Hockey players are renowned for their toughness, and every team suffers injuries during the playoffs, but the Fort Wayne Komets got very lucky during their title run.. Some star players survived potentially major injuries that could have affected the team's Central Hockey League championship.
During the morning skate before Game 7 of the Turner Conference finals against Missouri, goaltender Nick Boucher's knee buckled on him while he was going down to block a shot.
``I thought my season was over,'' Boucher said. ``I couldn't put any weight on it. I just couldn't stand up on it.''
When Boucher left the morning practice, the Komets were planning on starting backup Gerry Festa in what turned out to be the most important game of the season. An MRI showed no extensive damage in Boucher's knee, so he decided to take a shot to deaden the pain.
Even when he was going through his stretching warm-up in the hallway outside the Komets' locker room, Boucher said he couldn't feel any difference from the shot and doubted he was going to be able to play. He went out for warm-ups on the ice and then started to feel better.
``It was a situation where if there was a lot of action and I had to move a lot, it hurts,'' he said after the Komets won the Presidents' Cup. ``When I'm busy but not too overly busy, it's manageable. I was just able to play and grind it out. It hurt a little bit to the point where I could take advantage of it to focus.''
Boucher made 35 saves during the Game 7. After that, as he said, it was great the Komets didn't need him to play miraculously well during the finals, with the possible exception of Game 1 at Wichita. It also explains why his numbers weren't up to his usual exceptional postseason averages. He'll need surgery this summer to clean up the knee.
The Komets avoided another possible major setback when captain Colin Chaulk was nailed on the ankle by a Mike Vaskivuo slap shot the day before Game 3 of the finals.
``I got hit and felt sick to my stomach,'' Chaulk said. ``(Komets team doctor Greg Sassmannshausen of Fort Wayne Orthopaedics) left his house on his day off and met me at the hospital. Luckily, it wasn't broken, but for a day there I felt really afraid that I wasn't going to play.''
After gingerly skating through warm-ups the next night, in Chaulk's typical dramatic fashion he scored a goal and set up another with an assist as the Komets won 7-3 go up 3-0 in the series.
``I got hit a long way from the heart,'' Chaulk joked.
The Komets also kept trainer Shawn Dundon busy when center Brett Smith suffered a neck injury in the first playoff game at Rapid City, and defenseman Bryant Molle went down during the Rapid City series with a second-degree medial collateral ligament strain in his knee. He was already playing with a torn labrum in his shoulder that will require surgery.
Molle was replaced by David Starenky, who himself will need knee surgery sometime this summer. After sitting out a few games, Molle came back to finish off the Missouri series.
``There are lots of guys playing through injuries,'' Molle said. ``You just want to try to go out there and help the team if you can.''