So that’s what a hockey game looks like.
Not that anyone necessarily would have forgotten between April 15 and Sunday, but with all the sideshows casting their dark shadows over this Turner Conference semifinal series, it was a relief to have the deciding contest be largely free of extracurricular nonsense.
Granted, fans managed through Game 1’s 5-2 Rapid City triumph without a lot of post-whistle pomp and circumstance. But the well-documented bonanza of fights, suspensions and needling managerial comments that accompanied the 77 infractions and more than 180 minutes of penalties in Games 2 through 4 created a what-could-happen-next atmosphere inside the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center Ice Arena on Sunday.
It doesn’t take a savant to decipher that when Central Hockey League commissioner Duane Lewis felt the need to intervene with a meaty email statement following Friday’s Game 4, things might have been getting a little out of hand.
I’m not naïve enough to think that the series between the Rush and Komets was going to be filled with mutual attaboys and tips of the visor. It’s the playoffs, and it’s edgy, and no one — fan, player, coach, official or league representative —would have it any other way.
“People shouldn’t forget that it was a five-game series of great hockey,” Rapid City head coach Joe Ferras said. “It was two quality teams who have won in the past, and we battled with a lot of intensity.”
But there’s a way intensity can be done right, and so much about the intensity of this series seemed wrong. Look no further than the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens, two of the National Hockey League’s Original Six, who are embroiled in a tooth-and-nail battle in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs. Just the other night, the two teams battled into a second overtime in Game 5 of a 2-all series and managed to commit just 10 total penalties while still maintaining a riveting level of physicality.
Not everything about the intensity of this series was negative. It began largely without incident, and Sunday night’s game was of a brutal yet respectable nature well into the third period. The 18 offenses Sunday night were a series-low. Game misconduct penalties from Scott Wray and Jesse Schultz, however, left lingering reminders that tempers in this series boiled over more often than not.
It didn’t take long for this new-found rivalry between the Rush and the Komets to etch out a
significant slice of history, especially in Rapid City’s three-year existence. The Turner Conference finals will feature the Rush against the Colorado Eagles, a team where the phrase “hated rivals” already rolls off the tongue with ease.
More history is likely to be made in the next couple of weeks. Here’s to hoping it’s for the right reasons next time.