#1 Fort Wayne Komets (40-19-7, 87 pts) @ #1 Wichita Thunder (44-19-3, 91 pts)
“Great moments come from great opportunities.” – Herb Brooks
The Presidents’ Cup Finals are all about star players stepping up, as well as surprise players making a name for themselves. This is exactly what these two squads see ahead of them as the 2012 Playoffs come to the final series matchup.
Fort Wayne ended the year in first place in the Turner Conference and had to battle their way through Rapid City (6 games) and Missouri (7 games) to end up where they are at now. The Komets now have a post season record of 8-5.
Wichita also ended the year in first place in the Berry Conference, as well as first place in the league winning the Bud Poile Governor’s Cup. The Thunder matched up against Rio Grande Valley (5 games) and Texas (6 games) to get where they are at today with a record of 8-3.
2012 Ray Miron Presidents’ Cup Finals Schedule
Game 1 – Sat., Apr. 28 – Fort Wayne at Wichita, 7:05 PM
Game 2 – Sun., Apr. 29 – Fort Wayne at Wichita, 5:05 PM
Game 3 – Thu., May 3 – Wichita at Fort Wayne, 7:30 PM
Game 4 – Sat., May 5 – Wichita at Fort Wayne, 8:15 PM
*Game 5 – Mon., May 7 – Wichita at Fort Wayne, 7:30 PM
*Game 6 – Fri., May 11 – Fort Wayne at Wichita, 7:05 PM
*Game 7 – Sat., May 12 – Fort Wayne at Wichita, 7:05 PM
* if necessary
**all times local (Fort Wayne is EST and Wichita is CST)
Fort Wayne’s top line of Chris Auger-Colin Chaulk-Mike Vaskivuo have found chemistry together in this post season and have combined for a total of 15 goals and 23 assists. Auger has been the go-to guy on this line and leads the entire league with 15 points (6g, 9a) in 13 games played. Vaskivuo is right behind him with 14 points (6g, 8a) and leads the league with 3 game-winning goals.
A key for the Komets in the series could be the line of Leo Thomas-Brett Smith-Bobby Chaumont who have been slowed a bit in the post-season from their regular season production. Chaumont led the Komets in scoring during the regular season and has scored goals in each of the last two games of the conference finals. Smith is looking to win back-to-back Presidents’ Cup titles as he was a member of the Bossier-Shreveport Mudbugs last season.
Wichita’s top line of Alex Bourret-Thomas Beauregard-R.G. Flath have also been consistent in these playoffs and total 17 goals and 17 assists. Beauregard leads the team with 13 points (4g, 9a) in 11 games played and sits in a tie for fourth in the league leaders. Bourret has recorded 12 points (5g 7a) which includes 4 points while shorthanded. Lastly, Flath has 9 points (8g, 1a) and is tied for the league lead with his 8 goals.
Other players to watch for the Thunder are Chris Chappell and Chris Greene. Chappell has four goals and eight assists so far in the playoffs and Greene has three goals and five assists.
Wichita’s defenseman Jarred Mohr has really taken charge in these playoffs and is emerging as one of the top blue liners on the Thunder. Mohr leads the entire league with his plus/minus rating of +12 and has recorded 4 assists so far.
Veteran Daniel Tetrault could also be key, he has three goals and three assists in the post-season.
The two defenseman on Fort Wayne that have stood out are Frankie DeAngelis and Jamie Milam who both are tied for the league leaders between all defensemen. DeAngelis has notched 10 points in 13 games played and is tied for the league lead with 3 goals. Milam is right behind him with 10 points as well, and his 8 assists are a league-best. This dynamic duo brings experience and offensive production that will help the Komets in the long run.
In his own end, Jamie Lovell is one of the better players for the Komets. Offensively, he has three goals and five assists.
This series offers up a matchup between two of the best goalies in the league, both during the regular season and post season.
Wichita’s Adam Russo has played in every game for the Thunder and has a record of 8-3 with a league-best 1.98 G.A.A. and a .922 SV% (3rd). Russo is tied for the lead with 8 wins and is third with 235 saves.
Fort Wayne’s Nick Boucher has also played in every outing except for one game for the Komets earning an 8-4 record. He has a 2.85 G.A.A. with a .907 SV%. He is tied for the league lead with 8 wins and leads the league with 759:11 minutes played. He is second with 353 saves.
Wichita is led by Kevin McClelland, the CHL Coach of the Year. McClelland has coached in one previous Finals when he was the coach of the Colorado Eagles (2009, lost to Texas).
Fort Wayne is coached by Al Sims who has led the Komets to four titles including three straight in the IHL (2008, 2009 and 2010).
The special teams will have a huge impact on this series and it is up to both teams to remain disciplined. Fort Wayne leads the entire league with Penalty Minors (85) and Penalty Minutes (215) and because of this, also have the leagues’ highest total for Powerplay Goals Allowed (14).
The Komets penalty kill is the worst in the league at 75.9% (14/58) and need to focus on staying out of the box. Brent Henley leads his team with 26 penalty minutes and sits in third in the entire league. However, Fort Wayne does happen to have the best HOME powerplay in the league at 25%, scoring 6 goals on 24 chances.
Wichita sits in second with their penalty kill at 88.6% (5/44) but have one of the worst power plays this post season. The Thunder struggle both home and away, and sit in 7th in the league with their overall powerplay at 7.1%, only scoring 3 times on 42 opportunities.
**Wichita has more shorthanded goals (6) than powerplay goals (3).
Fort Wayne will need to keep receiving scoring production from all their players; 14 different skaters have notched a goal in this post season, and 12 of those players have at least 2 goals. Auger and Vaskivuo lead the bunch with 6 goals apiece.
The deciding factor for Wichita will be their ability to keep winning at home. Right now the Thunder are 6-0 this post season at home and will look to keep their undefeated streak going, especially since they have home ice advantage in these finals. Even during the regular season Wichita had the best home record (24-8-1).