A shutout by a goaltender in his first playoff start and a hometown boy who came back to play the hero.
Those were the story lines in the Spokane Chiefs’ 2-0 win over the Kelowna Rockets Tuesday night.
With hard, smart and desperate two-way play - and an unlikely goal by Kelowna native Ron Grimard - the Chiefs forced a seventh and decisive game tonight in this Western Hockey League West Division quarterfinal series.
The puck drops at 7 in the Arena. The curtain drops for the loser.
The winner moves into the division semifinals against the Prince George Cougars, a 2-1 winner Tuesday night at home over the Kamloops Blazers.
Two nights ago the Chiefs stopped nothing in goal. This time they stopped everything.
David Haun blocked all 18 Rockets shots to give the Chiefs their first postseason shutout since David Lemanowicz blanked the Brandon Wheat Kings in the ‘96 WHL finals.
“Our defense did a great job in front of me,” said the 19-year-old, two-year veteran Haun, who started the season in Brandon. “I didn’t have one rebound shot. They were clearing all the second shots.
“Now we have to go back to Spokane and finish her up.”
Haun got his start after Aren Miller gave up five goals in Sunday night’s 6-3 loss in Spokane. “Hauner was excellent,” Chiefs coach Mike Babcock said. “I pride myself in being real patient with the guys who brought you this far, but in that situation (in goal), it was time (for a change).
Hauner gave us the opportunity to play (tonight).” Haun gets the start again in Game 7.
No team has won two straight in this tough best-of-7.
“We’ll have to get that changed,” Babcock said.
Grimard got his shot through the trade route, coming to Spokane early in the season from the Edmonton Ice after starting his career as a defenseman in Kelowna, his hometown.
Grimard scored 2:44 into the game, spoiling a matchup the Rockets had to love. Grimard, Curtis Suter and Dan Vandermeer - the Chiefs’ fourth line - were on the ice against the Rockets’ skilled trio of Jason Deleurme, Brett McLean and Luke Curtin.
When they came off the Chiefs had given Haun all the offense he would need.
“Brad Ference put it right up to me, I chipped it to (Dan) Vandermeer, who put it on net, which was our game plan tonight,” Grimard said. “I just drove. It was a good shot by him.”
No wonder Rockets coach Pete Anholt says he doesn’t pay that much attention to matchups.
“He (Babcock) put us out there against them - he mixed things up for a bit at the start to get everybody playing, all four lines, just so nobody got tired,” Grimard said. “And in the third (period), our top-line guys stepped it up for us.”
Indeed, the insurance goal by Greg Leeb came on the power play, 6:21 into the third.
“I had butterflies coming in,” the 19-year-old Grimard said. “I’ve never been in a game that we could be eliminated with a loss. It was nerve-wracking. It’s tough to get a win out of this rink, but we did everything we could and that’s all you can ask.
“This is one of my biggest thrills, but it’s going to be a great battle (tonight). I’m looking for an even bigger thrill in that one.”
This, tiny Memorial Arena that was jammed to the rafters with a season-high crowd of 2,404 is where Grimard played his bantam season and a year of midget hockey after moving to Kelowna at 13.
“My family was here, waiting for this, a goal, finally,” he said.
The grin punctuated the story and was a contrast to the grim faces outside the Kelowna room.
“It’s a tough loss but … if we’d played great, it would have been tougher,” Rockets coach Peter Anholt said. “We had a lot of guys who were basically riders tonight. You can’t do that in playoffs against a desperate team.”
Chiefs 2, Rockets 0
Spokane 1 0 1 - 2
Kelowna 0 0 0 - 0
First period - 1, Spokane, Grimard 1 (Vandermeer), 2:44. Key penalties - Leeb, Spo, 10:57; Selthun, Kel, 12:26; Komarniski, (Spo), 20:00.
Second period - None. Key penalties - Schutz, Spo, 14:13.
Third period - 2, Spokane, Leeb 3 (Ference, Cisar), 6:21. Key penalties - Johnson, Spo, 3:57; McLean, Spo, 4:29; Mallette, Kel, 12:23; Komarniski, Spo, 19:33; Deleurme, Kel, instigating, game misconduct, 20:00; Parker, Kel, roughing double minor, game misconduct, 20:00; Ference, Spo, roughing, game misconduct.
Power plays - Spokane 1 of 4. Kelowna 0 of 5. Saves - Spokane, Haun 5-7-6- 18. Kelowna, Watt 14-6-11- 31. A - 2,404.
, DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: On the ice Today: Spokane vs. Kelowna, Game 7, Arena, 7 p.m..