Young blue-liner plays big role

KEN WIEBE -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 8:19 AM ET

Tomas Mojzis sure didn't look like a guy with no pro post-season experience during the first round of the Calder Cup playoffs.

Sure, there were a few undisciplined penalties but the second-year Manitoba Moose defenceman had a solid series against the St. John's Maple Leafs.

Along with veteran defence partner Joe DiPenta, Mojzis played a big role in shutting down David Ling and Kyle Wellwood, who didn't have a point during the three games in Winnipeg.

"I enjoyed that, but I didn't enjoy the cheap shots from them (the Maple Leafs)," said Mojzis, who had two assists in the series clincher. "I'm glad they are behind us. This is going to be a good series coming up."

The Moose open the American Hockey League North Division final tomorrow night at Blue Cross Arena against the Rochester Americans, who had a league-best 51 wins and 112 points during the regular season.

Moose head coach Randy Carlyle said Mojzis used his best assets to get the better of the matchup.

"He has to utilize his strengths and his strengths are skating," said Carlyle. "If we can expedite the puck out of our own zone that usually leads to decent transition in the neutral ice and a decent forecheck. His biggest asset is his ability to not only move the puck, but to lug the puck out of the zone when the time is needed. As far as the defending of it, he has the ability to skate with those elite skaters in the league.

"He's got to continually work at his positioning on the ice and being a more consistent player in all those areas but he's made strides."

A CLOSER LOOK: The line of Ryan Kesler, Lee Goren and Jeff Heerema were the top point producers for the Moose during the first round, combining for 17 points in five games against the St. John's Maple Leafs.

In the playoff scoring derby, Goren and Heerema sit tied for 10th spot with six points. Goren is second in goals scored with five.

While Manitoba's energy line of Nathan Smith, Jimmy Roy and Alexandre Burrows chipped in with three goals, top regular season point-getter Peter Sarno (three assists) and Josh Green (three goals, including one into an empty net) need to pick up some slack if the Moose are to advance past the Americans.

"If we're going to do anything in these playoffs, our line has to get going better than we were in the first series," said Green, who along with Sarno was minus-three in the opening round.

"Obviously we're going to need to be better in our own zone too. We want to get on the plus side of things and create some offence, for sure."

KING SUFFERS SETBACK: Just when it looked like Moose sniper Jason King might be seeing some light at the end of the tunnel in his battle with post-concussion syndrome, he encountered another setback.

King left practice early on Sunday and was not back on the ice with his teammates yesterday.

Carlyle said King was "unavailable" for the time being and noted King had experienced three symptom-free days before the setback. King would need at least seven before the thought of him dressing for a game even became a possibility.


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