What are the most-important goals of Komets’ history?

Fort Wayne's Justin Hodgman picks up a loose puck in front of Port Huron goalie Larry Sterling and buries it in the net at :23 into the third overtime period to win the International Hockey League Turner Cup championship on Monday at Memorial Coliseum.
The Komets' Dustin Virag came through for the team in overtime by scoring the game winning goal that also clinched the 2003 Colonial Cup victory.
The Komets' Jonathan Goodwin celebrates scoring the game winning goal in overtime of the 7th game of the second round of the UHL playoffs against the Rockford IceHogs. The Komets now advance to the Colonial Cup Finals for the second time in three years.
From left, Komets Jean-Marc Richard, Colin Chin and Scott Gruhl celebrate the game-winning goal from Game 2 against Atlanta during the 1993 Turner Cup Playoffs.

Now that Justin Hodgman has returned to the Komets’ lineup after three months because of an injury, someone asked where his Game 7 triple-overtime goal ranks all-time among Fort Wayne’s most-important goals.

That’s a great question, though it may shock some fans that it should not be considered No. 1. It still ranks very high, but here’s one opinion on the Top 10 most-important goals in the Komets’ 66-year history.

10. Dec. 29, 1992

San Diego 7, Komets 4: The only regular-season goal on the list, Scott Gruhl wound up with a slap shot to blow the puck over Rick Knickle’s shoulder and score the 552nd goal of his International Hockey League career and break the all-time mark held by Joe Kastelic. Gruhl had already become the first minor league player to score 600 career goals earlier in the season.

9. May 10, 2005

Komets 2, Rockford 1, OT: Taking a faceoff from Colin Chaulk, Rob Guinn skated wide near the blue line to draw the defense and create an opening for a pass to Jonathan Goodwin for the game-winning goal 14:46 into overtime of Game 7. It marked the first time ever the Komets rallied from a 3-1 deficit to win a playoff series. Kevin St. Pierre shaved his mustache off after the Komets lost Game 4, and the IceHogs could beat him the rest of the series.

8. April 10, 2012

Komets 4, Rapid City 3: After being released by Rapid City earlier in the season, Mike Vaskivuo signed with the Komets and scored the series-clinching game-winning goal 51 seconds into overtime to beat the Rush in Game 6. The Komets had also lost to the Rush in the playoffs the previous season so there was plenty of bad blood.

7. April 26, 2012

Komets 6, Missouri 4: This Game 7 was much better than the Game 5 Presidents Cup Finals clincher against Wichita as Nick Boucher overcame a morning knee injury to out-duel Charlie Effinger in a classic. The outcome wasn’t decided until Chris Auger’s empty-net goal with 28 seconds remaining, and even then, everyone was afraid to relax. But the most-important goal of this game came from Bobby Chaumont on a power play early during the third period to break a 3-3 tie. The Mavericks were playing from behind the rest of the game. This was the game that really decided the 2012 Central Hockey League championship.

6. May 4, 2003

Komets 2, Quad City 1, OT: Off passes from Bobby Stewart and Ryan Severson, Dustin Virag scored 39 seconds into overtime as the Komets beat their longtime nemesis to win their only United Hockey League title in front of a crowd of 10,593. On consecutive nights in two cities, playoff Most Valuable Player Tom Lawson stopped 59 of 60 Quad City shots. What’s amazing is the Komets missed the 2002 playoffs, and Quad City was a team that had dominated the Komets for years previously.

5. May 19, 1993

Komets 3, San Diego 2, OT: After taking a pass from Carey Lucyk, Scott Gruhl cut across the blue line to blast a slap shot past San Diego goaltender Clint Malarchuk and give the Komets a 3-0 lead in the Turner Cup Finals. Though the Komets out-shot San Diego 47-23, the Gulls hung tough and forced overtime. The goal was Gruhl’s 1,400th career IHL point in his 1,000th IHL game. This was the Gulls’ last gasp on topping the Komets’ playoff sweep.

4. May 1, 1993

Komets 2, Atlanta 1: This is still the best game I’ve ever seen the Komets play because the competition, the opponent and the moment were all so big. It was also a road game with the Komets leading the series 1-0. Every player was exhausted after this one, and several veterans said this was the best game they ever played in. Trailing 1-0 after two periods, the Komets got a goal from Bob Wilkie to get some life, and then Colin Chin hit Jean-Marc Richard for a power-play goal inside the final five minutes. This was really the game that keyed the Komets’ 1993 12-0 sweep.

3. May 12, 2008

Komets 3, Port Huron 2, 3OT: Though he was only 19 years old, Justin Hodgman became a Fort Wayne immortal by scoring the game-winning and Cup-clinching goal in the third overtime as the Komets rallied from a 3-1 series deficit. Hodgman was named the Most Valuable Player of the Turner Cup Finals after leading the Komets in scoring with five goals and eight points during the finals and scoring seven goals and 14 points in 13 playoff games. This goal is also important because it’s the first time the Komets ever won a playoff game that lasted longer than one overtime.

2. April 9, 1963

Komets 7, Muskegon 6, OT: Fort Wayne led the series 3-2 but gave up six consecutive goals to fall behind 6-1 early in the second period of Game 6. Two short-handed goals by Len Thornson got the Komets back into it, and then Bobby Rivard and Norm Waslawski scored in the third period to force overtime. Eddie Long made a brilliant, game-saving stop in overtime behind Chuck Adamson, and Roger Maisonneuve buried a faceoff from Waslawski to win it. This goal was important because it set up the Komets’ first championship after years of coming close.

1. April 21, 1991

Komets 4, Indianapolis 3: Lonnie Loach took a backhand pass from Kevin Kaminski to beat Jimmy Waite through the pads at 18:29 of overtime in Game 7 on the road. The goal defeated the defending Turner Cup champions and ended an epic series that saw five of the seven games decided by one goal, including the last three, which were played on successive nights with the road team winning each time. Loach got creamed by an Ice defenseman as he let the shot go and never saw it score.

Why was this game the most important playoff contest in Komets history? Without it, there never would have been the John Anderson Game or the renewed rivalry with Kalamazoo after Larry DePalma suckered Robin Bawa.

Those came later that postseason. Later is also when the rest of Fort Wayne and not just the hard-core fans fell in love with the Komets and attendance picked up dramatically.

And the Komets might not have gained the playoff experience that carried them to the 1993 Turner Cup, which set up the franchise for the next 25 years.

That sweep gave the Franke brothers the confidence to know they could be successful and truly made the Komets a major focus of Fort Wayne for all time.

This column is the commentary of the writer and does not reflect the views or opinions of News-Sentinel.com. Email Blake Sebring at bsebring@news-sentinel.com.

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