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Ben Smith

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K’s deal with Mickey Mouse schedule

– Now this is a fine way to start the playoffs, getting run by Mickey and Goofy. Two minutes for interference, boys. And Pluto gets a gamer for bumping the ref.

It’s a quintessentially minor league moment, the Komets boarding a bus for the commute to Rapid City because Disney on Ice bogarted their barn this weekend. Two on the road at Rapid City, and then it’s home for a Wednesday date, a Thursday date going head-to-head with the TinCaps’ season opener, and then an Easter Sunday date, if necessary.

If this is home-ice advantage, it’s wearing a first-class disguise.

“Obviously when you have home ice, you’d like to play the first two games at home, but that’s just not possible,” says Komets president Michael Franke, putting the best face on it. “You’d love to play the first games at home, but I also like the back end where four of the last five games are home.”

This is the party line for everyone this weekend, or maybe it’s the shrugging nonchalance of people who know this is Just How Things Work. You might be tempted to cast Memorial Coliseum as the bad guy here, but, as Coliseum general manager Randy Brown points out, the Disney on Ice event was booked five years ago, long before the Komets joined the CHL. And Franke himself acknowledges as much, noting that the Komets have known this was a distinct possibility since August or September, when the schedule was finalized.

“Truthfully, it’s almost a waste of time to even worry about it, because it’s one of those deals where it is what it is,” Franke says. “Building availability this time of year can be very, very difficult.”

And so: Yeah, it’d be nice to open at home, but, hey, they’ve still got home ice. And they’ve been the best road team in the CHL this year, winning 21 away – two more than they won at home, actually – including three in Rapid City. And if their initial home dates don’t promise to be conducive to big crowds, it’s not like the Komets have lit it up when the building’s been full, anyway.

“This team did not play well at home in front of large crowds for some reason this year,” Franke points out.

So they’ve got that going for them.

What else?

“Well, we’re very comfortable on the road,” coach Al Sims says. “We play well; our defense is better on the road. We play with a lot more urgency on the road.”

Not that it’s all good, of course. Goaltender Nick Boucher, for instance, will point out that as dangerous as the Komets have been on the road, that was then. And those three wins in Rapid City came a long time ago, in November and December, when neither team was what it is now.

“Playoffs are a different animal,” Boucher says. “As hard as it is to win on the road in the regular season, it’s exponentially harder to win in the playoffs. The intensity gets increased, you get a little more fan turnout, and Rapid City is a hard place to play. Also, they’re pretty healthy.

“It’s going to be a tough battle up there.”

The upside is, unlike last year, the Komets have actually won out there. And in a lot of other out theres, too.

“If you look at all series the last four or five years, or you look at all our best-of-sevens against Port Huron, the series is won (games) four through seven,” Franke says. “So I like the fact we play all those home games at the end. I guess if there was going to be a year where this was going to happen, this is the year where you’d say ‘OK, we can live with this.’ ”

Got to.

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; phone, 461-8736; or fax 461-8648.