The Moose capped off an impressive regular season with a record of 28-6-2 for a league best 58 points. The Moose narrowly edged the Springfield Pics for first place. The wins over Pittsburgh completed a very difficult yet impressive end of the regular season. The last team to defeat the Moose was Apple Core, and that was in late January. After that game the team knew it would have to play near flawless hockey the rest of the way to capture the regular season title and with it an automatic bid to Nationals. Since that late January loss, the team rattled off 9 wins and 1 tie to finish off the year. They beat Apple Core one more time, the NJ Wildcats twice in New Jersey, the New Hampshire Monarchs three straight times in Manchester, NH, and then played an extremely intense weekend series in Mass vs. the Leafs in which they tied on Saturday before squeezing out a victory on Sunday.
That all led up to the most important weekend of the year in Pittsburgh. Knowing they needed 4 points to guarantee the regular season title, the team was focused and prepared to do whatever was necessary. On Saturday the team came out on fire despite having been on a bus for eight hours. Sean McAllister started the scoring early for the Moose with a goal four minutes into the game with assists going to defensemen Patty Mead and Kevin Drudy. Luke Morrel added the second goal less than three minutes later off another pass from Mead. Willy Manchester, playing his best hockey of the year after being injured for large portions of the season, added the third Moose goal, a shorthanded tally off a rebound shot from Greg Kubrak. The second period started with Pittsburgh getting on the board to make it 3-1 before McAllister scored his second of the game with assists going to line mates Brendan Tracy and Mikey Davie. It would be all Moose in the third as John Quinn, Steve Kelly and McAllister (his 3rd of the game) scored to pull away from the Penguins. Assists would go out to Matthew Conway, KC Krober, Tracy and Davie. John D’Adamo was once again impressive in net while making 15 saves to seal the game.
After some much needed rest the team left the hotel Sunday morning knowing what was on the line. The team knew they were one win from getting to go to Nationals Tournament, a goal that was set upon since day 1 of training camp. The Penguins made sure the Moose would have to earn their victory. The game was tight from the start. Mikey Davie opened the scoring just 36 seconds in with a huge goal to get the team going. He would add his second just seven minutes in off a pass from Brendan Tracy for a power play goal. Pittsburgh got one back before the period ended to make the score 2-1. The Penguins came out determined and focused in the second and got two quick goals to put the Moose down by one. The Moose responded with 2 quick goals of their own. James Shea added one on the power play with assists going to Sean McAllister and Brendan Tracy. Defenseman Danny Honovic added his first goal since joining the Moose just 52 seconds later off a pass from KC Krober. The Moose entered the third period up one goal. Just over 2 minutes in, Pittsburgh scored again to even the game at 4. The Moose then came to life and swarmed the Pittsburgh zone for the remainder of the period and, with just over 6 minutes to go in the game, defenseman Matt Conway scored on a rip from the point to put the Moose ahead by the score of 5-4. The last 6 minutes were intense as both teams battled very hard. Moose goaltender Steve Laris came up with some big saves to keep Pittsburgh off the scoreboard. After the final seconds ticked away the Moose emptied the bench in celebration of their victory.
After the game, the Moose were reminded that this was only the regular season and there was still plenty of hockey to be played. The coaching staff wants the players to enjoy their victory but then start to prepare for playoffs which begin March 13 in Pittsburgh. The team and staff know that playoffs will be a huge challenge as all the teams in the CHA have proven to be tough all year long.
Congratulations to the Moose Junior B team and the entire Moose organization on an exceptional season.