Within two minutes after Jonathan Hazen's overtime goal gave the Cincinnati Cyclones a 4-3 win and a 3-2 series lead, coach Gary Graham walked into a somber Komets locker room. His team was beaten but he wanted to make sure not defeated.
``If there is any team that can come back and do this, it's this team right here,'' Graham told his players. ``Flush it and start looking ahead.''
And just about that quickly, the Komets started forgetting about last night's loss and began focusing on Tuesday's Game 6 in Cincinnati. The players were not upset or angry or depressed after Sunday night's loss, they were full of anticipation.
``I can't wait for the next game,'' forward Chris Auger said. ``There's times this year when we've lost and we've been very disappointed with how things went down, but I was happy with the effort tonight from start to finish. It was a very exciting game. I thought we continued to have an answer for them all night. It's going to be a long series, and I think we knew that from the start.''
They also know that whenever they got in trouble this season, they always found ways to fix things on the road, even in Cincinnati. Home ice hasn't meant anything in the regular season or the playoffs as the Komets are 5-1 in Cincinnati and the Cyclones are 5-2 in Fort Wayne.
The first game in this series was decided with 7.1 seconds left and the last three in overtime, so everyone knows it's going to be a one-goal game on Tuesday, the goalies will play great and an extra effort play will decide it. The teams are pushing each other to play better with each shift, each period and each game. Game 5 was the best of the series so far, but almost each game has gotten better and improved through each period.
The Cyclones are a great team, both offensively and defensively. They challenge for every inch of ice, like sharks looking for an offensive opportunity following a turnover. They are always moving, flowing up the ice.
The Komets aren't as pretty, but they get there. They've gotten more physical as the series has gone on, and maybe that will slow the Cyclones the longer the games last. The Cyclones probably have more overall skill, but the Komets have proven they can take a punch and regain their legs.
After a loss like Sunday, going on the road, maybe there should have been some doubt in the players' eyes and words, but the Komets are still confident and nobody had their head down. It wasn't time for that yet. They've been through too much adversity this season to expect or even want an easy outcome. They struggle with easy because they don't know how to handle it.
``I know that in the past, whenever this team has won a championships, we've been in a lot worse spots,'' Komets captain Kaleigh Schrock said. ``We've been a great road team on all year long and all we have to do right now is win one on the road. If you win one on the road, it's a new day.
``I know this team and we'll play well with our backs against the wall. I still have a lot of confidence in this team right now. It will be another nailbiter on Tuesday.''
These two teams could probably play in the parking lot and the decision would come on a goal in the final seconds. They know each other that well, maybe too well. The only scoring chances come off major defensive breakdowns, and there aren't many because both teams' coverage is so good.
The goaltenders have also been amazing. Schrock finally found a hole in Rob Madore's glovehand in the third period Sunday, but that likely won't happen again. About the only time the Cyclones can score on Ben Meisner is when his defensemen let them get close enough where he has no chance, and even then he usually at least gets part of the shot.
This series deserves a Game 7, and the Komets are confident they can push it there. Then anything can happen. They still believe they have a good chance.
``I'm not going to stop believing in these guys until I'm shaking Cincinnati guys' hands if we lose,'' Graham said. ``I believe in this group.''
ECHL Conference Semifinals
KOMETS 3, CYCLONES 2 OT
(Series tied 2-2)
Scoring: 1. C-Matt Tinordi (Dan Eves, Jonathan Hazen) 9:16.
Penalties: FW-Shawn Szydlowski (hooking) 7:09; C-Brett Wysopal (high sticking) 10:52; FW-Jordon Southorn (slashing) 11:22; C-Eves (hooking) 14:16.
Scoring: 2. C-Logan Shaw (Wade Megan) 1:00; 3. FW-Christian Ouellet (Chris Auger, Jordon Southorn) 2:38.
Penalties: FW-Matt Carter (slashing) 7:06; C-Barry Almeida (tripping) 13:00.
Scoring: 4. FW-Matt Szydlowski (Aaron Clarke, Carter) 14:19.
Scoring: 5. FW-Southorn (Clarke, Carter) 5:22.
Shots on goal: C/18-8-7-4--37; FW/8-16-11-2--37. Goaltenders: C/Rob Madore; FW/Ben Meisner. Power-play opportunities: C/0 of 33; FW/0 of 3. Officials: Referee-Peter Tarnaris; Linesmen: Francois Dussureault, Patrick Richardson. Attendance: 5,353.
CYCLONES 4, KOMETS 3 OT
(Cincinnati leads series 3-2)
Scoring: 1. C-Logan Shaw (Taylor Aronson, Josh Birkholz) 5:52.
Penalties: C-Shaw (delay of game) 3:45; FW-Jace Coyle (holding) 15:38.
Scoring: 3. FW-Dean Ouellet (Matthew Miaone, Mike Embach) 14:45; 4. FW-Shawn Szydlowski (Aaron Clarke) 16:10.
Penalties: C-Byron Froese (hooking) 6:05; C-Wade Megan (slashing) 15:05; FW-Kaleigh Schrock (slashing) 15:05.
Scoring: 5. C-Zach Budish (Froese, Josh McFadden) 5:12; 6. FW-Schrock (Will Lacasse) 16:04; C-Birkholz (Jonathan Hazen) 16:26.
Scoring: 7. C-Hazen (Birkholz) 1:46.
Shots on goal: C/10-9-12-1--32; FW/12-17-4-0--33. Goaltenders: C/Rob Madore; FW/Ben Meisner. Power-play opportunities: C/0 of 0; FW/0 of 0. Officials: Referee-Frederic Leblanc; Linesmen: Zach Thornton, Jesse Pletsch. Attendance: 4,716.