In the end, it wasn’t as close as it might have been.
Manitoba and St. John’s finished tied for second place in the North Division with 98 points each in the regular season, battling down to the wire for home-ice advantage in their playoff series.
The Maple Leafs earned that edge, but the Moose used a Game 1 road win and three straight victories at the MTS Centre to lower the curtain on St. John’s and earn a date with the Rochester Americans in the North Division final.
The Moose won Game 5 on Friday night, 4-0, to win the best-of-seven series by a 4-1 count.
The Leafs’ loss brings a close to the team’s 14-year run in the easternmost city in North America, and marks the end of the American Hockey League’s presence in Atlantic Canada after 34 seasons, since the Nova Scotia Voyageurs first hit the ice in Halifax in 1971-72.
The Toronto Maple Leafs’ AHL affiliate will become the Toronto Marlies next year, playing its games at Ricoh Coliseum.
Jeff Heerema had two goals and an assist and Wade Flaherty made 22 saves in Friday’s win. Lee Goren added his fifth goal of the series.
Attendance at the MTS Centre was 10,904, the largest Calder Cup Playoff crowd since Game 7 of the 2003 Finals in Hamilton.
WILKES-BARRE/SCRANTON 3, BINGHAMTON 2
Ryan VandenBussche was the unlikely hero as Wilkes-Barre/Scranton moved closer to pulling off a major upset with a 3-2 victory over Binghamton on Friday night.
The Penguins return home on Sunday with a 3-2 series lead over the Senators, the East Division champions and one of the favorites to win this year’s Calder Cup.
VandenBussche, who played two seasons in Binghamton with the AHL Rangers (1995-97), had zero points in 17 career playoff games during his 12-year professional career before Game 5. He broke a 1-1 tie with 3:22 left in the second period, and netted the winning goal early in the third period, 34 seconds after Josh Langfeld had tied the game for the Senators.
Rob Scuderi added a goal and an assist for the Penguins, and Andy Chiodo made 28 saves.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton has won three straight since falling behind 0-2 in the series.
NORFOLK 4, PHILADELPHIA 1
Pavel Vorobiev scored two third-period goals to put away a 4-1 victory for Norfolk in Game 5 of their East Division semifinal series.
Philadelphia still holds a 3-2 series lead with Games 6 and, if necessary, 7 scheduled for the Wachovia Center.
Richard Seeley and James Wisniewski gave the Admirals a 2-0 lead in the first period as Norfolk owned a 25-8 edge in shots on goal over the first 20 minutes.
Craig Anderson made the lead stand up with 25 saves on the night, allowing only Jeff Carter‘s fourth goal of the series on a first-period power play.
Jason Morgan recorded two assists for the Admirals.
CINCINNATI 5, MILWAUKEE 1
Aaron Rome, who scored two goals in 75 regular-season games, scored twice as Cincinnati reduced its West Division semifinal to a best-of-one with a 5-1 win over Milwaukee in Game 6 on Friday.
The home team has won every game in the series so far, with Game 7 set for the Bradley Center in Milwaukee on Sunday afternoon.
Michael Holmqvist opened the scoring with a shorthanded marker 3:18 into the game, and Rome gave the Mighty Ducks a big two-goal cushion with his first goal in the final minute of the second period.
Mark Popovic had a shorthanded goal and an assist and Ilya Bryzgalov made 29 saves for Cincinnati, which is looking to become the 13th team in AHL history to win a series after trailing three games to one.