Well, it’s setting in. The off-season is here. I’ve been in denial for a while now, but there’s just no way around it. After two pre-season games and 76 regular season games, the off-season is in full-swing for the Manitoba Moose.
The time since the end of the schedule has allowed me time to savour some of the special moments from this past campaign. With that in mind, I decided to look back on some of my favourite nights at the rink from the year that was.
MANITOBA VS SAN ANTONIO – Saturday, February 25, MTS Centre
The Moose welcomed the struggling San Antonito Rampage to MTS Centre, aiming to put a 1-0 shootout loss to Rockford behind them, and end a five game winless drought.
The atmosphere was great as nearly 7,000 fans made their way to downtown Winnipeg that Saturday night, but Manitoba fell behind 1-0 just over four minutes after the opening faceoff.
A little more than five minutes later, Kyle Connor scored a four-on-four goal to tie it 1-1. The tally was his ninth goal in 33 games. Even though he’d peppered the Rockford net with eight shots the previous game – no one knew what was coming this night.
In fact, things looked bleak.
San Antonio went back on top with a power play goal with just over a minute left in the first period. The period saw the Rampage outshoot the Moose 23-2. Eric Comrie was up to his old tricks in the Moose net. There would be no way the deficit was only one without his first-period heroics.
Something clicked from the conversation in the Moose dressing room after 20 minutes, and the second period was a different story.
Less than three-and-a-half minutes into the frame, Manitoba tied things 2-2 on a power play when Kyle Connor slammed in a Dan DeSalvo rebound for his second of evening. Just seconds later, the Moose earned their first lead of the night when team tone-setters JC Lipon and Patrice Cormier combined to beat Spencer Martin.
Shots on goal in the second, 16-9 Manitoba.
FINISHED OFF RIGHT
Up by a goal with 20 minutes to go, there was work to be done, and the Jets’ American League team took care of business.
Manitoba outshot San Antonio 13-7, and seriously limited the Rampage attack, before Connor found the visitor’s empty net with just under a minute remaining to complete his hat-trick and an impressive Moose turnaround.
BEYOND THE FINAL HORN
The three goals for Kyle Connor were just the start of a terrific finish for the rookie. Connor added 14 more over the next 19 games to finish with 25 for the season en route to earning the FLOFORM Countertops Most Valuable Player Award, Independent Jewellers Three Stars Award, and Moose Rookie of the Year honours.
As for the club? The stirring come-from-behind win was the team’s 20th victory of the season, a mark reached in 11 fewer games than the season before.
It was also the launching point for a four-game win streak, matching a season-high, and it was one of my favourite games of the season.