THEY didn’t have anything left to play for except pride. But the Manitoba Moose showed they had plenty of fight left in them — both figuratively and literally — as they ended their season in memorable fashion.
The Moose played the role of spoilers, beating Cleveland 1-0 Friday night in a must-win game for the Monsters that ultimately cost them a playoff spot. It was a physical, chippy affair in Ohio that included a second-period brawl that spilled into the Manitoba bench.
Moose enforcer Darren Kramer was ejected after being given a rare "fighting off the playing surface" game misconduct. He traded blows with a Cleveland player — despite not being on the ice at the time. Kramer received a three-game suspension on Monday that carries over to next season.
Kramer had no regrets Monday before the suspension was announced, saying he was coming to the defence of what he felt were liberties being taken with his teammates.
"That’s how we want to build this team. Everybody has each other’s back, be a tough team to play against. We’re building something here," said Kramer. "This city deserves playoff hockey, both with the Jets and with the Moose. And I think it’s coming pretty quick."
Moose captain Patrice Cormier also dropped the gloves, saying he always tries to lead by example.
"It wasn’t planned, that’s for sure. We said we were going to go out and play hard for each other and one thing led to another and it kind of got out of hand a little bit," said Cormier.
Manitoba head coach Pascal Vincent also began his off-season a couple hours earlier after being handed a game misconduct for "abuse of officials." It was a rare outburst for the usually stoic Vincent, who was unhappy his team had taken 11 penalties to Cleveland’s two through the first four-and-a-half periods of their two-game final series.
"It’s an emotional game and I told the referee what I thought," said Vincent.
He credited his team with finishing the season right — on a 4-1-1 run — and not simply going through the motions.
"The effort of our team has never been a problem. We didn’t doubt the fact they would show up," he said. "There’s a lot of pride in that room and we wanted to finish the season properly. It was a playoff type of game and we wanted to create that type of atmosphere.