FORT WAYNE – Perhaps the sequence with less than a minute remaining at Memorial Coliseum on Wednesday best summarizes whats going on in the Turner Conference semifinals.
The Komets Lincoln Kaleigh Schrock finished the 3-1 Game 3 victory with an empty-net goal and, while he was skating toward center ice to celebrate, was upended by Rapid City Rush right wing Konrad Reeder.
That sparked a nine-player melee that should set up a fantastic Game 4 tonight at the Coliseum.
But the theme of the series has been the Rushs physical antics being outdone by the Komets desire to win. The Komets lead the best-of-seven set 2-1.
Our team has shown character all year and I wouldnt expect anything less, Fort Wayne coach Al Sims said.
The Komets gave up a wacky game-tying, second-period goal when the puck was dumped in from outside the blue line then caromed oddly off the boards to give center Collin Circelli an empty net at which to shoot.
And there was a second-period goal by Fort Wayne center Colin Chaulk that was waved off – Sims said referee Steve Cruickshank told him it never went in – though video replay clearly showed the puck go in twice.
Our team just went back out there and went back to work, and I thought it was a good performance by our guys, Sims said.
The Komets started the scoring in remarkable fashion. Center Jean-Michel Rizk sent a crossing pass over the stick of a Rush defenseman and onto the stick of forward Brett Smith, who juggled the puck three times in the air before smacking it past goalie Tim Boron at 2:48 of the first period.
The Komets outshot the fourth-seeded Rush 36-21 and tallied 14 of the first 17 shots.
Things really heated up in the second period, thanks to a brutal hit from behind by Rush center Les Reaney on defenseman David Starenky. It was a similar hit to right wing Jeff Kyrzakos on Smith in Game 1, which got no penalty or suspension from the CHL. Reaney got a minor penalty and Starenky returned.
There was also a big second-period hit by Fort Wayne defenseman Brent Henley on left wing Shawn Limpright, which helped incite a fight between Schrock and Rapid Citys Dominic DAmour. Henley had missed the first two games, serving a three-game suspension for punching Daytons Damien Surma and then kneeing Brett Lutes on March 24.
With the game tied at 1, forward Chris Auger dropped a pass to defenseman Frankie DeAngelis, who fired it from the blue line.
The rebound was put in by forward Mike Vaskivuo, who has three goals and 12 points in nine games since being picked up off waivers from Rapid City.
I was so excited when I learned we would be playing Rapid City in the playoffs, and I knew I had to ramp up my game, Vaskivuo said.
These two teams have a good rivalry going, and it goes back to last year (when the Rush eliminated the Komets), and you could tell it was there again from the first game of this series.
Note: Chaulks point-scoring streak was snapped at 11 games.