Although jumping ahead to a 1-0 lead in the late stages of the first period, Manitoba was unable to maintain their lead, ultimately giving up four unanswered goals to the IceHogs, and falling into a 2-0 series deficit after two games at home.
Kicking things off for Manitoba was Brendan Lemieux, who potted his third playoff goal with four minutes remaining in the first period. AHL standout Nic Petan and veteran Patrice Cormier picked up the assists on the first period strike.
Unfortunately for those gathered in downtown Winnipeg, it was all Rockford from that point onward. With two minutes remaining, Tyler Sikura scored a power play goal for the IceHogs, bringing the game to a tie after one period of play.
The second and third periods featured an onslaught of Manitoba shots, but Rockford’s netminder Collin Delia was able to turn aside every one of the Moose’s 24 shots in the second and third frames.
The IceHogs received goals from Chris Didomenico and Carl Dahlstrom. Didomenico’s strike was a nice power play marker, while Dahlstrom was a lucky deflection off of a Moose player in front of goaltender Eric Comrie. Andreas Martinsen collected an empty net goal in the dying seconds, burying Manitoba 4-1.
Already without AHL Rookie of the Year and the team’s leading scorer Mason Appleton, things got much worse for the Moose as all-star rookie, and defenceman of the year Sami Niku took a monstrous Lance Buoma hit in his own zone midway through the second period. He was helped down the tunnel and did not return to game action. Head Coach Pascal Vincent was also unable to provide an update on his defenceman’s situation.
Considering Manitoba’s NHL affiliate, the Winnipeg Jets are still alive and well in the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, players on the Jets eligible to be playing in the Calder Cup Playoffs are not, thus giving Rockford a better chance to attack on a weaker Moose lineup.
Manitoba will now travel on the road to Rockford where games three, four and potential five will be played. If required, games six and seven will be held at Bell MTS Place, as the Moose have home ice advantage over the IceHogs.
Game three goes Wednesday at 7:00 P.M. in Illinois.