FORT WAYNE – Forward Mike Vaskivuo got the playoff MVP trophy and a great last laugh.
Released by Rapid City on March 15, he helped the Komets defeat the Rush, Missouri and Wichita en route to the Ray Miron Presidents Cup.
Vaskivuo had 10 goals and a CHL-leading 24 points in 18 playoff games, including a goal and an assist in the Cup-clinching 6-3 victory Monday night against the Thunder. The Komets won the best-of-seven finals 4-1.
I would have never even dreamed of this, Vaskivuo said. Its been such a long year for me. Im just so thankful that the guys gave me an opportunity here, and Im just so happy right now.
Vaskivuo had 13 goals and 37 points in 54 games before being let go by Rapid City.
The Komets didnt know much about him, other than he was difficult to contain, despite facing Vaskivuo for three seasons, including his Dayton stints in 2009 and 2011. But the sudden departure of Artem Podshendyalov for Russia left them with a hole on the top line.
So they snatched Vaskivuo, 26, off waivers, and immediately had him skate alongside captain Colin Chaulk and Chris Auger.
The line combined for 26 goals of the Komets 71 goals and 65 of the teams 187 points in the playoffs. The threesome was a combined plus-31.
A big part of that was Auger and Chaulker, Vaskivuo said. Auger is the big shooter on our line. I like to make plays. And Chaulker brings the veteran leadership. It was great chemistry from the get-go.
Vaskivuo was born in Finland, grew up in Florida and played at Merrimack College, a circuitous journey for a player who made several highlight-reel plays, probably none better than the behind-the-back fake that set up a Chaulk goal in the 7-3 victory over Wichita in Game 3.
What a pickup, center Brett Smith said.
The guy has got the softest hands Ive ever seen, and he battles hard, too. Thats whats made him such a complete player. He scored a lot of big goals for us.
The Komets have no players under contract for next season, when they will likely be in the ECHL. But Vaskivuos age would make him a good fit for a league stocked with young players.
Its been unbelievable here, Vaskivuo said. Every day, Im just appreciative of the Komets giving me an opportunity. It was up to me to take the bull by the horn and I tried to do that every day, help this club every night. If I was producing, I was helping the team and thats just what I wanted to do.