Moose have mettle tested by Marlies


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The Manitoba Moose will take the wins any way they can get them. Even if that means escaping some tight situations along the way.

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The Manitoba Moose will take the wins any way they can get them. Even if that means escaping some tight situations along the way.

The Winnipeg Jets’ AHL affiliate survived their own version of the Sunday scaries, prevailing 3-2 over the visiting Toronto Marlies at Canada Life Centre Sunday afternoon.

Cole Maier, Leon Gawanke and Dominic Toninato scored to improve the club’s record to 22-14-2 (47 points) on the season, while the North Division-leading Marlies fell to 29-11-1 (60 points).

“The guys stayed focused,” said assistant coach Eric Dubois. “I thought we played a good third period. Slow to start offensively but I still thought we defending really well, we didn’t lose our momentum or focus when they scored a goal. So it was a big win for us, for sure.”

“We applied pressure when it was time to apply pressure and when they had time to take shots, we wanted to dictate where they were coming from and, obviously, your goalie needs to do a good job on the penalty kill, which he did tonight.”

The two playoff hopefuls re-familiarized themselves after a battle on Friday landed 2-1 in favour of the Marlies. The rematch had much of the same qualities for the most part.

The first two periods yielded limited shots and a tight-checking battle before the ice opened up in the final 20 minutes for an exciting finish. Moose goaltender Oskari Salminen captured his 12th win of the season on the back of 22 saves, while Erik Kallgren soaked up the loss for the Marlies, allowing three goals on 19 shots.

Salminen continued what’s been a nice campaign for the Finnish netminder, making several key stops to keep the Marlies at bay, including a key save on the penalty kill in the first period and another on a 2-on-0 in the game’s dying minutes.

“I felt good. I thought I played good, at least good enough,” Salminen said with a smile. “Every time you win, that’s all that matters. I felt snappy, quick. It’s been trending upward the last five or 10 games so keep that going.”

The lone difference in the opening frame that saw nine shots from each team was a goal for the hosts.

Indeed, it was a hearty welcome back for alternate captain Cole Maier, who missed the previous six games due to injury. The five-year vet showcased his tenacity, resiliency and slick hands all in one impressive effort to open up the scoring, following up on a missed shot behind the net before putting the puck between his legs for a wrap-around goal, marking his ninth tuck of the season.

“Really nice,” Maier said. “Obviously, you never want to miss games so it’s been a little bit frustrating this year just with a couple of things here and there that just seem to be popping up. But super nice to be able to get back and help out the fellas.”

“We know Toronto is a really good team, right? We see the standings and they’re always close games with them so any time you can help out against those guys, it’s always big. Definitley really nice to get started like that.”

Special teams proved to play a large part in this one. The Moose’s seventh-ranked penalty kill (83.5 per cent) stood tall against the league’s top-ranked power play, going 4-4 while nursing the disadvantage.

On the other side, the Moose managed to grab a lone marker with the man advantage, thanks to defencman Leon Gawanke, who blasted a snapshot from the blue line at just over half-way through the final frame for his 11th marker of the campaign.

Alex Limoges grabbed an assist on the goal, extending what’s been a hot month for the first-year Moose forward. Limoges now has 13 points in January to lead all Manitoba players.

With a one-goal lead and less than a minute remaining, Toninato added what appeared to be an insurance goal. That was until Marlies forward Alex Steeves beat Salminen from a tight angle to create a suspenseful final 15 seconds.

“It’s hard but you have to keep your mind in it and not care about the numbers,” Salminen said. “Just keep your head in the game and you always know they’re going to make a push in the last period if you’re leading, and they’re a good team so I was ready for it.”

The Moose have three games remaining before the all-star break. They will look to carry their good play on the road and into Tuesday night’s affair against the Rockford IceHogs (20-16-4).

Twitter: @jfreysam

Joshua Frey-Sam

Joshua Frey-Sam

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

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