Amerks might have met match in no-quit Moose

PAUL FRIESEN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 8:14 AM ET

So that's what a really good AHL team looks like.

Make that two really good teams.

Because after being out-hit, out-hustled and out-shot for two periods here last night, suggesting that maybe, just maybe, they don't belong on the same ice as the Rochester Americans, the Manitoba Moose clawed their way back from a two-goal deficit to force overtime in Game 3 of their second-round series.

Then they won it 5-4 in the extra session, thanks to a goal by Jeff Heerema.

This one looked to be over early in the third period, the Moose down, 4-2.

The no-quit in the home team was just as impressive as the relentless pressure the Amerks threw at them.

No doubt Moose boss Randy Carlyle and his players knew what they were in for, challenging the regular-season champions in a best-of-seven.

For local hockey fans, though, last night provided a first post-season look at the current challenge faced by the home side, and they had to like what they saw.

A crowd of 7,140 suggests they're having a tough time warming up to this matchup. This isn't the St. John's Maple Leafs, after all, who drew well over 8,000 for weekday games in the first round.

It may be harder to get a hate on for the Americans, at least compared to the ease with which you could dislike the hatchet-wielding Leafs.

Oh, Rochester is intense, all right, but in all the right ways, getting to the puck carrier like a dog to a scrap of chicken, for instance, and making a statement when they get there. These guys finish more checks than Pollard Banknote, for crying out loud.

They're just as aggressive when they kill penalties, too, and the Moose power play will have to continue to be a factor if Manitoba wants to have a say in this thing.

A few more playmakers like Peter Sarno would help.

You get the impression Sarno could pass the puck through a roomful of rocking chairs, at least you did after his seeing-eye job set up Lee Goren for a first-period power play goal that made it 1-1.

As if to top that, Sarno somehow got a bouncing puck to Goren while falling down on another power play late in the second, Goren finishing it off to cut into Rochester's 3-1 lead.

All too often, though, Moose passes were misfiring like a Harley running on one cylinder through the first 40 minutes.

You may have thought it was nerves, but when it continued through the second period you were left with the conclusion it was the Amerks who just don't give teams an inch.

Outshot 14-7 in the first period, the Moose figured to come out flying in the second, right?

Nope. It was Rochester who put the foot to the gas, instead, to the tune of 11 shots to 1 around the midway mark.

At that point, you couldn't help but wonder if the Moose were simply up against a much better team.

It took another Amerks penalty to kick-start Manitoba's game, and a dynamite hit to shift it into gear.

Defenceman Kevin Bieksa pulled an old-fashioned hip check out of his pocket, leveling fellow rookie Thomas Vanek late in the second period.

The Moose took that momentum into the power play that led to Goren's second of the night, and looked to carry it into the third, too.

Which they did, getting the first few good scoring chances.

Problem is, Rochester goalie Ryan Miller shut the door.

And the Americans buzz-saw didn't have an off switch on this night. Next thing the Moose knew, they were down by two again, and the crowd, which had cranked it up a notch, too, was silent.

The place exploded when, first, Ryan Kesler, then Josh Green beat Miller on tough-angle shots that may have been tipped.

The Moose showed their true mettle, though, by killing off a five-minute major to close out regulation time.

Then the Amerks killed a 5-on-3 to start overtime.

See what I mean?

Two good teams. One good series.


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