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Examiner
  • Festa hungry to top old friends

  • Gerry Festa is making a triumphant return to Independence. He became a fan favorite while playing for the Missouri Mavericks for 2 1/2 years before being dealt to Fort Wayne earlier this season.

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  • Gerry Festa is making a triumphant return to Independence. He became a fan favorite while playing for the Missouri Mavericks for 2 1/2 years before being dealt to Fort Wayne earlier this season.
    He’s has had dinner with former roommate Mike Wakita and all-star forward Andrew Courtney, a glass of wine with Carlyle Lewis, spent some time with trainer Wes Fillingame and equipment manager Andrew Dvorak, and visited his buddy Charlie Effinger, the Mavs goaltender who poses such a threat to the Komets advancing to the CHL championship series.
    Festa’s Komets and the Mavericks are tied 2-2 in their best-of-seven Turner Conference championship series.
    The Mavericks won both games in Evansville, taking a 2-1 overtime thriller and then claiming a 6-3 victory that was closer than the final score indicates.
    Now, Festa is a member of a Fort Wayne team that is riding the momentum of a two-game win streak at the Independence Events Center, where the Mavericks host the Komets at 7 p.m. Saturday night.
    “When we played the Mavericks in Game 1, I have never been so nervous in all my life,” Festa admitted. “Seeing all the guys – all my friends – I wasn’t even starting, but I was so nervous. It just seemed so strange.”
    “The playoffs are so crazy,” said Festa, as he had breakfast with his adopted Independence family, Al and Jane Boeck of Blue Springs. “The momentum swings are huge. The Mavs had all the momentum early on, and we came here having to win one or two of the first two games.
    “We didn’t want to be down 3-1 – that would have been tough to come back from. And we win 3-1 (with the Komets scoring an empty-net goal in the closing seconds) and then win that double-overtime game (5-4, 2:47 into the second overtime period), crazy. If we win Saturday night, we have a lot of momentum with the series going back to Fort Wayne for the final two games.”
    While a member of the Mavericks, Festa formed a bond with the fans that he said will never be broken.
    “Leaving my friends on the team, our fans, people in the front office – that’s what was so tough,” said Festa, who gave lessons to youngsters and appeared at countless autograph and photo sessions while in Independence.
    “I want to win a championship, and I know we have to beat the Mavs to do it, but my love of Independence and all my friends here will never change.”
    Festa played a big role for the Komets as they claimed the No. 1 postseason seed because of their success in the final month of the season.
    “That was fun, it really made me feel like I was a part of the team,” said Festa, who was 6-4 with a 2.98 goals-against average. “I’ve always wanted to be in a championship series. We’ll have to see how it all plays out.”
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