Nick Boucher was in need of a confidence boost.
The Fort Wayne All-Star goalie had played two periods of high-level hockey in the opening game of the Turner Conference semifinals. But Rapid City’s four-goal third period — Boucher allowed three — was all that stuck in anybody’s memory after Friday’s 6-3 Rush triumph.
The Komet steeled himself in 24 hours, however, and came away with a gutsy 30-save performance in Saturday’s 3-1 Fort Wayne victory that evened the best-of-seven series at one game apiece.
“I had played well the first two periods and just had a lapse for a few minutes, and that was all she wrote,” Boucher said following the Game 2 victory. “But I try to be positive. … You’ve got to have a short memory as a goalie.”
Short from game to game, but long on player recall. Boucher’s level-headed approach to Jesse Schultz’s penalty shot late in the second period kept Rapid City from entering the final frame with another one-goal lead at home.
On the approach, the Rush forward, who had notched his third goal in the series earlier in the period, tried to move to his left and beat Boucher stick-side. His backhanded shot, though, was deflected away.
The Rush had several quality chances in the third period, but none was that direct an opportunity.
“I want to force a guy to make a move and deke. To do that, you’ve got to be aggressive and get out of your paint, so that’s what I was looking to do,” Boucher said. “Obviously, he’s a right-handed shot, so I didn’t want to expose myself high-glove. So I tried to keep my glove high. Fortunately, he made a move and I was able to get across and get a piece of it.”
Both Boucher and Rapid City goaltender Tim Boron (24 saves on 26 shots) showed their mastery of the moment in bookended situations in the second period.
Less than 2 minutes after Schultz tied the game at 1-all on a cutting breakaway finish after a pass on the tape from Dominic D’Amour, Boron faced his own test to keep the game level. A deft Fort Wayne feed from the defensive zone found a streaking Tom Mele near the Rush blue line, and there was nothing but clear ice in front of him.
Uncontested, Mele attempted a couple of miniature dekes before shooting straight-on at a distance even with the faceoff circle. Boron wasn’t fooled, however, and fell to his knees, spread-eagling his pads to stuff the chance.
Good fortune often plays a part in a great night as well, and Boucher dodged one bullet when league MVP candidate Shawn Limpright couldn’t get a stick on the puck near the crease during a four-on-four session with about 12:30 to play.
Undoubtedly the most fortunate situation of all came on the game-winner by Colin Chaulk with 2:06 to play after a scrum of several seconds in front of the net. Rapid City coaches and players unsuccessfully argued that Chaulk had batted the puck past Boron.
Fort Wayne will take the split and run back to Indiana, however, for three consecutive home games next week. And a bounce on the opposite end doesn’t detract from Boucher’s big night.
“He was awesome. You can’t say enough about him coming back from last night, allowing five,” Fort Wayne coach Al Sims said. “The penalty-shot save was a game-changer, definitely a momentum shift. … It gave us a chance to win the game.”