Spits earn stay of execution

RYAN PYETTE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:00 AM ET

RIMOUSKI – Kelowna top gun Jamie Benn didn’t get a sniff.

After a lot of posts and a couple of whiffs, Windsor’s rising star Taylor Hall finally popped his first Memorial Cup goal.

Most importantly, no one is flying home from Rimouski just yet.

With old puck blocker Patrick Roy and Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe looking on, the desperate OHL champion-Spitfires got Hall on the board and a third-period winner from fellow young gun Ryan Ellis to beat the final-bound Kelowna Rockets 2-1 before 4,290 at the Rimouski Colisee.

Windsor will play the loser of tonight’s all-Quebec Drummondville-Rimouski grudge match in a tie-breaker Wednesday night.

“We lived another day and that’s all we wanted,” Hall said. “We came out and played it the way we had to. We doubled them in shots (34-17). We forechecked hard.

“We thought about the guys who might be playing their last game in a Spitfires jersey and wanted to make sure it wasn’t.”

The 17-year-old from Kingston was part of an effective line with Adam Henrique and Calgary Flames first-rounder Greg Nemisz that skunked the red-hot Benn. The Rockets sniper, who leads the Cup with five goals and eight points, spent a good deal of time trading verbal swipes with Hall.

“It wasn’t much, maybe he was trying to get under my skin and I don’t know if it worked,” Hall said. “I know I took three minors and I don’t think I’ve ever done that in my life. Benn’s their best player for sure and we managed to keep him and Colin Long without a point. I got a nice bounce on my goal and it’s really just a relief to win a game.”

Hall didn’t think he played very well. But the projected first overall pick in the 2010 NHL draft gave himself at least one more game on this big stage.

“When they (Hall and Ellis) score, we like our chances,” said Windsor goalie Andrew Engelage. “Ryan does have a hard shot but with him, his placement is so good.

“Sure, you’d always like a bigger goal spread to work with, but I’m just happy with the win.

“It was win or go home.”

The Rockets were booed in the final minute when they were unable to get goalie Mark Guggenberger to the bench for an extra attacker.

“We were trying,” Kelowna head coach Ryan Huska said, “but you have to get control of the puck first and we couldn’t do it for a minute and 15 seconds. Give Windsor credit. They gave us nothing and we didn’t do what was necessary to eliminate a team from the tournament.

“Now, we’re going to take a day away from the rink to clear our minds and after that, get back to work. It’s a one-game shot for us and we have to make sure we’re ready (for Sunday).”

Windsor emerged with its first win despite being shut out on a lengthy power play after Kelowna took three straight penalties in 39 seconds.

“Cody Almond blocked some serious shots for them,” Hall said. “When you have a guy out there blocking shots with his face, that tells you something. We have to be better on the power play and make sure they don’t block it.”

Windsor still has a tough road ahead of them. No team has won the tie-breaker and gone on to hoist the Cup.

But they’re still alive and they sent the Rockets into a four-day layoff thinking about a loss.

“The effort wasn’t there for some reason,” Almond said. “If we want to give ourselves a chance to win, we have to play a lot better than that. They were a desperate team and we knew they were going to come out hard and we didn’t match them.”

Hall and Co. made sure they stuck around.

Now, things get interesting.


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