Moose cruise past Admirals in rematch

Phillips delivers a strong performance in net

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There was plenty of focus Sunday on who wasn’t in the Manitoba Moose net, as Michael Hutchinson’s surprise late scratch only stoked the ongoing trade fires surrounding him.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 10/12/2017 (1812 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

There was plenty of focus Sunday on who wasn’t in the Manitoba Moose net, as Michael Hutchinson’s surprise late scratch only stoked the ongoing trade fires surrounding him.

But it was the masked man pressed into duty, Jamie Phillips, who ultimately had people talking. Phillips swatted away 32 of 33 shots and got plenty of offensive support as the Moose cruised to a 6-1 victory over the Milwaukee Admirals in front of more than 8,200 fans.

“I was really excited. It was a good opportunity,” said Phillips, 23. “It’s nice to play behind a really good team. Obviously you’re going to get beat sometimes, but when you have a strong team you know you’re going to score enough goals.”

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Manitoba Moose Jack Roslovic (50) and Milwaukee Admirals' Trevor Smith (23) fight for position in front of goaltender Jamie Phillips (30) during first period AHL action in Winnipeg on Sunday, December 10, 2017.

The 2012 seventh-round draft pick of the Jets has spent most of his first two pro seasons in the ECHL, due to the crease crunch in Winnipeg. He made 11 appearances with the Moose last season, winning twice. He’s been on recall with Manitoba ever since Eric Comrie was called up to the Jets to replace the injured Steve Mason, and Sunday marked his first start of this year.

Coach Pascal Vincent said Hutchinson suffered a minor lower-body injury in Saturday’s game, which saw Manitoba’s bid for a franchise-tying 10th straight win come up just short.

They let a 3-1 lead slip and lost 4-3 in a shootout to Milwaukee. But they bounced back in a big way 24 hours later against the Admirals, and now have yet to lose in regulation in 11 straight (10-0-1).

“It was just being really careful about him. Lower-body. It happened in the shootout and we just wanted to be really careful about it. He should be fine,” Vincent said of Hutchinson, the league’s goaltender of the month for November. Former Manitoba Bisons goalie Steve Christie dressed Sunday as an emergency backup to Phillips.

The Moose came flying out of the gate before their biggest crowd of the season. Brendan Lemieux set up linemate Buddy Robinson for what looked like an easy tip-in just minutes into the game, but Milwaukee goalie Juuse Saros somehow got his pad on the puck.

Captain Patrice Cormier and J.C. Lipon each had glorious chances later in the period when they were sprung on breakaways, but Saros was once again up to the task.

It was Milwaukee which opened the scoring on a two-on-one, as forward Tyler Kelleher finished off a nice feed from Harry Zolnierczyk to beat Phillips. That would be the only puck to get by him on the day.

Manitoba scored three times on 22 shots in the second period. Lipon converted on a beautiful pass from rookie Jansen Harkins, beating Saros on a two-on-one for his eighth goal of the year. Lipon is having a breakthrough offensive season, as he scored jut 12 goals last year in 71 games.

Just 62 seconds later the Moose struck again on a two-on-one, this time while shorthanded, as Cormier ripped home a Robinson pass for what turned out to be the game-winner.

“Huge. We had talked about that play right before we came out. We drew it up. We knew what they were going to try and do. It just worked out perfect that they played right into our hands, we were ready for it,” said Robinson, who is a key part of a unit that’s now killed off 35 of their past 36 penalties.

Michael Sgarbossa capped off a great 20 minute when his wraparound attempt bounced off a Milwaukee defender and into the net.

The Moose just kept coming in the third. Brendan Lemieux deflected Cameron Schilling’s power-play point shot, Robinson fed Cormier with a beautiful behind the back pass for his second goal of the game.

“All I heard was Patrice yell my name with a French accent, so I figured it had to be him. So I threw it behind the back and he was right there to tap it in. It was a great play all around,” Robinson said.

Chase De Leo then capped off a three-point night with a wraparound goal late in the period. Perhaps most impressive for the Moose is that they put a half-dozen goals with no contributions from their top line of offensive stars Nic Petan, Jack Roslovic and Mason Appleton.

“That’s important. I think that’s what championship teams are all about. I don’t think you can rely on what line every single night,” De Leo said.

Manitoba is 18-5-3 on the year, second-best in the AHL. They return to action Friday in Belleville, playing the first of three games in three nights, which also includes two dates with the league-leading Toronto Marlies.

mike.mcintyre@freepress.mb.caTwitter: @mikemcintyrewpg

Mike McIntyre

Mike McIntyre
Sports columnist

Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.

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Updated on Sunday, December 10, 2017 11:17 PM CST: story edited

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