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Ben Smith

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Game 3 turned on ability to forget

– Suddenly this looked like one of Those Games, where everything goes right but the arithmetic. Komets goalie Nick Boucher circled behind his own goal, waiting for the puck to come off the glass. He waited. Waited some more. Waited some more.

“Soft,” he said Wednesday night, leaning against the wall outside the Komets’ locker room at the Coliseum. “It was so soft that I expected it to come down, and then I lost it for a little bit.”

And then it hit the edge of the board, one of the metal supports, something. It trampolined back out in front of the empty goal. And Rapid City’s Colin Circelli, skating right up the slot, rifled home the easiest goal he’s no doubt ever scored in his 30 years on this Earth.

The clock showed 8:54 to play in the second period. And despite the fact the Rush barely had 10 shots and the Komets had 24 – despite the fact they’d turned both their own zone and the neutral zone into a no-parking zone for the visitors – it was a 1-1 hockey game.

And so: One of Those Games.

One of those games where you follow the plan and dominate every phase and bend the other guys to your will, and then you look up at the end and the other guys own the arithmetic. One of those games – Game 3 of the Turner Conference semifinals series, a pivot game – that feels as if it’s in your pocket all night, and then it winds up getting slicked away from you somehow.

Well. Let me tell you why that didn’t happen this time.

It didn’t happen because Boucher’s done this for a while and he knows how the tides ebb and flow at playoff time, and so, after geometry played its little trick, he stewed about it only for a bit. And then he went back to work, same as his teammates went back to work after an apparent go-ahead goal was disallowed less than a minute later, and when it was over Wednesday the arithmetic turned out right after all.

Score it Komets 3, Rush 1, in Game 3, and it’s the Komets who lead the best-of-seven two games to one. Mike Vaskivuo got the go-ahead goal with less than 7 1/2 minutes to play, Kaleigh Schrock cashed the empty-netter and the Komets outshot the Rush 36-21 and didn’t allow a sniff on four Rapid City power plays.

Despite, you know, all the weird stuff.

“Oh, it took me a few minutes to kind of get over that,” Boucher said, noting that he knows better than to play a puck behind the net the way he did. “It bothered me for a few minutes. But I was able to shake it off, I guess.”

Theme of the night, apparently. Theme for a team that, like its goaltender, knows how it works when the season’s down to the task of winning four games before the other guys.

“When things happen to you, you just try to bury them as fast as you can because you don’t want it to affect your team,” is how Komets coach Al Sims put it Wednesday.

“So I said: ‘We’re playing great. Look at the shots. We’re dominating the play.’ ”

“It was only one goal,” center Colin Chaulk observed. “You’ve got to recover from it.”

And the goal that wasn’t?

A faint smile.

“I don’t know,” he said. “I mean, from what I saw I banked it off (Rapid City goalie Tom) Boron and it went in, and then it came out and Vask shot it back in.

“I mean, I don’t know. We got away with one, maybe got a lucky one, in Game 2. Maybe the hockey gods were deciding to stick it to us tonight.”

Didn’t work.

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.

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