Two years ago, a defeat in the finals after a seventh game overtime loss to the Fort Wayne Komets left a bitter taste in the mouth of Icehawks’ fans. Although only the opening round, a chance for revenge begins Thursday as Port Huron travels to Fort Wayne to begin their quest for the cup.
The Icehawks ended their season in third place in the International Hockey League with a record of 47-25-0-4. The team produced two 30 plus goal scorers in Mickael Bedard and Derek Patrosso and two 25 plus goal scorers in Mike Kinnie and Brandon Naurato. Bedard was also named the IHL’s 2009-2010 Rookie of the Year.
“Bedard was phenomenal,” Icehawks’ Coach Stan Drulia said. “With a young kid you don’t know what you are in for but he’s been professional, worked hard every day, and desires the next level.”
Hawks’ goalie Larry Sterling led the team with a 22-11-0-1 record and a 2.72 goals against average.
“If we’re going to go far in the playoff, Larry has to play well,” Drulia said. “Larry is well aware of this.”
Fort Wayne finished in second in the IHL with 104 points and a 50-22-1-3 record. The Hawks are 5-6 against Fort Wayne in regular season play.
“Fort Wayne has been the champion for the last two years,” Drulia said. “I would love to be the guy to end that reign. That is the mentality of the staff, the organization, and we’re going to relay that message to the players. I feel we’re up for that challenge.”
Port Huron’s 98 points occurred despite injuries to key players such as Tab Lardner, Jason Selleke, and Cory Stillman.
Icehawks’ Alternate Captain Robert Cowan feels the team will succeed if they stick to the basics.
Cowan said, “We need to realize that the regular season is over now. Whatever happened in the regular season is out the window.”
Unlike last year, the Hawks are entering the playoffs with momentum; especially at home with their eight game winning streak.
“Last year we were sputtering,” Drulia said. “This year we finished with a 7-3 record and 29 home victories for the year. That is the most I’ve won here in my four years. Not only have we played great here, we have performed well in Fort Wayne.”
There is a sense that the playoffs will be, well, chippy.
“There is a bit of a history between us,” Cowan said. “Losing game seven to them two years ago has developed a rivalry.”
“I think it will be more physical here because of the rink size,” Drulia said. “Because their rink is larger and both teams skate so well, it should be more open in Fort Wayne.”
Port Huron faces the Fort Wayne Komets in the opening round of the playoffs on Thursday in Fort Wayne. Fort Wayne visits McMorran on Saturday, April 24, for the second game of the playoffs.
Face off time is 7:30 p.m. For further Icehawks’ information, visit www.porthuronicehawks.com.