Grabner leads Moose to brink of conference title


Michael Grabner fired home a shot from the edge of the left circle with 3:49 to play in regulation to break a 3-3 tie and give Manitoba a 4-3 road win over Houston on Monday in Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals.

The Moose now hold a firm 3-0 series lead and will go for the sweep when Game 4 faces off at Toyota Center on Wednesday.

Grabner registered his second consecutive two-goal effort on the night, and the Moose also received tallies from Mike Keane and Alexandre Bolduc.

Keane and Bolduc combined to give Manitoba a 2-0 advantage by the 2:33 mark of the third period. After Houston rookie Matt Beaudoin tallied his second goal of the series at 12:29, Grabner regained the Moose’s two-goal cushion at 14:08.

But the Aeros proved to be resilient in the third period, as Corey Locke cut the deficit in half just 1:11 in with his league-leading 10th goal of the playoffs, and Danny Irmen tallied his second of the postseason for the equalizer a little more than five minutes later.

That set the stage for Grabner’s game-winner for Manitoba, which was the product of an odd-man rush and assisted by Jason Jaffray and Mark Fistric.

Jaffray finished with a pair of helpers for the Moose, and goaltender Cory Schneider earned the victory with 19 saves on 22 shots. The AHL’s goaltender of the year took the win despite allowing more than two goals for the first time since Manitoba’s playoff opener against Toronto on Apr. 15.

Manitoba extended its winning streak to 10 games, and the Moose now need just one more victory to punch their first-ever ticket to the Calder Cup Finals.

Western Conference Finals – Series “N” (MTB leads series, 3-0)
N1-Manitoba Moose vs. W3-Houston Aeros

Game 1 – Fri., May 15 – MANITOBA 2, Houston 1
Game 2 – Sat., May 16 – MANITOBA 5, Houston 2
Game 3 – Mon., May 18 – Manitoba 4, HOUSTON 3
Game 4 – Wed., May 20 – Manitoba at Houston, 8:05
*Game 5 – Fri., May 22 – Manitoba at Houston, 8:35
*Game 6 – Mon., May 25 – Houston at Manitoba, 8:30
*Game 7 – Wed., May 27 – Houston at Manitoba, 8:30