MANITOBA 2, HOUSTON 1
Dusty Collins and Mario Bliznak scored their first career Calder Cup Playoff goals, and netminder Cory Schneider made 31 saves as Manitoba took a 2-1 win over Houston on Friday before 9,703 fans at the MTS Centre in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals.
Bliznak broke a 1-1 tie for the Moose with 8:02 to play in regulation, and it held up as the game-winning goal. The 22-year-old rookie, who scored three of his seven regular-season goals against the Aeros, received a pass from captain Mike Keane in the slot, and he faked to his backhand before sliding a tough-angle shot past Aeros goaltender Anton Khudobin.
Schneider surrendered just one goal for the fifth time this postseason and helped the Moose to their eighth consecutive victory overall. Manitoba has not lost since dropping a 2-1 decision at Toronto on Apr. 19 in Game 3 of the division semifinals.
The Moose, playing their first game since completing a second-round sweep of Grand Rapids on May 6, struck first on Friday when Dusty Collins lit the lamp at 14:45 of the opening period. Greg Rallo earned one assist, and Cody Hodgson, drafted 10th overall by Vancouver in 2008, earned the other helper in his professional debut.
After a scoreless second period by both sides, the Aeros generated several quality chances on Schneider early in the third and finally tallied the equalizer on the power play 9:50 into the frame.
Tony Hrkac backhanded a cross-crease pass to rookie Matt Beaudoin, who had an easy tap-in for his fourth goal of the playoffs. Corey Locke also picked up an assist on the tally for his league-leading 16th point (9-7-16).
But Bliznak regained the Moose’s one-goal lead a little more than two minutes later, and Houston was unable to get another puck behind Schneider.
The Aeros will look to gain a split on the road when the teams return to the MTS Centre for Game 2 of the series on Saturday night.
Western Conference Finals – Series “N” (MTB leads series, 1-0)
N1-Manitoba Moose vs. W3-Houston Aeros
Game 1 – Fri., May 15 – MANITOBA 2, Houston 1
Game 2 – Sat., May 16 – Houston at Manitoba, 8:30
Game 3 – Mon., May 18 – Manitoba at Houston, 8:05
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