Admirals sink Moose in shootout

More than 6,500 students energize teams in back-and-forth contest

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Talk about a pile of action for an extra point.

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Talk about a pile of action for an extra point.

The Manitoba Moose dropped a 4-3 decision to the visiting Milwaukee Admirals in a matinée Thursday thriller that featured a sizzling overtime session and a shootout to settle business at Canada Life Centre.

The Winnipeg Jets’ AHL affiliate fell to 9-5-3 and are third in the Central Division, while the Admirals improved to 14-5-0 to lead the pack.

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Manitoba Moose Jacob Friend (48) and Milwaukee Admiral Egor Afanasyev (70) battle in front of the net.

Alex Limoges, Jeff Malott and Wyatt Bongiovanni scored for the hosts on a day Manitoba enjoyed its biggest home crowd of the season. A rare 11 a.m. puck drop enticed more than 6,500 students from across the city as a part of the True North Sports & Entertainment Youth Foundation’s first Project 11 school-day game.

Project 11, created in honour of former Jets and Moose forward Rick Rypien, helps students develop coping skills and heighten their self-awareness.

The boisterous youngsters certainly got the attention of the players.

“I was very surprised. It was unbelievable,” said Limoges. “They’ve got energy, that’s for sure. So, I’m sure the teachers are probably appreciative, now they’re all gonna go take a nap or something.

“Electric atmosphere. I had chills during the national anthem while everyone was singing it. It was a lot of fun, I hope we do that again.”

The Moose, just 4-4-2 in their past 10 games after a red-hot 5-1-1 start to the 2022-23 season, generated most of the offence in the opening frame, however, the visitors drew first blood. A bad bounce off an official led to puck possession for the visitors and Tommy Novak beat goalie Oskari Salminen at the 11:14 mark.

Head coach Mark Morrison said he’s preached patience all season and the message is being received.

“Just keep telling them we’re playing the right way,” said Morrison. “We were outshooting them and I think we were out chancing them at that point and just get a bad break. But those are the types of things in games that young players have to adjust to and keep their cool and keep on playing.”

With time winding down in the period, Manitoba’s Tyler Boland showcased superb patience, gliding up the right side and passing up a high-chance opportunity to slide a slick feed to Limoges, who notched his seventh goal of the season.

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Savannah Cur, a grade five student from Ecole Heritage Immersion, cheers as the Manitoba Moose play the Milwaukee Admirals with thousands of kids in the stands during a Thursday afternoon matinée game at the Canada Life Centre.

Limoges, who spent the past two seasons with the San Diego Gulls, has scored four times in his last six outings.

“I think my confidence is there with the puck and it’s pretty easy to play with my linemates, (Kevin Stenlund) and (Jeff Malott),” Limoges said. “Every game we’re expected to contribute within ourselves so that’s just kind of what’s going through my head is every time I have the puck, I want to be dynamic and make plays.

“It’s been a great start but I know there’s a lot we can do better.”

Manitoba led 3-2 after 40 minutes but Cole Schneider tied it just 4:16 into the third.

Salminen and Admirals goaltender Yaroslav Askarov stole the show in OT, taking turns making sensational stops to send the game to a shootout.

Jordan Gross and Luke Evangelista made good on their attempts to provide Milwaukee with the extra point.

“I went into the room — and I don’t often do that after a loss when we want to talk about how we felt we played — but the season’s been a little up and down for us,” said Morrison. “We started really good and then we had a little fall on the last road trip, but we still squeaked some points out and that’s what we have to keep doing, is getting points.

“We did a good job of getting a point. I think that’s two games in a row where we’ve played the right way… we’re going to take away that we played two games in a row here pretty well.”

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Manitoba Moose goalie Oskari Salminen (35) makes a save in his team’s 4-3 loss to the Milwaukee Admirals Thursday.

The Moose penalty kill (running at 82.9 per cent coming into Thursday’s contest) snuffed out all four Milwaukee opportunities with the man advantage.

Salminen stopped 38 of 41 drives he faced over 65 minutes.

The squads meet again Saturday at 2 p.m. at Canada Life Centre.

jfreysam@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @jfreysam

Joshua Frey-Sam

Joshua Frey-Sam
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Joshua Frey-Sam happily welcomes a spirited sports debate any day of the week.

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