By Chris Langrill
The Idaho Statesman
BOISE, Idaho – This is the tale of a goalie, 20-year-old Kurtis Mucha, who had never played in a professional hockey game before. One day he got a call out of the blue.
There was an ECHL team in need of a goalie – and there was no time to waste.
So he rushed to hop on a plane, but it was late and he wasn’t able to start. Finally, 1 minute, 20 seconds in, he entered the game. He kept his team in the contest until the final buzzer sounded, but ended up losing by one goal.
That unlikely story concluded with the Phoenix RoadRunners defeating the Idaho Steelheads 3-2 on Friday night at Qwest Arena.
“I’m just disappointed,” Steelheads coach Derek Laxdal said of his players. “I thought they would have been a little more energetic playing in front of a young kid.”
Idaho’s loss, combined with Alaska’s 3-0 win against Utah, eliminated the Steelheads from contending for the West Division and National Conference titles when they play their final game of the regular season Saturday night at Qwest Arena against the RoadRunners.
Mucha, who played four seasons with the Portland Winter Hawks of the WHL, stopped 25-of-28 shots, but took the loss in his first pro game.
Mucha said he spent 18 hours Wednesday and Thursday driving from Portland to his hometown of Edmonton, Alberta. Then, on Friday morning he got a call from Laxdal. A few hours later he hopped on an afternoon flight to Boise. He landed 40 minutes before game time.
“I wish I would have known,” Mucha joked. “It’s just a one-hour flight from Portland.”
“I’ll give Mooch credit,” Laxdal said. “He traveled all day … and he kept us in the game and gave us a chance to win. We just shot ourselves in the foot.”
Mucha’s services became necessary after Idaho goalie Matt Climie, who is under contract with the Dallas Stars, was recalled by the NHL team Thursday. Climie could play in the Stars’ regular-season home finale Saturday night.
Climie’s transaction came shortly after Idaho’s other goalie, Rejean Beauchemin, was loaned to the Houston Aeros of the AHL. Beauchemin was in goal when Houston lost 3-1 on Friday.
Laxdal said Beauchemin might be back with the Steelheads on Saturday.
“Supposedly, there’s a flight booked for him,” Laxdal said.
If Beauchemin returns, Mucha will back him up. If Beauchemin doesn’t, Mucha will start.
“I’ll look forward to it if I’m in there,” Mucha said. “But if not, it’s still a great experience for me.”
Laxdal brought in Andrew Pate as Mucha’s emergency backup. Pate just finished playing his senior season at Eastern Washington. The 29-year-old Spokane native has played with Steelheads forward Ben Nelson, who is also from Spokane.
Pate, 29, can return to his hometown bragging about his perfect save percentage, since he stopped the only shot he faced in the 80 seconds he played as Idaho’s emergency goalie.