To the well-worn D factors in the Spokane Chiefs Western Hockey League quarterfinal series with the Kelowna Rockets - defense, discipline and desperation - consider this one.
After whipping the Chiefs 6-4 in Saturday night’s first game, the Rockets have taken six of their last seven games with Spokane.
But if that even hints at domination you won’t hear that from a Kelowna player or coach.
Luke Curtin, who had a pair of goals and an assist and was voted the game’s first star, guarded whatever optimism the streak over Spokane may have inspired in him.
“We’re just playing hard,” said the 20-year-old left wing, whose first goal came when he batted the puck out of midair. “We can’t dwell on beating them the last few games.”
Dwelling is Mike Babcock’s job. The Chiefs coach said he’ll stick with Aren Miller in goal for Tuesday night’s Game 2 in the Arena. Plenty of tickets remain.
The teams return to Kelowna for Game 3 Wednesday night.
“Not a chance (of a change in goal),” Babcock said. “I thought he (Miller) was excellent.”
Miller stopped 22 of 28 Rockets shots.
The Chiefs didn’t perform all that badly. They had their shots.
“In this game they outworked us,” Babcock said, “but this is a series. The sun will rise tomorrow. There’s a new game. It’s also urgency time. You have to make a statement with your work ethic.”
Rockets coach Pete Anholt, who said he decided a week ago to give Jordan Watt his first playoff start over rested veteran Chris Noble, echoed that sentiment.
“We know these guys (the Chiefs) are a great team,” Anholt said. “We’re in for a battle yet. Even though the pressure was on, I thought our guys enjoyed this one.”
As for his choice of goaltenders - the 18-year-old Watt over Noble - Anholt said, “Noble is ready to go, but Watter did a good job for us down the stretch and deserved to play.”
A factor in the Rockets’ win was the up-tempo play of defenseman Scott Hannan, who had missed Kelowna’s last two dozen games with a concussion. Hannan moved the puck out of the Rockets zone and was a factor in the offense, with a pair of assists.
Jordan Watt’s save on Ty Jones’ second-period penalty shot was the second time in as many games the Rockets’ goalie has stopped a penalty shot. He also turned back Alan Manness of Kamloops in the Rockets’ final regular-season game. “The gods were smiling on me once again tonight,” Watt told Kelowna Courier’s Mark Cooper… . Seattle goaltender Cody Rudkowsky stopped 48 of 49 shots in the Thunderbirds’ 3-1 win over Portland Saturday night. The T-Birds got an empty-net goal with 4 seconds left from Matt Demarski to break open a tense game in front of only 3,599 in KeyArena. Portland outshot the T-Birds 49-18. Portland, with a 5-1 win Sunday night, leads the series 2-1… . Prince George netminder Scott Myers stopped all 26 shots he faced as the PG Cougars evened their series with the Kamloops Blazers at 1.
, DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: UP NEXT Kelowna at Spokane, 7 p.m. Tuesday