FORT WAYNE – Let’s go, Ko-mets?
Like they needed that this night.
Like they needed this moldy oldie, drifting down from every reach of a Memorial Coliseum too empty by half on this win-or-make-a-tee-time Tuesday. Like they needed this push from the faithful who showed up in clumps and clots to wave their flags and beg for a Game 7, and got it in a way that didn’t require begging at all.
Let’s go, Ko-mets, they chanted, with the game clock down to 17 minutes in the third period and sprinting happily toward zero. Let’s go, Ko-mets.
But by that time, the Komets were already three goals up on Missouri, and had been going all night.
By that time, they’d finally cracked the code on Missouri goalie Charlie Effinger, throwing rubber at him from every angle, forcing rebounds and then crashing the net to gobble up the residue.
By that time, they’d shut down nearly everything in their own end, and Nick Boucher had black-holed what little they hadn’t. And the Mavericks, who’d been on their heels for so long all the blood had drained from their toes, were looking their worst nightmare dead in the face.
Welcome to Game 7, boys. In the other guys’ barn.
We get to see another day, Komets coach Al Sims said, at the end of Komets 4, Mavs 1. This was our Game 7 tonight to get to Game 7.
We wanted a Game 7 and we got it, defenseman Frankie DeAngelis added, over the thumping crash of postgame music in the Komets’ locker room.
Across the way, Mike Vaskivuo leaned back in his locker and said that, as doomsday scenarios go, this one went as well as anyone could have possibly dreamed.
Everybody knew this was the biggest (game) of our lives tonight, he said. Our backs were against the wall, so I think everybody from the goalie on up responded well. Everybody was on their A’ game, and it was good to see that.
A lot of that game had to do with Colin Chaulk, who hit every Missouri shirt in sight and pulled everyone with him, scoring a goal and re-igniting the Komets’ first line, which got three points from Vaskivuo and five all told.
It had to do with putting relentless pressure on Effinger, who faced 47 shots but, more to the point, faced shots that weren’t just an assortment of one-off kick-outs.
I thought we did a great job getting to rebounds tonight. That was huge, Sims said.
We kept plugging along, kept plugging along, getting pucks on net, Vaskivuo agreed. And we finally got our bounces tonight.
And Effinger was human, finally, a condition that at times has been in question in this series.
And it all added up to the Komets’ most complete game in this series at both ends of the ice – a whipsawing so thorough that, with a period yet to play, the Coliseum public address was telling fans that tickets for Game 7 would go on sale at 10 a.m. today.
Fuel for a Missouri comeback, perhaps, on any other night.
Just a little prudent advance planning on this one.
We had nothing to lose tonight, DeAngelis said when it was done. I mean, our backs were against the wall.
Against a trampoline was more like it.