FORT WAYNE – The Komets know this much: They dont want to get back on the bus.
Theyve spent about 128 hours on buses during the playoffs. Thats more than five full days in cramped quarters.
But they would have to reload the bus if they lose tonight to Wichita in Game 5 of the Presidents Cup finals. The Komets lead the best-of-seven series 3-1, and the final two games would be in Wichita, Kan., if they cant close out the series in Memorial Coliseum.
Weve got a great opportunity to close it out at home and we better take advantage of it, Komets captain Colin Chaulk said.
Despite having a sellout crowd of 10,480 orange-and-black clad fans Saturday night at the Coliseum, the Komets failed to eliminate the Thunder, which won 4-3 on Thomas Beauregards third-period goal.
The Komets werent aided by the goalposts, which they hit six times, once by defenseman Frankie DeAngelis with one second remaining. Those chances, along with the 39 shots on goal, had the Komets convinced they played a good game.
We dont change anything, forward Mike Vaskivuo said. We stick to the game plan like we have the whole playoffs and in this series. A couple posts and a couple bounces and that game went our way.
It wasnt all about bad luck Saturday.
The Thunder played its best game of the series even after going down on a Vaskivuo penalty shot 19 seconds into the game.
The Komets werent surprised by the heart of the Thunder, which won the regular-season championship and was playing without goalie Adam Russo and forward Alex Bourret, both had concussions.
Theyre a good team, Vaskivuo said. Theyre in the finals for a good reason. Theyre a good team, and we knew they would come out hard. Their backs are against the wall, and theyre fighting for their lives. Stick to the game plan and stay out of the (penalty) box a little bit, and it should be a good game Monday.
The Komets are confident they will win the series, and they would prefer to hoist the Cup on home ice.
Even if they dont, theyve played well on the road. In the playoffs, the Komets are 5-4 at the Coliseum and 6-2 on the road. Wichita is 3-4 on the road and 6-2 at home.
We expect to win in this locker room, Vaskivuo said. Weve got guys with rings – multiple (championship) rings – so theres a lot of experience. Were going to get some rest, heal up here and really go at them (in Game 5).
We better be ready (tonight), he said. They are going to come hard. Theyre going to push. What are they saying right now? Weve got to win one more to force this back home. Well, weve got to make sure we battle them and go to war.