May 4, 2018 – Manitoba Moose vs. Rockford Ice Hogs
In game 1 of their second round playoff series, the Manitoba Moose took on the Rockford Ice Hogs at Bell-MTS Place. The Moose earned their way into round two with an impressive first round series victory over the defending Calder Cup champion, Grand Rapids Griffins, winning two of three games on the road, despite being without two of their skilled young forwards, Mason Appleton (concussion), and Michael Spacek (suspension). After a very strong performance in round 1, Eric Comrie looked to build on his 3 wins and .922 save percentage as they faced off against a resurgent Ice Hogs squad which finished strong in the regular season and then swept the division winning Chicago Wolves in the opening round.
The first period was initially a dull affair, as both teams started slow, with little possession time, and fewer scoring chances. The Ice Hogs did have one great chance in the slot, but the puck slipped off the Rockford player’s stick and was taken to safety by Brendan Lemieux. The Moose countered with a good chance, as Chase De Leo entered the zone and dropped it for Nic Petan, who fed a sweet cross-ice pass over to Jan Kostalek on the back-door, but Kostalek didn’t get quite enough on the puck and just missed wide right. Finally, after 17 minutes of play, the Moose gave their home crowd something to cheer about. Julian Melchiori flipped the puck in the air from his own blueline, and the falling puck was mishandled by Ice Hogs defender, Viktor Svedberg. Buddy Robinson swooped in, picked up the puck, and used all of his 6’6 frame to deke all the way across the crease and slide the puck behind Collin Delea to put the Moose up 1-0. Then a few minutes later, Buddy got yet another breakaway, but wasn’t able to bury. The period ended with the Moose up 1-0, after a tame period which saw just 16 shots on goal (9 for Rockford, 7 for Manitoba).
The second began with the Ice Hogs going to the powerplay, courtesy of a hooking call to the captain, Patrice Cormier. The visitors nearly capitalized, and would have if not for the heroics of Moose defender, Peter Stoykewych, who first took a trickling puck off the goal line, and then stopped another puck that was in full flight while standing behind Comrie in the crease. The Ice Hogs had another great chance when Tyler Sikura got a great chance in tight on Comrie, but the Moose backstop made a huge left pad save to preserve the lead. The Moose continued to be under siege, and this time they weren’t able to hold the lead – when Julian Melchiori tried unsuccessfully to pick off a pass in the neutral zone, recent Blackhawks signee Victor Edjsell got behind him, came in on a partial breakaway, and beat Comrie on a nice backhand deke to tie it at 1. Then, after some very sloppy play in their own zone, the Moose nearly got bitten again, as Chris Didomenico had Comrie at his mercy at the side of the net, but he put the puck well over the net and into the netting. As the period was ending, Brendan Lemieux took a run at a Rockford player along the boards, and then took a cross-check in the face for his trouble, losing his helmet. After the play went uncalled, Lemieux took out his frustration on his helmet, kicking it in the neutral zone, and was awarded a penalty to end the period.
Despite being down a man early in the period, the Moose ended up with a pair of great chances. First, Cormier and Robinson broke in two-on-one, but Cormier couldn’t get the puck across to Buddy. Then a minute later, Nic Petan broke in alone, protecting the puck from the defender and cutting to the net on the backhand, but he wasn’t able to beat Delia. The period took a sharp turn when Peter Stoykewych was given 2 minutes for delay of game after he cleared a puck over the glass on an otherwise harmless looking play. The Hogs immediately struck on the powerplay, as Chris Didomenico made a perfect feed to Tyler Sikura in the slot, and he made deflected the puck into the top-left corner of the net to put them up 2-1. Then, just 45 seconds later, after a trip on Sami Niku went uncalled, John Hayden took a nice feed in the slot and fired a quick one-timer low past Comrie on the low blocker side, giving the Ice Hogs an instant 3-1 cushion. The Moose had a few chances to narrow the lead, including some nice work by Jan Kostalek below the goal line, and a few nice shifts by Buddy Robinson, but the Moose weren’t able to make up any ground. Any chance they might have had was undone by three late penalties which kept them on the penalty kill for most of the last 5 minutes of the game. The Ice Hogs got an empty netter with under a minute left to ice the game at 4-1, though Jan Kostalek did make it interesting, scoring with 26 seconds left on a point shot, making it 4-2.
Official game sheet
Game Notes & Other News
-What seemed like a tight game was undone early in the third, as the Ice Hogs struck twice in just 45 seconds. 6 minor penalties in the game also derailed the Moose offensively, particularly since 5 of 6 came in the last 20:13 of play.
-Eric Comrie made a few big saves today, but wasn’t able to shut the door on a few glorious chances. He was far from the reason they lost tonight’s game.
-Chase De Leo continues to lead the Moose in playoff scoring, with 2 goals and 5 assists through 6 games. He was held scoreless tonight, but was one of their better players, with 5 shots on goal, and at least one quality chance. Buddy Robinson was a force tonight, scoring his first goal of the playoffs, and creating great chances off the rush and below the goal line using his size and speed.
-Through 6 playoff games, Patrice Cormier now has 26 penalty minutes. 20 of those minutes are from 10-minute misconducts. The Ice Hogs have a dangerous powerplay, led on the back-end by a few former NHL’ers – Cody Franson and Adam Clendening – so the Moose will need to stay out of the box if they want to get back into this series. The captain needs to help set the tone.
-While the first round was a best-of-5, the remaining series’ are best-of-7. The Moose have home ice in the series, so the remaining 6 games (if needed) will be split evenly between Winnipeg and Rockford.
-The Moose are currently without the AHL’s Rookie of the Year, Mason Appleton, who continues to be sidelined with a concussion, and Michael Spacek, who served the last game of a three-game suspension, which he earned for leaving the penalty box in game 3 against Grand Rapids. Spacek will be eligible to return tomorrow night, while Appleton is probably a ways away – he has been skating on his own, but hasn’t skated with the team since being injured in game 2 on April 22 against Grand Rapids.
Next Playoff Action
Game 2 takes place on Saturday, May 5th – 4 pm at Bell-MTS Place.