A turning point rarely comes with such clarity.
This one - a penalty shot gone awry - sizzled through tiny Memorial Arena Saturday night like a burning fuse.
With the first game of this Western Hockey League quarterfinal series tied at 3, Ty Jones took off from center ice on a penalty shot. He had the goaltender down and an open net in front of him but lost the puck trying for the backhanded sweep.
The Kelowna Rockets took that as a sign that it would be their night.
Answering every check and matching every goal, the Rockets broke the tie by beating the Chiefs at their own game of discipline and desperation. Two rapid goals following the penalty shot led to a 6-4 Rockets win.
The best-of-seven series resumes Tuesday night in Spokane with the Chiefs down 1-0.
“Jonesy, I thought, had him beat and lost the puck,” Chiefs coach Mike Babcock said. “But their kid (goaltender Jordan Watt) still had to make the big save, and they responded to that.”
“If Jones scores on that penalty shot, then obviously we’re on our heels,” Rockets coach Peter Anholt agreed.
This was a reversal of the game last year at this time and place, when the Rockets continually put the Chiefs on the power play with silly penalties.
Kelowna cashed in on three of seven power-play opportunities Saturday, while taking only three minors and stuffing the Chiefs’ power play.
That bred frustration.
“Frustration like enthusiasm is contagious,” Babcock said. “We were playing as if we were getting a bad break or something. You make your own breaks in playoff time. They were quicker and had more hunger.”
Rookie Rory McDade and the Rockets’ wide load, Scott Parker, broke it open with the post-penalty-shot goals late in the second period.
The Chiefs, who in Babcock’s words like to set the ante early, led 1-0, 2-1 and 3-2 but trailed 5-3 after two periods, after Kelowna’s Luke Curtin tied it at 3 on the power play.
Two minutes later, Jones was down next to the left pipe with an open net to shoot at. Watt threw his stick to stop him and referee Kelly Sutherland ordered up the penalty shot.
When it failed, the standing-room-only crowd of 2,013 woke up to the possibility that the Rockets, who have never won a seven-game series, were playing to win.
“You always want to beat the dog when he’s down,” said Parker, who had a pair of goals including the game-winner. “The next few shifts after that (the penalty shot) were key. But give them credit. They’re a good team and this is a long series.”
Spokane’s Cam Severson made it interesting with 1:08 to go, breaking free on a line change and beating Watt to the far side with the left-handed shot from the right wing.
That cut the gap to 5-4. But with 56 seconds remaining Spokane’s Rick Berry was sent off for checking from behind. Jason Deleurme scored on the breakaway 9 seconds later to seal the deal.
The Rockets’ veteran leadership, again unlike the first game of this series a year ago, earned high marks from Babcock. Deleurme and Curtin had 3-point nights. Ryan Wade, Scott Hannan, Karel Betik and Parker each logged two points, while doing a better job of biting their tongues and biding their time.
“There seems to be a lot of stick work out there,” Anholt said. “The team that plays with discipline, obviously, is going to be a factor. Parker showed a lot of discipline, taking a lot of hacks. But that’s playoff hockey and that’s the way it’s going to be.”
Nine Chiefs had a hand in building Spokane’s 3-2 lead after 20 minutes. Role players stepped up, as they often do in the playoffs.
Jared Smyth led off with the first goal of this WHL quarterfinal, and before the period ended Lynn Loyns, Brandin Cote and Dan Vandermeer had assists.
, DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: CHIEFS VS. ROCKETS Game 1: Kelowna 6, Spokane 4 Game 2: Tuesday at Spokane, 7 Game 3: Wednesday at Kelowna, 7:30 Game 4: Friday at Spokane, 7 Game 5: March 29 at Spokane, 6* Game 6: March 31 at Kelowna, 7:30* Game 7: April 1 at Spokane, 7* * if necessary
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