
Komets center Justin Chwedoruk was on the ice, victimized by a knee-to-knee hit from Port Huron’s Mike Gershon, and the resulting painful limp to the locker room seemed to make everyone cringe.
The Coliseum did not quiet the rest of the night, though.
Only seven seconds into the ensuing power play, defenseman Guy Dupuis scored. Then center Leo Thomas netted a breakaway shot, after he was set up by Sean O’Connor’s dazzling 60-foot pass. And when Lincoln Kaleigh Schrock scored on another breakaway, the Komets had a commanding three-goal lead 5:11 into Game 7.
The outcome was never again in doubt as the Komets secured a berth in the Turner Cup Finals for the third straight season.
Our team was ready to play and didn’t want to get behind, coach Al Sims said. We came out like a storm, right off the bat.
By the way, Chwedoruk was back on the ice in plenty of time to see the Icehawks limp their way out of the postseason in all too familiar fashion.
Just as they did in the 2008 Finals, the Komets successfully recovered from a 3-1 series deficit to oust the Icehawks in seven games, though this time it was in the semifinals.
The Komets defeated the Icehawks 7-2 at the Coliseum on Friday, then 4-3 at McMorran Arena on Saturday, thanks to Thomas’ redirection goal with 2.1 seconds remaining.
The Komets, who ousted the Muskegon Lumberjacks last year to capture a second straight Turner Cup, will now play in their third consecutive finals series, something done only once before in the franchise’s 58-year history, from 1963 to 1965.
The Komets have never won three straight Cups, something that could happen if they defeat the winner of the Muskegon-Flint series, which the Lumberjacks lead 3-2. Game 6 of that series is tonight.
The Komets were aided Monday, as they had been since early in Game 4, by the absence of Icehawks star goaltender Larry Sterling. A head injury suffered early in that game has kept him out 10 of the last 11 periods. His replacement, rookie Raffaele D’Orso, stopped 20 of 24 shots.
In a seventh game, everybody knows, This is it,’ Sims said. (The Icehawks) were doing their best to dive and do whatever they could to win the game, and our guys were doing the same. It turns out those first five minutes decided it all.
Fort Wayne goaltender Nick Boucher was on the bench for two of the first three games of the series, but Boucher’s 33 saves Monday made for his first shutout of the playoffs and his third consecutive victory.
After a back-and-forth second period that saw little remarkable action, the third period was highlighted by the Icehawks’ desperation. It almost paid off 58 seconds into the period, when forward Derek Patrosso got a breakaway, only to be foiled by a Boucher kick save.
Schrock cemented the victory and the Komets’ third successful recovery from a 3-1 series deficit since 2005, when they did it against Rockford in the United Hockey League semis by snapping a shot from the left circle past D’Orso’s outstretched glove.
We weren’t playing our best hockey in the first half of the series. There were some bad breaks, Boucher said.
But everyone was a firm believer that you create your own breaks through hard work, and if you look at (Monday), we dominated the whole game, from the drop of the puck all the way to the end. We had control of the game, control of the puck. We