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“I think we’re getting better every game,” said captain Brian Willsie. “We battled back and got some chances at the last minute, but just didn’t get the result we needed.”
The first 20 minutes went by without a score, thanks in large part to Manitoba goalie Cory Schneider’s best friend – the post. With just under five minutes left in the first, Marty Sertich threw a pass toward the net from the left wall. Heading to the goal, Willsie tipped the pass beyond the outstretched pad of Schneider, only to have it clank the iron.
In the second period, however, Schneider’s luck would run out. With just under five minutes left in the middle frame, Willsie put the Monsters ahead, 1-0, on his second goal of the season. Coming out of the penalty box, David Marshall joined right wing Darren Haydar on a two-on-two rush into the Moose zone. Driving to the net, Marshall drew coverage while Haydar pulled up and found Willsie trailing the play. In prime scoring position, Willsie took the pass from Haydar and fired a low wrister past Schneider from between the circles. Wes O’Neill picked up the secondary assist on the goal.
Lake Erie’s lead wouldn’t last long, as Moose forward Erik Walsky netted his first goal of the season at the 17:25 mark of the second. Skating down the right side fending off a Lake Erie defender, Walsky squeezed a low wrist shot past the glove of Lake Erie goalie Tyler Weiman. Nolan Baumgartner recorded the assist on the goal.
Center Marty Murray would put the Moose ahead for the first time just 1:06 into regulation’s final frame with his second goal of the season on the power play. Freeing his stick from a Monster defender, Murray deflected a pass from Walsky through Weiman’s five hole. Michael Funk picked up the other assist on the Murray score.
Not wanting to give any leeway, Moose captain and NHL veteran Mike Keane pushed Manitoba’s lead to two at 6:55 of the third period. Standing in the low slot to Weiman’s left, Keane found himself in the right spot at the right time, as Travis Ramsey’s slapshot was kicked out by Weiman right to the stick of Keane, who tapped the puck into a yawning net. Evan Oberg notched the second helper on Keane’s fourth goal of the young season.
Just when it seemed Manitoba had control of the game, Willsie cut the Moose lead to one. Coming into the attacking zone right across the blue line, Willsie threw an on-edge puck toward Schneider. Not being able to follow the knuckling biscuit, Schneider watched as Willsie’s shot escaped his grasp and reached the back of the net at the 14-minute mark of the third. Chris Durno and Kevin Montgomery recorded assists on the goal.
With Weiman on the bench in favor for a sixth attacker with 90 ticks left in regulation, the Monsters continued to put shots on Schneider, only to fall victim to the clock, as time ran out with Lake Erie controlling play in the Manitoba end.
“We ran into Cory Schneider, the best goaltender not playing in the NHL,” said Monsters head coach David Quinn. “It was a real good hockey game, and it could have gone either way.”
Despite the disheartening loss, the Monsters will have their chance at revenge on last year’s Western Conference champs. The Moose come back to The Q on Saturday night for their final game in Cleveland in the 2009-10 regular season at 7:30 p.m. Tickets can be purchased by calling (216) 420-2000 or visiting LakeErieMonsters.com
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