FORT WAYNE – So here they were again Thursday night, right back in their very own kitchen. Game 7? Walking a tightrope over season’s end for the second straight night (and, really, for five straight games)?
Wheelhouse City, baby.
This is, after all, what they do, these Komets: walk it right up to the edge, peer over the side and step back so the other guys can make that long, long fall. Eight times in 11 tries, in 60 seasons, they’ve come to Game 7 and gotten away clean. It’s their kitchen, their place, base camp for what they all like to call Komet Hockey.
Even if it does occasionally get a little warm.
For sure that happened Thursday, before the Komets flipped off history and the Missouri Mavericks, 6-4, to win a Turner Conference final that began with them dropping the first two games at home. Only five other times in 59 years has a CHL/Western Professional Hockey team gone down two-games-to-none and rallied to win the series, and for a while this didn’t look like it would be No. 6.
Ten minutes in, the Komets led 1-0 and looked as if they had the Mavericks shell-shocked and on the run, and then they didn’t. Then came some sloppy work on the penalty kill and a Ryan Jardine backhand, and then, 53 seconds from the end of the period, another goal from Andrew Courtney. And it was 2-1 Mavs after one.
And then 2-2. And then 3-2, Mavs. And then 3-3, Jamie Lovell scoring on the power play on a night when five goals were scored with the man advantage.
Well. And then, it was on to the kitchen within a kitchen: Game 7, the third period.
Where the Komets scored 35 seconds in, again on the power play, to break a 3-all tie and force the Mavs to play from behind the rest of the way.
Where Chris Auger beat the bedeviling Charlie Effinger with a wicked across-the-body shot skating left to right across the offensive zone, after the Komets had successfully killed 27 seconds of two-man Missouri advantage and 1:33 of one-man.
Where, down at the end, with Missouri down a goal and pressing, Nick Boucher did what he does, keeping the door slammed shut and refusing to yield.
Komet Hockey: Why, it’s nothing but plain ornery stubbornness, an inclination to stick a thumb in the eye of precedent.
The character of our hockey team, is what Komets coach Al Sims called it Thursday night.
And the players themselves?
Well, here at the back of the raucous music-thumping room sat Brett Smith, soaking it up quietly with an almost bemused expression on his face. He won a title with Bossier-Shreveport last year that, truth be told, had its own portion of plain stubbornness. Now here he was headed to the finals again, for much the same reasons.
All year long we’ve done things the hard way, he said. We knew we had a power play (to open the third period) and that was a big opportunity. After that, we just had to come out and play 20 minutes of Komet hockey.
That word again.