Sweep taste of success

Moose slap Griffs aside, now await opponent for Western final Manitoba wins AHL North Division

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- It took the minimum four games to oust the Grand Rapids Griffins but the Manitoba Moose would probably prefer to sweep the details of Wednesday's clincher under the carpet.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 07/05/2009 (4852 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — It took the minimum four games to oust the Grand Rapids Griffins but the Manitoba Moose would probably prefer to sweep the details of Wednesday’s clincher under the carpet.

The Moose struck for two power-play goals in the first 27 minutes and then held on for dear life in a 3-2 victory before 2,019 at Van Andel Arena, winning the AHL’s North Division best-of-seven final series 4-0.

The franchise’s first-ever four-game sweep punches a ticket to the Western Conference final but that third round of the playoffs, against the winner of the Milwaukee-Houston series, won’t start until next week at the earliest.

Adam Bird / the associated press Moose captain Mike Keane (centre) neutralizes Griffins defenceman Sergei Kolosov as Mario Bliznak sweeps in to corral the loose puck and go on the attack.

The final minutes of Wednesday’s game, especially the last 45 seconds, saw the Griffins pour it on for the equalizer in one last desperate attempt to extend the series.

Under that pressure, Moose defenceman Mark Fistric blocked a shot on the side of the knee and was unable to get up until after the final horn marked the Moose victory.

"It was a melee out there, we didn’t know where the puck was and it was a battle in front," said Moose defenceman Nolan Baumgartner, one of the defenders trying to hold the fort while Fistric was down. "It might have been a little ugly but we got it done.

Adam Bird / the associated press Moose goalie Cory Schneider makes a blocker save during first-period action.

"It was something we needed to do, put the nail in their coffin."

The Moose were outshot 16-4 in the final period, but their two-goal cushion had them in good shape until Grand Rapids’ Jamie Tardif made it 3-2 with exactly seven minutes left.

"Obviously we wanted to keep pushing the pace of the game and that didn’t go well, but credit to our guys," Fistric said. "We held on and got the win. Now we have a good week to rest up and get ready for Round 3. That’s exciting."

After he was helped from the ice and had some attention from the team’s medical staff, Fistric showed off the cut the puck left on the outside of his knee in the last minute.

"Please call that an upper-body injury," Fistric laughed. "I was just unlucky it hit me where there wasn’t much padding.

"It just went to huge pain, so I just tried to lay somewhere where I could be a shot-blocker."

Tardif’s goal was the first time in seven games an opponent had scored on the Moose in the third period.

"Going on the last seven games, our third periods have been good and very solid. But give them all the credit, they had one last life, threw it out there and left it on the ice," Baumgartner said.

It went for naught, however, as Grand Rapids bowed out in four games. The biggest hurt was probably that the team’s top three forwards, Darren Haydar, Ville Leino and Justin Abdelkader, had just one point between them in the series.

The Griffins also had just one power-play goal in the series, after getting seven in the first round against Hamilton.

And the power play was a big factor for the Moose on Wednesday.

"It really hasn’t been a factor for us in the last two games… we had to make them pay and tonight we did," Moose coach Scott Arniel said.

"We got two big ones tonight and any time you get two in a game, it’s really going to help," added Cullen.

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

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