Looking for knockout

KEN WIEBE -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 9:09 AM ET

The deeper you go, the tougher it is to deliver the knockout punch.

Welcome to tonight's fifth game of the American Hockey League North Division final, where the upstart Manitoba Moose hold a 3-1 series lead and will take the first of three potential swings at knocking the Rochester Americans out of the Calder Cup playoffs tonight at the MTS Centre.

"It feels good to knock teams out but it gets harder and harder as it goes," said Moose captain Nolan Baumgartner. "It's hard to close teams out when they're down, we know how hard we would come out if we were down 3-1. When a team is down, it brings out the best in some players."

After giving up four unanswered goals in the third period to drop the opener 4-2, the Moose have come back to win three consecutive games. They understand how fickle momentum can be in the playoffs.

"The time to close it out is right now," said Moose forward Josh Green. "We obviously don't want to go back to Rochester. There's a lot momentum they can build with a win going back to their building. It's something we want to avoid and something we're very aware of."

Another thing the Moose are aware of is that the Americans, who won 51 games and totalled 112 points this season, won't go quietly.

MORE DESPERATION

"Teams play with more desperation when their backs are against the wall," said Green. "Especially with them being in first place much of the year, they've got something to prove."

The Americans faced a similar situation themselves during the 2004 Calder Cup playoffs. Down 3-1 in a best-of-seven series against the Syracuse Crunch, the Americans regrouped to win the next game on the road and went home and earned two more at Blue Cross Arena to move on.

Equaling the feat won't be easy, especially after dropping three consecutive one-goal games to the Moose.

"It's been a tight series and a lot of games could have gone either way," said Americans defenceman Doug Janik. "We pretty much knew what we were getting into, a couple of close games have been the difference right now. We're obviously in a bit of a hole and it's not an ideal situation, but we've got a positive group of guys in there and we feel like we're a hard-working time.

RIGHT THERE

"It's not like we've been getting blown out. We feel like we're right there."

Moose head coach Randy Carlyle says there's no advantage gained from going through the process of trying to knock a team out in the first round against the St. John's Maple Leafs.

"I don't know if you learn anything," said Carlyle. "We don't think in any terms other than the fact that we've got a game to prepare for and we're playing against the first-place hockey club in the league. We always respect our opponent but this team you have to respect more because they accomplished a lot. The hockey games have been highly intense and the competition for space is at a premium."

MOOSE TRACKS: More than 11,000 tickets had been sold as of yesterday afternoon and the Moose are expecting more than 14,000 tonight. The upper bowl is open tonight and the Moose are hoping to surpass the highest crowd in the AHL playoffs this season, the 10,904 that watched the fifth game at the MTS Centre against the Maple Leafs. The Moose are leading the AHL in attendance with an average of 8,752 through five games and that number is bound to go up after tonight.


Videos

Photos