WINNIPEG - The Toronto Marlies may not have been in playoff form for all of their American Hockey League post-season opener, but their goaltender certainly was.
Justin Pogge made 37 stops and Bates Battaglia scored in overtime as the Marlies beat the Manitoba Moose 3-2 in Game 1 of their AHL North Division semifinal on Wednesday. The Marlies won despite getting outshot 39-28. Pogge was solid, however, stopping 15 shots in the second period and 14 in the third.
After the game, the goaltender was quick to deflect credit to his teammates.
"My team played well in front of me," Pogge said. "They had a lot of big bodies in front of me and they cleared them out. We battled hard.
"It's fun to play here in Winnipeg. There is a war building. Manitoba is a good team. They deserved to finish on top (in the regular season) while we just squeaked in."
Kyle Rogers and Alex Foster also scored for Toronto, which leads the seven-game series 1-0.
"We played fairly solid the first couple of periods and then we got back on our heels and didn't create much," said Toronto head coach Greg Gilbert. "It was Pogge's netminding that stood out for us. He's going to have to carry that on throughout the playoffs if we are to succeed."
Gilbert was especially pleased with his line of Foster, Andre Deveaux and Ryan Hamilton.
"They've been getting better each night. They work well together," he said. "Deveaux, he's a big body guy who skates well with the puck He did some pretty good things when he was up for a few games with the Leafs."
Guillaume Desbiens and Raymond Sawada replied for Manitoba.
"It's frustrating coming out with a loss considering how well we played," Sawada said. "We've got to build off that and fix a few things."
While disappointed, Manitoba head coach Scott Arniel still felt positive about certain aspects of his team's play.
"We came out and did a lot of things we planned to do. We outchanced them three to one, but their goalie (Justin) Pogge was very very good. He made a number of saves at key times.
"We just have to move on to the next game and not let it affect us between our ears. It's playoff hockey. It's about getting breaks. We did a good job of moving our feet and controlling the puck."
Cory Schneider stopped 25 shots for the Moose.
Game 2 is Friday in Winnipeg.