There were several standing ovations, a lengthy wave, an awesome goaltending display and of all ways to end the contest, a shootout. And that shootout ended the way so many others have ended for the Manitoba Moose, with a disappointing defeat.
Jeff Taffe was the only one of 10 shooters to score as the Utah Grizzlies won their first game of the AHL season, a 2-1 shootout victory over the Moose before a boisterous and reminiscing crowd of 13,985 at Winnipeg Arena.
With a standing-room-only crowd on hand to witness the final game at the Old Barn on Maroons Road, it took 65 minutes of hockey and 10 shooters to decide the final outcome.
Although the Moose still get a point for their efforts to move back into a tie for top spot in the North Division standings, the loss ends their four-game winning streak.
Prior to the game, the Moose held an elaborate ceremony to honour the hockey legends who called Winnipeg Arena home during the past five decades.
“It was a pretty easy game to get up for, it was a great experience,” said Nathan Smith, whose first of the season on a rebound gave the Moose a 1-0 advantage at 5:58 of the third period. “It was a great feeling, it’s been awhile since I’ve scored a goal. It was exciting right from the get-go. It kind of had that NHL buzz around the building.”
The building nearly exploded in overtime when rookie blue-liner Kevin Bieksa‘s shot beat Grizzlies goalie David LeNeveu but went off the post and somehow managed to stay out of the net.
The crowd was boisterous throughout and began doing The Wave midway through the third period. Shortly thereafter, they broke into a booming chant of Go Moose Go, a fitting ending for the final game at the Old Barn on Maroons Road.
“I’m sure it wasn’t as loud as when the Jets were here playing but it was pretty loud in there,” said veteran Moose forward Jimmy Roy, who notched an assist in his 499th game as a pro. “It’s frustrating when you lose in a shootout. It feels like we just in the playoffs, but it’s only Game 13. By the same token, you’ve got to be happy you got a point. It’s a good preparation game for down the road when you lose a game and have to bounce back.”
“In reality we took three of four points, we can’t hold our hands down because we played as dominant as we have all season,” added Moose head coach Randy Carlyle, who has never been a fan of the shootout. “We dominated in almost every aspect of the game other than the scoreboard. There were plenty of positives.”
Rookie Randall Gelech scored the lone goal for Utah at 13:50 of the third to force the extra period.
The Moose head back out on the road for a three-game road trip, which begins Thursday at Gund Arena against the Cleveland Barons.