BLOOMINGTON — Keith Rodger, owner of two championship rings, was asked to describe the playoff hockey experience.
“Ever watch an opera?” the Bloomington PrairieThunder defenseman said. “It’s like that. There’s something beautiful about it.”
The Central Hockey League playoffs will certainly be a sight for sore PrairieThunder eyes as Bloomington is set for its first postseason game in the franchise’s five seasons when it starts a best-of-5 series against the Fort Wayne Komets tonight.
Game 1 is Saturday at 7:05 p.m., with Game 2 set for 3:05 p.m. Sunday, both at U.S. Cellular Coliseum. The series shifts to Fort Wayne on Wednesday for Game 3.
“The players are champing right now,” PrairieThunder Coach Jason Christie said.
Fort Wayne is a 58-year-old franchise that has won eight championships, including the last three in the International Hockey League, and a deep fan base.
Fort Wayne led the CHL with an average attendance of 7,460 fans per game, and about 500 of them are expected to make the trip for the weekend set.
“They have a tremendous following, and that’s what we’re hoping to build here,” Christie said.
Rodger played for the Komets the last two seasons before getting picked up by the PrairieThunder this season.
“I know the team pretty well,” he said. “It’s the same way you approach any other team — it has very little to do with personal feelings. It’s just the team we have to go through.”
The favored PrairieThunder went 7-2-1 overall and 3-1-1 at home against the Komets with forwards Jason Dale and Jon Booras combining for 21 points.
“It helps that we played well against them,” Booras said. “But that won’t matter much once Saturday comes. We just need to worry about us. We’re a nuts-and-bolts team; that’s what has made us successful.”
Christie wouldn’t tip his hand on which goaltender he would start in Game 1. Veteran Marco Emond is the likely choice with three championship runs to his credit. He also had a 4-1-2 mark with a 2.22 goals-against average this season against Fort Wayne.
“Playoffs are about more than just a speech on it,” Emond said. “The key thing is that we experience one game at a time. What you don’t want to do is look at Fort Wayne and say, ‘Well, they’ve had a tough season.’ We just have to play our game and not worry about who we’re playing.”
Fort Wayne Coach Al Sims said he will counter with Nick Boucher, who went 18-15-6 with a 2.96 GAA this season.
Fort Wayne at PrairieThunder
7:05 p.m., Saturday