When the Fort Wayne Komets walked into their locker room for practice this week, they found ``ALL BUSINESS'' written on their grease board. Colin Chaulk and Brett Smith came up with the slogan, and Nick Boucher wrote it on the board.
``It's because at some points in the year we gained so much confidence that we forgot what the job was at hand,'' Smith said. ``We'd let things slip a little and didn't work as hard as we should have, and that's when we'd get in trouble. It's our motto, and we're sticking to it because good things happen when we work hard.''
The Komets put together a very workmanlike performance Thursday as they pounded the Wichita Thunder 7-3 before 7,105 Memorial Coliseum fans. With a 3-0 series lead, the Komets have a chance during Saturday's Game 4 to sweep the Thunder and claim the Central Hockey League's Ray Miron Presidents' Cup. Faceoff is at 8:15 p.m.
As long as the Komets stick to that plan, they should be fine. Wichita gave up only 22 goals in 11 playoff games before this series started, but the Komets have torched the Thunder for 18 goals in three games. The Komets haven't scored that many goals in three straight playoff games since 1993.
Kaleigh Schrock and Colin Chaulk each scored twice Thursday night, and Leo Thomas, Daniel Maggio and Bryant Molle added single goals.
``Goals are coming from every line and everywhere,'' Komets coach Al Sims said. ``Everybody wants to be part of it. We got the game we needed tonight, and got the first one at home.''
But does that mean anyone is peeking ahead to a potential celebration maybe just a little?
``We're thinking about the next game right now and the first period and the first shift,'' Sims said. ``I think if we take it in baby steps it's much easier than talking about two games or winning the fourth game or whatever.''
Because everyone, especially the players, knows what is possible Saturday, that may sound like coach blarney, but the players have bought it on a very simple level.
``We'll enjoy this one for five or 10 minutes and them come in tomorrow ready to work on the next game,'' Molle said. ``That's what's expected from us at this time of the year, and we also expect it out of ourselves and from all of our teammates.''
Breaking it down like that, as a way to hold each other accountable, makes it simple to believe in and to follow. After last night's game, the Komets showed the same energy level as they did after Thursday morning's pre-game skate. There was music in the locker room, good plays and bad were discussed and there were a few smiles. They wree happy they had won and played well, but not delighted by it. They did what they were supposed to and it was just another work day, though one a little more important than usual.
That's sort of what their game plans have been like as well. Anyone watching closely can tell the Komets are attacking the Thunder's defensemen, forcing them to try making plays against pressure. That works because the Wichita forwards love to cheat up ice toward the offensive end. The Komets' forwards are playing ``Ring Around the Rosie'' near the Wichita goal by continually cycling and controlling the puck, and if the puck never leaves the Wichita zone there's not much the Thunder forwards can do to create anything.
``Obviously, we know how dangerous that team is,'' said Boucher, who finished with 26 saves. ``They are a very explosive team, and the best way for us to play against them is to have the puck in their zone. Keep it in safe areas and don't turn the puck over.
``The way we think this series is going to be won and lost is along the walls. It's won in the trenches, and it's not won in open ice. It's won in front of the nets and along the boards.''
And so far the Komets are dominating all those areas, which is why they have a chance Saturday to win their fourth title in five years.
One more win would be business as usual.