Perhaps Komets general manager David Franke summed it up best Saturday night.
“This is definitely the Golden Era of Fort Wayne Komets hockey,” he said. “We’re witnessing something that’s never been done before and may never be done again, and that’s amazing.”
A 3-2 victory over the Flint Generals, in front of a sellout crowd of 10,480 at Memorial Coliseum, secured the Komets their third straight Turner Cup championship, an unprecedented feat in the franchise’s 58 seasons.
No Komets team had even won back-to-back titles before, so this is really uncharted territory.
“It’s only been done by a few teams in the professional ranks or amateurs,” Franke said. “John Wooden’s UCLA Bruins did it, and so did Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls. The Los Angeles Lakers did it, too. I know we’re a minor-league team, but this is still a huge deal for us.”
The Komets, who took the best-of-seven series 4-1, captured their eighth playoff championship. They also won the IHL’s Turner Cup in 1963, 1965, 1973, 1993, 2008, 2009. They captured the United Hockey League’s Colonial Cup in 2003.
Leading the way for the Komets on Saturday was left wing P.C. Drouin, who scored two goals, including the game-winner at 11:11 of the second period, when he faked a slap shot from the left circle and rocketed a wrist shot into the top right of the net to make it 3-0.
The financially strapped Generals, who might have played their last game, pressed hard, as they had the entire playoffs. The team that recovered from a 3-1 deficit in the semifinals against top-seeded Muskegon got goals from forward John Ronan and defenseman Jake Pence in the first 13 minutes of the final period.
“You start grabbing your stick a little harder there at the end, after they scored their second goal,” Drouin said. “But in the last couple minutes, we managed to keep them out of our zone through hard work, moving our feet and swarming the puck. We played with desperation at the end.”
The Komets are on a 15-0-1 run when they have more than 10,000 fans at the Coliseum. With the overwhelming atmosphere, the Komets were able to dominate the early play and pepper rookie goaltender Rob Nolan. Fort Wayne accounted for 27 of the first 37 shots and finished with a 42-21 shot advantage.
After a setup pass from behind the net by center Justin Hodgman, left wing Matt Syroczynski opened the scoring on a power play at 17:52 of the first period. With 11 goals and 16 points in 12 games, Syroczynski was chosen as Playoff MVP by members of the IHL front office.
Drouin scored another power play goal, from just inside the blue line, at 6:44 of the second period. The Komets were 9 for 21 on power plays in the series, 2 for 6 Saturday.
“Flint has got (former NHL players) Bryan Smolinski and Pascal Rheaume, and they’ve got a great head coach in Jason Muzzatti. There’s so much experience, and we beat a very good team,” Syroczynski said. “We treated this game like it was a Game 7. We weren’t going back to Flint on Monday. We laid it all on the line. They made it hairy in the end, but our veteran presence got us through.”
A night after Tim Haun got his surprise start and stopped 33 shots in a 6-2 road victory at Perani Arena, Nick Boucher was back between the pipes for Fort Wayne.
Boucher became the first goalie in franchise history to backstop the Komets to three championships, surpassing Chuck Adamson’s mark of two. For team leader Colin Chaulk and Guy Dupuis, it was their fourth Cup win with the Komets, also an unprecedented feat for a Fort Wayne player, while Sims got his fourth Cup, too.
Fort Wayne is the first team to win three straight Turner Cups since the Cincinnati Mohawks won five from 1953 to 1957.
“My wife, Jillian, asked me today, ‘Hey, you’re getting older. Do you ever have a different feeling about this?’ ” said Chaulk, 33. “I’m not as out-of-control crazy and excited, like I was in ’03. But it becomes a little bit of a pride factor. You’re so close, you can taste it, and you don’t want anyone to take it away from you.”