Moose have to climb out of playoff hole

IceHogs take series lead

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The Manitoba Moose will need to play catch-up if they hope to survive the second round of the AHL playoffs.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 04/05/2018 (1679 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The Manitoba Moose will need to play catch-up if they hope to survive the second round of the AHL playoffs.

Manitoba gave up goals by Rockford’s Carl Dahlstrom and John Hayden 45 seconds apart early in the third period on their way to a 4-2 loss to the IceHogs in the opening game of the AHL’s Central Division final before 3,816 fans at Bell MTS Place Friday night.

Victor Ejdsell and Cody Franson, into an empty net, also scored for the visitors, who finished the regular season four points behind the third-place Moose in the Central.

PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Manitoba Moose forward Chase De Leo fires the puck across the crease at the Rockford IceHogs net in AHL Central Division final playoff action at Bell MTS Place on Friday. The IceHogs won 4-2 and lead the best-of-7 series 1-0.

Buddy Robinson, with his first of the post-season, and Jan Kostalek scored for Manitoba, which hosts Game 2 in the best-of-seven series resumes today at 4 p.m. Games 3, 4 and 5 are scheduled for Rockford, Ill.

Robinson lamented a missed opportunity for the Moose who led 1-0 after 20 minutes.

“It’s just about playing our game,” said Robinson, who scored a nice goal after chasing down Julian Melchiori’s deep flip pass and eluding the Rockford defence. “We were moving our feet, we were getting pucks behind their D-men. I think that’s where we really need to take advantage of their team. We’ve just gotta get pucks down below the goal-line, just like we’ve been doing all year. When we start playing their game, they’re a fast, skilled team — they just rip up the neutral zone pretty quick…

“They’re a good team off the rush and we know we have to stop that.”

Eric Comrie made 27 saves for the Moose while Rockford’s Collin Delia stood tall, stopping 24 shots.

Veteran Moose defenceman Julian Melchiori, playing his fourth game of the playoffs after missing a full two months with concussion symptoms, said the club needs its veterans and youngsters to pull together and play better in Game 2.

“We have a young team but yeah, there’s a couple of young guys that like to set the tempo but I think it’s a team effort,” said Melchiori. “The young guys know, too. They’ve played in big games all year and they have enough experience now in playoffs that they know how this league works — how quickly you can get behind the eight-ball.”

Returning to action after such a long injury layoff hasn’t been easy for Melchiori, who is enjoying the first playoff action of his pro career.

“I doubted myself a lot and you start thinking it’s a slipperly slope,” said Melchiori. “You start thinking about the future and next year, being a UFA and stuff. You scare yourself… It’s definitely a growing experience…

“It put me through a lot and I learned a lot about myself. It made me stronger I think. For so long, I wasn’t sure what was going to happen… I was told it would pass and eventually it did. It was really an interesting experience. I put my back against the wall and just trusted myself and my family and my teammates. Personally, it’s gone pretty well for myself. Obviously, we lost tonight but coming back it’s been a great journey so far.”

Melchiori has been paired with Sami Niku, the young Finn who was named the AHL’s top defenceman in 2017-18.

“He’s going to be a great NHL defenceman for the Jets probably sooner than you guys think,” said Melchiori.

NOTEWORTHY: Brandon product Tanner Kaspick made his professional debut with the Moose Friday, starting on a forward line with Cam Maclise and C.J. Suess and drew an assist on Jan Kostalek’s late goal. The 20-year-old, a former member of the WHL’s Wheat Kings and Victoria Royals, is on loan by the St. Louis Blues to the Moose since the end of his season in junior. The Blues, who took Kaspick in the fourth round of the 2016 draft, did not have an AHL affiliate this season but have a new long-term agreement with AHL San Antonio beginning this fall… Manitoba went 0-for-2 on the power play. The IceHogs were 2-for-6… Jets’ 2016 first-rounder Logan Stanley watched Friday’s game from the pressbox. The 19-year-old defenceman’s Kitchener Rangers were recently eliminated from the OHL playoffs… Three stars: 1. Rockford’s Collin Delia; 2. Buddy Robinson, Moose; 3. IceHogs centre Chris DiDomenico, two assists.

mike.sawatzky@freepress.mb.caTwitter: @sawa14

Mike Sawatzky

Mike Sawatzky
Reporter

Mike has been working on the Free Press sports desk since 2003.

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