In a movie, Thompson goaltender Justin Paulic would have won his first playoff start for the Western Hockey League's Moose Jaw Warriors – who trailed 3-0 in the best of seven series beforehand – and then led them on a stunning four-game comeback to earn a berth in the league final.
In reality, he accomplished the first part, stopping 28 of 29 shots in only his second-ever WHL start, which was a dream come true in itself. Paulic didn't just win the game and help the Warriors avoid the sweep – he ended the Edmonton Oil Kings' 22-game winning streak, which was five shy of the overall league record and included 11 straight playoff wins, one short of the league record. Paulic dashed Edmonton's hopes of becoming the third team to sweep three consecutive playoff series in WHL history.
Two nights later, the Warriors' season ended in a 4-1 loss with Paulic stopping 20 of 24 shots.
Coming into a must-win game after not playing regularly in more than a month is tough, but Dustin Levesque, who's coached Paulic on the midget AAA Norman Northstars in Thompson for the past two seasons said he wasn't surprised by his netminder's success.
"As a goaltender, you need to have the mindset that you want to be in big games and pressure situations and come out on top," said Levesque. "Justin has that mindset, his strong performances against the [midget AAA Winnipeg] Thrashers and Wild, and clutch performances in shootouts this year are a reflection of that so I can't say that I'm surprised he played well, I wouldn't have expected anything less from him."
The Northstars' coach also figured the Warriors' coaching staff must have had faith in his potential as well.
"Being down 3-0 and having Justin practice with the team since the end of the regular season they must have felt confident enough in his abilities to give him a shot," said Levesque. "He was able to do what they needed and was humble in victory giving the majority of the credit to his team's defensive play. "
Paulic's approach to every game enables him to have this success.
"Justin has always been very focused and has the ability to block out distractions," said Levesque. "I'm sure he was very nervous on the inside after finding out he was getting the start but his ability to re-focus on what he needs to do to play well must have taken over. He played well in his game with OCN [Blizzard] and in the final game of the regular season for Moose Jaw so looking back on those positive experiences probably helped calm him somewhat."