FORT WAYNE – It was all premature.
The sale of brooms, the selling out of tickets, the celebratory tailgating three hours before the puck dropped – all for naught, as the Komets lost 4-3 to the Wichita Thunder in Game 4 of the Presidents Cup finals on Saturday night.
Komets defenseman Frankie DeAngelis shot to force overtime caromed off the post with 1 second remaining as 10,480 fans sat in shock.
It was the sixth time the Komets hit the iron, more than anyone in the locker room could remember for one game.
Man, its crazy. An inch this way, an inch that way, a millimeter that way, and the pucks go in the net instead of going out. The hockey gods just werent on our side tonight, Komets forward Mike Vaskivuo said.
It sure appeared the gods were on the Komets side early Saturday.
Just 19 seconds into the game, Vaskivuo scored on a penalty shot after defenseman R.G. Flath was caught cupping his hand over the puck in his goal crease.
But every time the Komets scored, the regular-season champion Thunder answered, trimming Fort Waynes lead in the best-of-seven series to 3-1. Game 5 will be Monday at the Coliseum.
Wichita defenseman Daniel Tetrault tied it on a power play at 6:69. And after forward Chris Auger put the Komets back up on a redirection, during a power play at 15:50, forward Matt Summers steered around defenseman Brent Henley and beat goalie Nick Boucher high.
The second period featured two goals – Fort Waynes Jean-Michel Rizk scored from 15 feet out, and Wichitas Aaron Davis from the left circle – and in the third, the Thunders Thomas Beauregard sent a shot from the right circle sailing into the top of the net.
Im OK with what happened tonight, Komets captain Colin Chaulk said. Im not happy. But Im OK with our effort and the way we played. We created a great opportunity in the last second and didnt finish. Hey, what a story that would have been, eh? Weve just got to rewrite the ending now.
Boucher, who had been 19-2 in the playoffs at the Coliseum over five years, stopped 17 of 21 shots. Bryan Hogan, filling in for the concussed Adam Russo a second straight game, stopped 36 of 39 for Wichita.
Fort Wayne was 2 for 8 on power plays. Wichita was 1 for 6.
But did the Komets see the brooms, smell the nearby champagne and beer, and take a Saturday night celebration of their fourth championship in five years for granted?
They said no.
The fans, they like to have a little fun out there and whatnot, Vaskivuo said. But we dont get carried away with that stuff right now. Were focused on playing simple, playing hard and hopefully we get that win on Monday.
The Komets have won all 17 playoff series in which theyve had 3-0 leads in their 60-year history, but this was the ninth of 18 times in which they had a 3-0 lead and failed to win Game 4.