By Carter Brooks
Photos courtesy of the Rockford IceHogs
The Manitoba Moose saw their 2017-18 American Hockey League season come to an end much earlier than most had hoped. On Friday night at the BMO Harris Bank Center, the IceHogs took it to the Moose one final time - improving their AHL best 7-0 playoff record in the process.
It was a 6-3 final on the scoreboard Friday, but it certainly felt much closer throughout the contest.
For the first time in the series, the IceHogs opened the scoring, with defenceman Cody Franson blasting a power play strike past Eric Comrie, giving his mates and early 1-0 lead.
Julien Melchiori responded half a period later with his second goal in as many games, but Rockford jumped back on top just 30 seconds later. J.C. Lipon provided an equalizer with a couple minutes remaining in the first period, leaving the teams deadlocked at twos through 20 minutes.
It was a second period to forget Friday, as Rockford put up three goals in the frame - including a beautiful Victor Ejdsell penalty shot marker, midway through the game.
The Moose and IceHogs exchanged late goals in the third period, but the middle 20 proved to be the difference, as Manitoba fell, 6-3 to red-hot Rockford.
Comrie stopp 30 of 35 shots, while Collin Delia turned aside 35 of 38 in victory.
Playing without a handful of regulars due to injury, the Moose put together a fairly decent playoff run, and now enter the off-season with many questions, all beginning with the words, 'what if?'.
Manitoba joined Syracuse as the only two AHL teams remaining in the Calder Cup Playoffs with their NHL affiliate club still playing meaningful Stanley Cup Playoff games. Both the Moose and Crunch were delivered second round sweeps (Rockford, Toronto).
One would have to imagine that if each team had their full roster (current NHLers included), those sweeps very well may not have happened.
Manitoba's hope in a 2018 hockey championship trophy now lie in the hands of the NHL's Winnipeg Jets - who face off against the Vegas Golden Knights in the third round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and the Manitoba Junior Hockey League's Steinbach Pistons - who have travelled out to Chilliwack, B.C., for the RBC Cup, after besting the Nipawin Hawks in the interprovince Anavet Cup in early May.