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Moose one win away from clinching semifinal series against Marlies

NHL.com @NHL

WINNIPEG - Manitoba Moose goalie Cory Schneider believes he's hitting his stride.

That's good news for his AHL team, which could clinch its North Division semifinal series against the Toronto Marlies with a win Saturday night at the MTS Centre.

The Moose won Tuesday (5-1) and Thursday (5-2) in Toronto to go up 3-2 in the best-of-seven series, with Schneider turning away 58 of 61 shots in those two victories.

"I think (Thursday) night was finally where I wanted my game to be," said Schneider, who was the league's goalie of the year.

"The first four games I felt OK, but not quite how I am accustomed to feeling. (Thursday night) I think I was able to make some big saves and really get into a rhythm and keep our team in it.

"I'm hoping I can keep that going (Saturday) night and then throughout the playoffs."

If necessary, Game 7 will be Tuesday night in Winnipeg.

The Moose have home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs by virtue of finishing first overall in the AHL with a 50-23-1-6 regular-season record Â?-a franchise-high for wins.

More than 8,100 tickets have been sold for Saturday's game so the upper bowl in the MTS Centre is being opened.

Moose head coach Scott Arniel, named the AHL's coach of the year, said he hopes momentum has swung their way.

"We played well in the five games and I think the last two games we've been rewarded for the hard work," said Arniel, who was sporting the start of a playoff beard.

"We're still not done. We've still got a big game. To close it out is, obviously, a tough task, but we've put ourselves in a position to have home-ice advantage and this is where we're hoping that it comes into play."

But Toronto has tasted success in Manitoba's rink.

The Moose went 2-4-1-1 against the Marlies (39-29-5-7) in the regular season, including losing the final six meetings.

Toronto won two games in early April in the MTS Centre and stole Game 1 of the playoff series in Winnipeg with a 3-2 overtime victory.

The Moose responded with a 4-2 win at home in Game 2 before going on the road for the next three.

"Game 1 they beat us in overtime so they'll still have some confidence," Arniel said. "It's not like we whipped them in here the last time we were in here.

"We'll have to make sure that it's not going to be anything easier. The game isn't going to be any less physical and any less demanding on us.

"We're going to have to be as good as we've been. Toronto is not going to roll over and die. They're going to try to get this to seven games."

Toronto goalie Justin Pogge and Schneider have both started all five games.

The Moose scored three power-play goals in Tuesday's victory and another one with the man advantage in Thursday's win.

Thursday's game was tied 2-2 heading into the third when Schneider showed the stuff that made him the Vancouver Canuck's 2004 first-round draft pick (26th overall).

"Cory was unbelievable," Arniel said. "He played an outstanding game. Certainly he gave us the opportunity to be in it going into that third period."

Veteran defenceman Nolan Baumgartner said Schneider was great on the Moose penalty kill in the second period of Thursday's game.

"He made some huge saves that kept us in it and gave us the ability to come out in the third and get some timely goals," Baumgartner said.

"We've played hard every game, so have they. It's been a great, tight series. We're just going to have to do that again (Saturday)."

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