Back-up goalie shines as Moose blank Bulldogs

As a large duffel bag hung over his left shoulder, he showed a faint smile to go along with his five o’clock shadow.
He strode out of the Muskies’ locker-room destined for the team bus, wearing a black leather jacket, a dark green dress shirt tucked neatly in his dark dress pants, with sleek black shoes finishing the outfit.
Wade Flaherty of the Manitoba Moose, who stopped 31 Hamilton Bulldog shots to help his team to a 2-0 win in Friday night’s AHL exhibition game at the Ice for Kids Arena here, isn’t new to these positions as he’s been on the winning side plenty of times before.
The 36-year-old grizzled veteran was named the Calder Cup MVP last season for the Milwaukee Admirals and in his first appearance with the Moose on Friday night, he began right where he left off.
“It’s my first time playing a game with this organization and I was impressed with the way the defence played,” said the 6’0” native of Vernon, B.C. who has been playing pro hockey since 1989.
“They cleaned out the rebounds and took the sticks away anytime I made the save,” he noted.
“I always say a shutout is a team shutout. I can’t do it all by myself and the defence can’t do it all by themselves, either,” Flaherty added before heading on to the bus.
“It was expected,” Moose head coach Randy Carlyle said of Flaherty’s impressive performance here Friday night. “He’s a veteran guy and was the MVP of the playoffs last year, so there’s no real surprise there.”
The highly-anticipated, first-ever AHL exhibition showdown staged in Fort Frances was played before a standing-room crowd of more than 1,100—and fans got their money’s worth.
They saw players of extremely high-calibre (who have been or are heading to the NHL) play a highly-contested albeit sloppy game at times, but entertaining nonetheless.
AHL teams still are in the process of finalizing their rosters, which may account for the Bulldogs being penalized 44 minutes on 18 infractions Friday while the Moose were penalized for 20 minutes on 10 infractions.
The game featured 22 power plays (15 for the Moose and seven for the Bulldogs)—and it was with the extra attacker where the Moose capitalized.
Jesse Schultz scored 7:17 into the first period as he neatly placed a cross-crease pass from Jason King.
The Moose were on a two-man power-play and as the first penalized player returned to the ice, Schultz moved down the left side to where King was able to find the 22-year-old Strasbourg, Sask. native.
“He’s a pure shooter and he’s a guy that the puck follows around, and had a knack of getting on the flat or in the open,” noted Carlyle.
Schultz, who netted 27 goals and 45 assists in his first pro year with Columbia (ECHL) last season, and collected 53 goals in his final season of junior the year before in Kelowna (WHL), is trying to secure a roster spot with the Moose.
His performance Friday may have helped his cause.
“Historically, he’s always been a guy that has been able to provide offence,” said Carlyle. “Any time for a young player to make the step from the ECHL to the AHL, he has to always put himself in a situation where the coach trusts his reactions.”
After a scoreless second period, it then was King who played the role of “Oscar the Grouch” late in the third—collecting a loose puck in front of the Bulldog net for another power-play goal to secure the 2-0 win.
“As long as we have the advantage in that department, we’ll take it,” replied Carlyle when asked if the numerous penalties hindered the pace of the game.
“Anytime you get those types of situations, you should win the hockey game.”
Bulldogs head coach Doug Jarvis was somewhat subdued after the game. He said Friday night’s performance did not give him the kind of indications he was hoping for before the final roster cuts are made prior to this Friday’s regular-season opener against the host Edmonton Road Runners.
“There are still some jobs being competed for and we’re using these last few [exhibition] games to finalize some of those question marks,” he noted.
“We do have some injuries and some players were left back in Hamilton, so we’ll have to see where they fit into the scheme of things.”
Part of the problem was that the Bulldogs took too many penalties Friday night.
“When you take that many penalties, you’re relying on too few people on your bench to get the job done,” said Jarvis. “It just comes down to playing smarter hockey.”
Both teams headed to Dryden immediately after the game, where the Moose won 4-2 on Saturday before a sold-out crowd of a little over 900 people.
Both head coaches believed coming to towns like Fort Frances and Dryden is key to developing interest in a league that is now—given the NHL lockout—the best pro hockey league in North America.
“I think there’s a positive aspect to it,” said Jarvis. “Certainly for the Manitoba Moose, it’s a chance for the outlying areas to have a look at the AHL, and we’ve done the same thing with the outlying areas in Hamilton.
“Hopefully, it will generate some interest and let them see that the AHL is a strong league, one step away from the NHL, and get a look at some the NHL’s future stars,” Jarvis added.
“I think that it’s always good when you can provide this type of entertainment in the communities where we know that we have support,” echoed Carlyle.
“I think everyone’s a winner here,” he noted. “The money that was raised stays within the community and the hospitality that they showed towards us was great.
“There’s no reason to think this won’t continue. I look at it as a win-win situation,” Carlyle added.
Proceeds from Friday night’s game, including the various draws and raffles, were to be split between the Muskie Athletic Association and the Muskie Touchdown Booster Club.
A final tally was not available as of press time last night.