With the two teams combining for just two goals through 40 minutes of play, the IceHogs scored three times in the final frame, including a dagger on the power play with less than a minute to play.
Although scoring the game’s opening goal, Buddy Robinson and the Moose were unable to put anything else past goaltender Collin Delia until the 19:33 mark of the third period, when Jan Kostalek pulled Manitoba to within two goals of the visitors. Unfortunately it was too-little, too-late for the Moose, who ultimately fell 4-2 to Rockford.
The IceHogs got goals from Victor Ejdsell, Tyler Sikura, John Hayden and Cody Franson in victory. Brandon, Manitoba’s Tanner Kaspick picked up the first professional point of his career with an assist on Jan Kostalek’s third period strike. C.J. Suess also registered his first AHL playoff point with the other assist on that goal.
“We’ll have to play a perfect game in order to give us a chance to compete,” said Moose Head Coach Pascal Vincent following Friday’s game. “When we play our game, we can play with them – no doubt. The mental part of it is to make sure we stay focused.”
Manitoba will host Rockford in game two of the Calder Cup Central Division Final on Saturday afternoon. Puck drop is set for 4:00 P.M. central, before the best-of-seven series shifts to Illinois for games three, four and potentially five. If required, games six and seven will go from Bell MTS Place next week.
By Carter Brooks
Photos by James Carey Lauder