FORT WAYNE – It was the first-ever Game 7 for the Missouri Mavericks.
For the Komets, it was just another big game.
And it was a game the Komets won, 6-4, to advance to the best-of-seven President's Cup finals, which will begin Saturday night in Wichita, Kan., against the regular-season champion Thunder.
"I don't think you can say enough about our team," Komets coach Al Sims said. "We've done nothing the easy way all season. We had to win the last three games of the regular season against Dayton to win the (regular-season conference) championship. We had to win the last two games (of this series) to move on.
"And we've always found a way to do it, whether it's a close game or whatever it may be. The character of our hockey team definitely shone through tonight. We could have folded so many times and never did. It was an epic battle between two teams that really wanted this game."
It was the 11th Game 7 in the Komets' 60-year history, and the eighth they've won, including four in a row. At the Coliseum, where there was a crowd of 7,049, the Komets are 7-2 in Game 7s.
It was tied at 3 before forward Bobby Chaumont's power-play goal, when he redirected a Frankie DeAngelis shot underneath goalie Charlie Effinger, 35 seconds into the third period. Forward Chris Auger made it 5-3 by netting a wrist shot from 15 feet out at 9:11.
After a John-Scott Dickson goal from the right circle at 14:50 for the 3-year-old Mavericks, Auger cemented the victory with an empty-net goal at 19:38.
"Game 7, there's not much to say. We battled all night," Auger said, noting the Komets trailed twice in the game. "We made mistakes, but they were anxious mistakes, and you can't say enough for this team. We worked hard. We don't make anything easy on ourselves – we let them get another goal in the third period – but look at the character and the leadership on this team. It's amazing."
Komets goalie Nick Boucher stopped 35 of 39 shots. Effinger stopped 33 of 38.
"It was a pretty gutsy performance, I think," Boucher said. "We were down 2-1 and down 3-2. We came back, tied the game and despite the pressure and the youth we have on the team, we played really well in the third and put it away."
The Komets scored on three of five power plays. The Mavericks were two for six.
The Mavericks had a 2-0 lead in the series – both wins coming at the Coliseum – but they failed to steal either of the final two games in Fort Wayne. The Komets are the sixth team, in 59 tries, to successfully recover from a 2-0 deficit in a best-of-seven series in the CHL/Western Professional Hockey League.
DeAngelis gave Fort Wayne the 1-0 lead at 4:27 of the first period, rushing in from the blue line to blast a rebound past goalie Effinger during a power play.
But then the Komets got into penalty trouble. After coughing up the puck in his own zone, Henley reactively hauled down a Maverick and got a tripping penalty, setting up forward Ryan Jardine for his rebound goal at 10:25. With forward Tom Mele in the penalty box for high-sticking, forward Andrew Courtney chipped a rebound past Boucher at 19:07.
The Komets tied it 5:57 into the second period, when DeAngelis' cross-ice pass hit Mele, who was just getting off the bench. He strode into the zone and sent a wrist shot from 15 feet out past Effinger. Fifty seconds later, after Henley and defenseman Bryant Molle collided, an odd-man rush saw Courtney's crossing pass give Jardine a goal into an open net.
But the Komets answered again, 1:42 later, when defenseman Jamie Lovell's shot from the blue line caromed off a Missouri player and into the net to tie it at 3 during a power play, with defenseman David Simoes in the penalty box for holding.