I tuned in the game on Tuesday night against Hershey, to see how some of the Canuck farm hands (Manitoba Moose) were doing.
This game brought front and centre the talents and importance of three Canuck prospects.
Let's set the stage first.
The Manitoba Moose and the Hershey Bears had split the first two games in Manitoba. What is different about the Calder Cup is that the format is 2-3-2.
Hershey then won the next two home games, and the fifth game on Tuesday would have locked it up for Hershey if they had won.
If you have never watched an AHL game, you would be surprised at the speed of the game. These guys can really motor!
Both teams have three of the top six regular scoring leaders. The Moose player is Jason Krog and the Hershey players are Alexandre Giroux and Keith Aucoin.
The Bears came out flying in the first period determined to end the series on this night. It was Cory Schneider against Hershey, as the Bears overwhelmed the Moose in all departments, peppering 12 shots on goal, while the Moose could only muster four.
I'm not talking about perimeter-type shots, I'm talking down-low, crash-the-net, A-1 quality scoring chances.
This also included a Hershey power play.
Time and time again, Schneider turned Hershey back and was the only reason that the first period ended scoreless.
This guy was so in control of his game, rebounds, positioning, anticipating, you could see that if the Moose could get a goal, he was going to be hard to beat that night.
The second period continued like the first, with Hershey dominating the game and outshooting the Moose 12-7 for a total of 24-11 by the end of the second period.
Schneider once again was holding the fort, but a turn in events happened with about three minutes to go in the second period.
Manitoba's Michael Grabner (seventh in playoff scoring) scored off a rebound in the low slot. A little more than a minute later, Cory Hodgson, coming in off the right wing, snaps one in just underneath the crossbar to make it 2-0. What a shot!
With a 2-0 lead heading into the third period, it was the Moose who pushed forward as they could smell a possible victory with the way Schneider was sparkling in nets.
Hershey's Graham Mink scored an early goal to make it 2-1 but Jason Krog ended any hopes of a Bears comeback with a goal at 18:39.
The Bears' Carlson did score at 19:29 to make it 3-2, but that's the way it ended.
The shots on goal in the third were 15-9 for Manitoba and overall it was 33-26 for Hershey.
The series is now 3-2 in favour of Hersey with the next game tonight (Friday) in Winnipeg.
That place will be packed and a rock'n, as the Moose fans are among the loudest in the league.
Canuck fans should be optimistic about the play of Schneider, Grabner, and Hodgson as they shone brightly on Tuesday.
I was very impressed with Grabner's speed and his puck awareness.
Hodgson, for a player just finishing with his OHL playoffs, did not look out of place and competed ferociously. This guy has a lot of hockey smarts, and his passing was superb.
Schneider, the obvious first star, was just outstanding. He's a big reason the Moose are going home with a opportunity to tie the series up and force a seventh game.
We all know these three players will be given every opportunity to make the Canucks next year, and wouldn't that be a bonus, if they can add to the depth of the team.
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