HERSHEY, Pa. – Facing elimination and struggling with exhaustion, Scott Arniel decided the best place for the Manitoba Moose to be Monday was off the ice.
The Moose coach rested his team after Sunday’s 2-1 loss to the Hershey Bears in Game 4 of the American Hockey League’s Calder Cup final. “There are some tired players on both teams,” Arniel said Sunday. “It’s been an extremely physical (series), and some guys are getting beat up.”
Down 3-1 in the series against the Bears heading into Game 5, Arniel reasoned that a day away from the ice after games on consecutive nights would do his club some good.
“I want everybody to get away from the rink,” Arniel explained. “I told them that everything stays behind us.”
History’s odds don’t favour the Moose. Only three AHL clubs have rebounded from the brink of elimination to string together three straight victories and win the Calder Cup. The last club to do it was the Providence Reds in 1949, but a Moose victory on Tuesday in Game 5 would send the series back to Winnipeg.
Hershey’s physical play has often proved the difference so far. Bears agitator Steve Pinizzotto has delivered several crunching hits while Moose forwards Matt Cullen and Dusty Collins were both sent to the bench after taking big hits in the third period Sunday.
Hershey expects Manitoba’s best effort.
“I told the guys in the locker-room this is going to be possibly the toughest game you’ve probably played in your career,” Hershey coach Bob Woods said after Game 4.
Manitoba’s offence has gone dormant in Hershey, managing only one goal in two road games. Since collecting three assists over the first two games of the series, Jason Krog, who was AHL playoff MVP last season with Chicago, has gone scoreless while linemate Michael Grabner is also without a point.
Krog has absorbed some of the Bears’ physical play.
“We’re not saying we’re out there head-hunting,” Woods said, “but we want to make sure that everyone is honest out there and pays the price. They’re taking as many shots at our guys, too. It’s a heated battle. You’ve got two teams that are fighting for their lives and the ultimate goal that they’ve worked hard for 100 games now.”
The Bears allowed 10 power plays in Game 1 at Winnipeg, but have been much more disciplined on home ice. Manitoba’s power play is 0-for-10 since the series left Winnipeg against a Hershey penalty kill that ranks only 12th among the 16 clubs that advanced to the AHL playoffs.
When the clubs resume action, Manitoba will need to resist looking ahead and instead focus on Game 5.
“You can’t win three games in one,” Moose netminder Cory Schneider, the AHL’s goaltender of the year, said after Game 4. “We don’t want a celebration in this building on Tuesday night.”
Notes: If the Moose fall to Hershey on Tuesday, they would become the fifth Canadian AHL club to lose a Calder Cup final to the Bears, joining Quebec (1969), New Brunswick (1980), Fredericton (1987) and Hamilton (1997). . . The Bears’ last Calder Cup-clinching win on home ice came in May 1980 against New Brunswick.