Hey, kids! We're back with another episode of Antler Banter! The Manitoba Moose returned home from their Texas roadtrip to rest up for a few days before battling their North Division rivals in the Toronto Marlies. We'll look at the two-game set between these teams. Last night saw the Moose hold their first ever "Super Skills" competition where the members of the Moose squared off in a high stakes skills competition to see who was the fastest skater, the most accurate shooter, the man with the cannon, and which goaltender would stand tall in breakaways. We'll go through all of that in this edition of Antler Banter. I'm going to hold off profiling anyone this week, however. As always, for all of your Manitoba Moose news and information, don't forget to check out the Moose website. If you're interested in attending a Manitoba Moose game, please click here for seating information, ticket pricing, and availability. Without further adieu, let's get to the Hardcore Hockey!
The Marlies rolled into MTS Centre on Friday night after dropping their last game. The Moose, suffering through one of their worst scoring droughts in history, were also licking their wounds after getting pummeled in Texas. After some of the fireworks we saw in last season's Calder Cup Playoffs between these two teams, you had to know that the fuse was already lit on this powderkeg.
Before the game even started, we had some unhappy players as Mark McCutcheon and Toronto's Jay Rosehill were sent to the penalty box with coincidental unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. With the open ice, the Moose used the extra room to draw first blood when Marty Murray banged home his fourth goal off an Eric Walsky rebound to give the home side some early breathing room. Ryan Hamilton responded with his sixth marker of the season for the Marlies at the midway point of the first period to draw the score at 1-1.
Just a mere 1:02 into the second period, Marco Rosa forced a Toronto turnover and made them pay by firing home his fifth goal through goaltender Joey MacDonald to restore Manitoba's one-goal lead. Darryl Bootland, playing in what is certainly his best game as a Moose thus far this season, made it a two-goal advantage when he scored his first of the year. Never one to shy away from a little tussle, Bootland immediately canceled the goal celebration and started throwing punches at Toronto's Jonas Frogren after he had taken Marco Rosa down in the corner. This bit of excitement seemed to jump-start the Moose offense as Sergei Shirokov netted his sixth goal of the season just 4:01 later on a gorgeous cross-ice feed from Travis Ramsey. 4-1 for the Moose after 40 minutes, and suddenly it appeared the floodgates were open.
While the third period saw five fights break out between these two teams, Neil Petruic also added his first of the season on a slapshot from just inside the blueline that eluded Joey MacDonald. With their largest offensive outburst of the season, the Moose send a message to the Marlies with a 5-1 win. The victory pushes the Moose back to .500 with a 9-9-2 record.
Saturday night's game was expected to be a knock-em-down, run-em-over kind of game after Friday night's fight night. If you wanted to see some old-time hockey, MTS Centre was the place to be.
It didn't take long for these two teams to renew the bloodsport from the night before. Tommy Maxwell hooked up with Toronto's Richard Greenop a mere 4:37 into the first period, and the rough stuff simply continued from there. Toronto's Jay Rosehill was whistled for boarding with just under four minutes to play, setting the Moose up for a chance to take the lead into the intermission. Except that Dusty Collin threw an elbow 1:17 later, and the teams were down to four-on-four. Tyler Bozek used the extra room in the slot to fire his second of the season past Cory Schneider to give Toronto the 1-0 lead.
Jay Rosehill and Nathan McIver renewed acquaintances when they decided to drop the gloves just past the 11-minute mark. With just over five minutes to play in the second period, the Moose responded. Eric Walsky fired a shot on goaltender James Reimer from the top of the faceoff circle that Reimer kicked out. The problem? Sergei Shirokov was standing right where Reimer kicked the puck. Shirokov potted his seventh of the season on the rebound, and the teams were squared at one goal apiece.
The third period was fairly quiet: no fisticuffs, no goals, no real trouble. With the game knotted at one goal apiece, overtime solved nothing as well. That meant we were off to a shootout. Cory Schneider, having already played an excellent game, shone in the shootout by stopping all four Toronto shooters. Mike Keane and Eric Walsky responded for the home side, and the hometown fans went home happy after a 2-1 shootout win. With the win, the Moose push their record to 10-9-2-0, and move back into third place in the North Division.
The wins were exactly what the doctor ordered, and the Moose climbed back up to third place in the North Division standings. Toronto's 15 points now has them sitting in sixth in the North Division, five points back of Grand Rapids Griffins. They say that there are no more important wins than the ones within your own division. The Moose did themselves a huge favour by taking all four points from the Marlies last weekend.
Little has changed in the infirmary for the Moose.
Michael Funk - concussion. No return date set.
Lawrence Nycholat - foot and shoulder problems. December?
Matt Pope - high ankle sprain. Still off skates. December?
Pierre-Cedric Labrie - shoulder separation. Potentially this weekend.
Guillaume Desbiens - foot injury. December at least.
Michael Grabner - ankle injury. December?
Alex Bolduc - shoulder injury. December?
Matt Pettinger - still in Vancouver. Doing well.
Jannik Hansen did return to the Canucks lineup, though, so there might be some additional scoring help on the way once Vancouver begins erasing names off their injury list.
I have to throw out some credit to right winger Eric Walsky. Walsky was named as the Moose's fastest skater and most accurate shooter at last night's Super Skills Challenge, and he has really climbed up the stats chart for the Moose. The Anchorage, Alaska native hasn't quite dented the twine as often as he may like, but he has been a force defensively as he sits with a team-best +3 in the plus/minus department. Head coach Scott Arniel, always an admirer of solid two-way play, has responded by giving Walsky more offensive time on the top lines. Great job, Mr. Walsky, and congratulations on your two skills competition wins!
The Moose are up against a test again this weekend as another division rival stops in for two dates at MTS Centre. The second-place Hamilton Bulldogs bring their impressive 9-2-1-3 record into Winnipeg. The Bulldogs are 6-2-0-2 in their last ten games, so they have faltered slightly, but they also sit with six games in hand on the Moose. With that potential twelve-point spread sitting over their heads like a black cloud, the Moose could do a lot to help themselves by capturing all four points this upcoming weekend.
Ben Maxwell and Brock Trotter lead the team with identical scoring stats: three goals and eight assists for eleven points. Former Manitoba Moose goaltender Curtis Sanford comes into the weekend with a 5-2-2 record with two shutouts. He sports a sparkling 1.44 GAA and .947 save percentage, so all of the Moose's top offensive guns have to be firing.
Just two games coming up. Next Wednesday sees the Moose leave for a roadtrip, and we'll preview that in the upcoming Antler Banter.
Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!