The Fort Wayne Komets are on the doorstep of winning their fourth league title in the last five years as they currently lead the Wichita Thunder 2-0 in the best-of-7 Ray Miron Presidents’ Cup Finals with three games on home ice awaiting them this week.
One date you can circle as to a turning point for the Komets is March 14, a day that had a forward who had played the season in Rapid City suddenly appear on the waiver wire to be claimed by the Komets to fill a void left by Artem Podshedyalov who had left the team to return home to Russia.
That player was Mike Vaskivuo
! Al Sims and David Franke were used to the forward who had played the previous two seasons with the Komets rival, the Dayton Gems, averaging more than 25 goals a season.
On March 14, the Komets were in second place trailing the Evansville IceMen for first place in the Turner Conference but a 4-1-1 finish to the season helped vault Fort Wayne into the top spot.
Podshendyalov had 43 points (18-25=43) in 58 games with the Komets and was a speedy, creative playmaker that was going to be tough to replace.
But Vaskivuo stepped right into the line-up and contributed looking like he had been there all season. He scored a pair of goals and had seven assists in his six regular season games with the Komets and was the perfect player to take into Fort Wayne’s Opening Round series whose opponent was a familiar one for Vaskivuo, the Rapid City Rush.
The forward had a huge impact on the series eventually won by the Komets four games to two. Vaskivuo had points in all six games scoring goals in the last four including recording the game winner in overtime of the deciding Game 6 sending his old team to the golf courses early.
The speedy forward had just one goal and one assist in the first five games of the conference finals versus the Missouri Mavericks as his line (Vaskivuo, Colin Chaulk and Chris Auger) was defended well and the Mavs had a 3-2 series lead looking to move on and send the Komets packing.
But in Game’s 6 and 7, it was Vaskivuo and his line mates that helped keep things moving combining to score four goals with six assists and a collective +14 plus/minus rating in the final two games of the series that saw the Komets win both games and advance to the Presidents’ Cup Finals to face the Thunder.
In Game 1, Vaskivuo had two helpers in his team’s 5-3 win at Wichita and then in Game 2, the 6-1, 185-pound forward had the game winning goal as a part of a three point afternoon (2-1=3).
Vaskivuo is tied with Auger for the league lead in points with 19 (8-11=19) and is in a spot to be considered the playoff most valuable player as he and the Komets need to win two of the next five games with three straight at home to earn the title of ‘Champs’!