Scott Arniel's daily media sessions are usually at their best when the cameras are elsewhere and on Sunday, with just a few media regulars hanging around the MTS Centre to watch off-day workouts, the coach of the Manitoba Moose put his finger on the pulse of the Calder Cup final in short order.
Arniel's Moose suffered a 5-4 overtime loss to the Hershey Bears in Game 1 of the AHL's best-of-seven championship series and the coach put his team through a short skate on the first of two off-days before hunkering down to 48 hours of Game 2 preparation.
"Our lack of experience was evident. We got real nervous when we got ahead 3-1. They've (Hershey) been to three of the last four Calder Cup finals and it showed," he said.
"The first half of the game was a feeling out process for both clubs. Hershey appeared to get more comfortable as the game wore on. Hopefully our guys are fast learners and they can get things figured out as we move forward."
The Moose and Bears lock up for Game 2 at the MTS Centre on Tuesday night before the series shifts to Hershey for at least the next two games and a third if needed. Manitoba would host Game 6 and Game 7, should the series stretch that far.
The Moose led 3-1 after two periods in Game 1 before collapsing and allowing the Bears to charge back and eventually take the win on an overtime goal from sniper Alexandre Giroux.
"We learned a lot about Hershey seeing them up close for the first time," offered Arniel, whose Moose did not face the Bears in the regular season. "We got careless with the puck. I looked at the game again this morning and we made 30 turnovers. Our puck decisions and our puck management, they were the tell tale signs in how the game turned out for us."
Hershey head coach Bob Woods now has his team looking forward to Game 2. The success of winning the series opener is a nice feeling but it must be stowed according the Bears boss.
"Manitoba is everything that we expected them to be. They feed off our mistakes. You can't turn the puck over against them. That's where they generate most of their offence. That and the power play," said Woods, a native of Leroy, Sask., who played his junior hockey in Brandon with the Wheat Kings.
"In a 2-3-2 series like this, the first two games are huge, no matter where they're played. We know the Moose will be desperate on Tuesday, they don't want to go down 2-0 heading to our building for three games. We wanted the chance to win the Calder Cup on home ice. Winning Game 1 gives us that chance.
"But there's lots of work to be done. Put it this way, we haven't ordered any rings, yet."
Giroux is enjoying a record-setting campaign with 60 regular-season goals and 12 in the post-season. Moose captain and defensive specialist Mike Keane says the Moose will have to find a way to limit his chances.
"He's a dangerous player. He's our biggest challenge. He shoots the puck well and he shoots it from everywhere," said Keane. "He's one of those guys that knows where to find the puck. He's a goal scorer and a real nice player."
Arniel says his Moose need to realize that the cliché of playing one shift at a time is a mantra to live by at this stage.
"We got ahead of ourselves in Game 1. We started thinking about the end result instead of getting our business done," said Arniel. "Hershey, they focused on the process and stuck with it. Now we have to focus on what we have to do, and that's win Game 2. We have to live in the moment."