BLOOMINGTON — Bloomington PrairieThunder ownership spent most of last week in the proverbial penalty box after drawing attention for internal spats and an unresolved squabble with the Internal Revenue Service.
As if on cue, the hockey team fell victim to its own on-ice woes as undisciplined penalties sent the PrairieThunder to a deflating 5-2 loss Saturday night to the Fort Wayne Komets in Game 1 of their Turner Conference quarterfinal series at U.S. Cellular Coliseum.
Game 2 in the best-of-5 series is at 3:05 p.m. today at the Coliseum.
It was not the postseason debut anyone in the home locker room had in mind as a Komets crew, energized by several hundred black-and-orange clad fans who made the weekend trek from Hoosier land, jumped to a 4-0 lead by the second intermission.
Fort Wayne used three power-play goals and a short-handed marker by Mathieu Curadeau to make it a laugher by the 16:49 mark of the second period.
“They just beat us all over the ice,” PrairieThunder Coach Jason Christie said. “We were just passengers. We were taking the hookings, the trippings — penalties we shouldn’t be taking this time of the year.”
That was all the Komets needed.
“We were very lucky to get them to take so many penalties so early,” said Curadeau, who had two goals and two assists. “That got us going right away.”
Bloomington got off just six shots in the first period and created few serious scoring chances in the first 40 minutes while spending 12 minutes in the penalty box.
“We were way too emotional,” forward Brodie Sheahan said. “The penalties were indicative of that. We were really excited for the first playoff game for this franchise. We weren’t controlled.”
Fort Wayne, which had the sixth-best power play in the CHL during the regular season, converted three of eight opportunities. Goals came from Tab Lardner, former PrairieThunder forward Leo Thomas and P.C. Drouin. Curadeau scored short-handed at 12:02 of the second and added an empty-netter with 1:13 left in regulation.
“We’re a hardened group of playoff veterans,” Komets Coach Al Sims said. “We’ve been in the wars and battles, and our guys know how to react to situations like this.”
Bloomington looked nothing like the team that earned the conference’s No. 3 seed and throttled the Komets seven times in 10 meetings. Veteran goaltender Marco Emond was pulled after the second period after allowing four goals and rookie Brad Phillips took over to start the third period.
“I know it’s a short series, but we can’t make too big of a deal out of tonight,” Sheahan said. “We still have to win three games, whether it’s three in four games or three in five games.”
Bloomington finally found energy in the third period, getting goals 40 seconds apart from Sheahan and Jason Deleurme.
FORT WAYNE 5, BLOOMINGTON 2
At U.S. Cellular Coliseum
Fort Wayne 1 3 1 - 5
Bloomington 0 0 2 - 2
First period - Fort Wayne, Lardner (DeAngelis, Chaulk), 4:59 (pp).
Second period - Fort Wayne, Thomas (Dupuis, Curadeau), 7:09 (pp); Fort Wayne, Curadeau (O'Connor), 12:02 (sh); Fort Wayne, Drouin (DeAngelis, Curadeau), 16:49 (pp).
Third period - Bloomington, Sheahan (Dawson, Booras), 7:07 (pp); Bloomington, Deleurme (Bagron, Granbois), 7:47; Fort Wayne, Curadeau (unassisted), 18:47
Shots on goal - Fort Wayne 12-9-8-29; Bloomington 6-14-17-37.
Penalties-minutes - Fort Wayne 7-14; Bloomington 8-16.
Goalies - Fort Wayne - Boucher (37 shots, 35 saves, 60:00); Bloomington - Emond (21 shots, 17 saves, 40:00), Phillips (8 shots, 7 saves, 19:52).
Power play opportunities - Fort Wayne 3 of 8; Bloomington 1 of 7
Attendance - 2,140
Referee - Chmielewski; Linesmen - Shaw, Piche.