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Winning 101: Goalie must play very well

100 games into season, Moose know Schneider key to all success

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HERSHEY, Pa. -- The avenues to better news for the Manitoba Moose are pretty easy, given how they arrived at tonight's Game 101 of their season.

When you get that high a number, it's never an ordinary game and for the first time in these playoffs, the Moose are on the brink of elimination, down 3-1 to the Hershey Bears in the best-of-seven Calder Cup championship series.

Goaltending, the staple of their existence since October, will again be large for Game 5 at Giant Center, which is another sell-out.

Other than one Game 1 goal, Cory Schneider has been no slouch in this series no matter how overlooked or dissed he's been here.

And of course, his counterpart, rookie Michal Neuvirth, has been a virtual rock at home, which complicates the Moose challenge.

"We've only won one game so I've got to be my best every single night," Schneider said after Sunday's 2-1 loss in Game 4. "I'm not going to change a whole lot but clearly I have to be one better."

One is a big number, considering how tight things have been.

The Moose have scored just once in two games in Hershey.

The Bears, going for their 10th Calder Cup tonight, have just one five-on-five goal in the last eight periods of the series.

Which leads us to the next easy cherry-pick of an issue for the Moose -- power plays.

They've been Hershey's lethal weapon in the series. They've done much damage to Manitoba's bid to win a first league title.

Manitoba is 4-for-24 in four games; Hershey is 5-for-16. But it's the five-on-three advantages which are swaying the momentum.

By Hershey's careless and unlucky behaviour in Game 1, the Moose had two of them in the final two minutes. They cashed one to tie, but failed miserably on the second and blew a chance to win.

With a huge opportunity in Game 3, Manitoba blew another two-man advantage and later succumbed after a bad penalty.

In Game 4, the Moose had two shorter but still viable five-on-threes and missed, while the Bears converted their one for the winning goal.

"I guess you could look at our power play, it didn't score, but there's been an awful lot of tension on those guys," coach Scott Arniel said Monday. "But it won't change until this series is over, that our best people have to be our best people. We can't get by with our role players. We can't beat this team with role players, no disrespect."

Moose centre Jason Krog thinks only small tweaks will make a big difference.

"We've had good zone time, even getting decent shots," Krog said on an off-day for the Moose. "Either it's being a little more patient and waiting for the great shot or making Neuvirth, who seems to be very good coming out to front the first shot, freeze and then move it laterally. That would give you a good chance."

Moose forward Alex Bolduc, who expects to play tonight, said there's one other strategy that will help.

"Don't give them five-on-threes," Bolduc said. "They've got a pretty good offensive team. If you give them enough chances on the power play, they will end up burying. Best way not to give them chances is not to take penalties."

Arniel was preaching calm to his team both late Sunday and Monday, trying to isolate tonight's big game.

"We've been close in both games (here) and probably still haven't played our best hockey," he said. "But we don't have a tomorrow. Our next game has to be our best one."

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

"ö Hershey Bears lead Manitoba Moose 3-1

"ö Game 5: Tonight, Giant Center, 6 p.m.

"ö Team treatment: The Moose didn't skate, with only three players, forwards Mark Cullen, Alex Bolduc and Dusty Collins, visiting the rink to receive physiotherapy from the club's medical staff.

"ö All hands on deck: Bears coach Bob Woods told the media on Monday morning his lineup would not change from Game 4.

"ö Ticket update: Game 5 in Hershey is sold out. All three games in the series played in Hershey will go down as sellouts. Game 6 in Winnipeg, if needed, has reached sales just under the 13,000 mark as of late Monday. A sixth game would be played on Friday (7:30 p.m.) and a Game 7 would go Sunday (7:30 p.m.)

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 9, 2009 B9

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