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Ben Smith

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Komets make Rush blink

– OK, so maybe Danny Battochio did have time to blink, as P.C. Drouin smoked the puck over his shoulder like an incoming meteor. I can’t say.

It’s a long way from up here to down there, and Battochio, hunkered down in the Rapid City goal this night like a man trying to get out of a hard rain, wears a mask. And my eyesight’s not what it used to be.

What I will say is this: If Battochio did blink, he wasn’t the only one on the visitors’ side of the ice who did Friday night.

Eyeball to eyeball with the Sixth Seed From Hell, the Rush blinked like a soft touch’s answering machine. On the other end was the aforementioned sixth seed, the Komets, announcing that they liked Rapid City, S.D., so much the first time, they thought they’d come back out for another visit.

Komets 4, Rush 1 in Game 4 of the best-of-five Turner Conference semifinals at Memorial Coliseum, and the liveliest corpse on two continents continues to dance like Travolta. And now they’ve gotten themselves a Game 5 – aka the game that pays for all, aka the kind of game that’s dead-bang in the center of their sweet spot.

“Our best guys are going to have play their best,” Komets Al Sims said about Game 5, his game face still in place 10 minutes after it was done. “And I fully expect them to play their best.”

It’s safe to say Rapid City, once up two-games-to-none, wants that the way a hungry man wants stomach flu.

It’s also safe to say, watching the Rush’s composure unravel like a moth-eaten suit in the final minutes as the Komets outhit, outhustled and flat outplayed it all over the ice, that whatever fleeting edge there is in these things belongs utterly to the boys in orange and black now. If there’s worth of difference between these teams, the Komets own the dime.

“I think we’ve beaten them twice now, and there’s no intimidation left in the series,” Sims said. “Nobody’s intimidating anybody, and we have the momentum.”

Said defenseman Guy Dupuis: “Hopefully we’ve put a little bit of doubt in their minds.”

If so, that could change in an instant between now and Sunday, momentum being the often mythical animal it is. Sometimes you can count on it to carry over from game to game; sometimes it doesn’t last from period to period or shift to shift or even from one bounce of the puck to the next.

It’s why Colin Chaulk had it pegged the other day when, with the Komets coming home down 2-zip in the best-of-five, he leaned on his stick at the end of practice and said this was down to winning one game and one game only.

That game was Game 3, the Miracle on Parnell, the one that went from season-over to series-on in the space of a half-hour or so. That game was Game 4, in which the Komets jumped Rapid City from the, well, jump, and never gave it a breath.

A game in which Drouin lit the fuse with his rocket over Battochio’s shoulder 15:45 into the first.

A game in which Mike Ratchuk and Colin Chaulk and Mathieu Curadeau chased Battochio in the second, and Kevin Reiter, growing four extra arms and legs in the other goal, pronounced last rites in the third, kicking out 22 shots on his way to a 42-save night.

A game in which Rapid City, unable to do much else, mugged Ratchuk and then mugged Lincoln Kaleigh Schrock as the evening wound down, a telling display of why-won’t-these-guys-go-away frustration.

One game. And now, wonder of wonders, one more.

Blink. Blink. Blink.

Ben Smith has been covering sports in Fort Wayne since 1986. His columns appear four times a week. He can be reached by email 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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