WINNIPEG, Manitoba – Yannick Tremblay scored on a sharp-angle shot from the right boards with 5:51 remaining on Tuesday to break a 1-1 tie, and Jason Jaffray completed a hat trick with a pair of tallies in the final two minutes to give the Manitoba Moose a 4-1 victory over the Grand Rapids Griffins in Game 7 of the North Division Semifinals at the MTS Centre. The Moose, who lost a heartbreaking Game 7 at Van Andel Arena last spring, advance to the division finals to face the Hamilton Bulldogs.
Jimmy Howard deserved a better fate, making 31 saves and limiting the Moose to a single goal over the game’s first 54 minutes, despite a continuance of Manitoba’s astonishing series-long disparity in power play opportunities. The Moose converted one of eight chances on the night, compared to just four received by Grand Rapids, as the home squad enjoyed 48 power plays in the series to only 29 for the Griffins.
Early in the opening period, the Moose needed only 21 seconds of power play time to score the first goal for the fifth straight game and the sixth time overall in the series. Brad Moran set up in the right corner and fed a pass to the top of the crease to Jaffray, whose redirection barely trickled inside the left post at 5:50.
Howard was otherwise flawless during the period and needed to be, as the Moose built up a 10-2 shot advantage at one point en route to building a 12-5 cushion for the period. On the other end, former Griffin Drew MacIntyre’s only test came during a rare Grand Rapids power play with five minutes left in the frame. After turning aside a Jakub Kindl blast from the left point, he made a sprawling glove save on Matt Ellis’ rebound attempt from the right side, preserving the 1-0 lead.
That shot gap grew to 22-8 midway through the second, thanks largely to Manitoba’s ongoing advantage in power plays. However, the Griffins gained some momentum and energy by killing each subsequent Moose power play, and they began to mount sustained pressure on MacIntyre as the period came to a close.
Grand Rapids continued to buzz during a power play early in the third period but MacIntyre’s mitt again robbed Ellis, this time on a snap shot from the high slot, to maintain the home team’s lead. Lady luck kissed the netminder soon after, as Kip Miller beat him with a shot that rang harmlessly off the left post. However, she finally deserted MacIntyre 8:30 into the period, as Dan Smith’s wrister from the left boards bounced into the net after being deflected by Scott Parse.
After killing off the Moose’s eighth power play of the night, the Griffins were dominating in the Manitoba zone 5-on-5 when a goal by Ellis was waved off by the referee without explanation to the players or coach Greg Ireland. Then, with overtime looming, Tremblay ripped a shot that managed to squeeze through Howard and the right post to put the Moose up 2-1.
Two minutes later, Howard made a brilliant left-pad save on a Mike Brown breakaway to keep the Griffins alive, but Jaffray converted during a 3-on-1 at the 18:15 mark and into an empty net at 19:10 to seal the win for Manitoba.
The contest, the 67th Game 7 in Calder Cup Playoff history, marked just the third time that two teams played each other in a Game 7 in consecutive seasons, as Grand Rapids rallied to beat the Moose 5-4 in the 2006 North Division Finals at Van Andel Arena. MacIntyre, who was the winning goalie for the Griffins in last year’s Game 7, stopped 21 of his old mates’ shots to earn the win.