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Moose down, but defiantly not out

Back on home ice after dropping two games in Milwaukee

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Down but certainly not out. That’s the motto the Manitoba Moose have adopted as they face the daunting task of needing to win not one, not two, but three consecutive elimination games to keep their season alive.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 09/05/2022 (270 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Down but certainly not out. That’s the motto the Manitoba Moose have adopted as they face the daunting task of needing to win not one, not two, but three consecutive elimination games to keep their season alive.

A pair of tough-luck weekend losses in Milwaukee — despite significantly outplaying and outshooting their opponent — have the American Hockey League team down 2-0 in the best-of-five series.

“Not a single guy in our room doesn’t think we can’t win three in a row against these guys,” defenceman Leon Gawanke said, following Monday’s practice at Canada Life Centre. “The mindset in our room is that we’re still pretty confident and can turn this around.”

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES Manitoba Moose Declan Chisholm.

The Moose, who finished second in the Central Division, will get their first crack Wednesday when they host the third-place Admirals. Games 4 and 5, if necessary, would follow on Friday night and Sunday afternoon, respectively, at the downtown rink.

“We’re not in a depressed state. We played some pretty good hockey. We’re trying to find a way to beat a goalie,” said head coach Mark Morrison.

Indeed, Logan Cooley has been the story of the series, so far. Milwaukee won 3-2 in Game 1 last Friday, despite being outshot 42-21 by Manitoba. The Admirals followed that up with a 2-1 triumph on Saturday night, with the Moose holding a 44-16 advantage in shots.

“We’re not going to change our game too much. We thought we played two pretty good hockey games,” said Morrison. “I feel like our team is fairly consistent at playing the same way every night. We’re not down 3-0 in a best of seven. We’re down 2-0 in a best of five. We can’t afford to lose a game obviously, but at the same time it can be 2-2 pretty quick.”

Special teams are typically a factor in playoffs, and Manitoba’s power play is a chilly 0-for-6 so far.

“It’s playoffs, we’re going to run into hot goalies. I think we just have to find a way to convert, whether it’s power play or just on those second-chance opportunities. At some point we have to find a way to put it in the net,” said forward Jeff Malott, who led the team in regular-season scoring with 23 goals and 18 assists in 62 games but has yet to hit the scoresheet in the postseason.

“Anytime you’re getting 86 shots over two games, you’re doing a lot of things right. But in those high-quality areas I think we can bear down a little more. That’s one thing we focused on (Monday), if you have it in the slot, hit the net. Moving forward, that’s something that’s going to make us successful.”

Gawanke tipped his hat to Cooley but believes the Moose can do a better job of making his life miserable.

“Yes, we were outshooting them pretty heavily and that goalie definitely played good, but we made him look a little better than he actually was,” said Gawanke, who has a pair of assists in the series.

“Just get a little bit more net traffic, get some more quality shots through. Our defencemen are a big part of the game. I think you saw that all year. If we’re not getting shots through and our forwards can’t get the rebounds, we can’t create big chances.”

Forward Kristian Vesalainen, who began the season with the Winnipeg Jets but was sent down after 53 games, is unlikely to be available for Wednesday’s do-or-die matchup. He suffered a leg injury blocking a shot in Game 2. Another young forward who saw some time with the big club this year, Kristian Reichel, is also sidelined with an injury suffered two weeks ago. Morrison said Reichel is likely a month away from returning.

Defenceman Declan Chisholm, who has scored one of Manitoba’s three goales in the series and assisted on the others scored by C.J. Suess and Morgan Barron, missed Monday’s skate for “maintenance” but should be fine to play, according to Morrison.

“We’re happy with our intensity and our outpout, but it’s just a matter of cracking that code and scoring goals,” said Malott. “I don’t think anybody’s counting us out in our locker room. I think we’re all excited for an opportunity to play at home here and make the most of the rest of the series.”

mike.mcintyre@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @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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