Welcome to the very first "Antler Banter"! As you are probably aware, today is November 4. The Manitoba Moose started their season on October 2. Because of this, we have a little backtracking to do in order to get everyone caught up. We'll get that out of the way first before focusing on what the Moose have in store for the upcoming week. The Norfolk Admirals were in town last night, and we'll update everything to that point. 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. I also produced a season preview for the Moose earlier in September that should help you out with some preliminary information about the team. Without further adieu, let's get to the Hardcore Hockey!
The Manitoba Moose opened the 2009-10 AHL season as one of the busiest teams, playing a total of 14 games in the month of October. Games at home saw the Houston Aeros, Chicago Wolves, Abbotsford Heat, and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins pass through the MTS Centre, while the Moose visited Cleveland, Hamilton, Chicago, and Milwaukee for dates with those clubs in their buildings.
The Moose started the season with a split as the Houston Aeros visited the Moose on October 2 and 3. Former Aero and current Moose forward Marco Rosa has a big debut weekend as he had a pair of goals against his former club. Captain Mike Keane also notched a pair in the two games against Houston. Manitoba won the Friday night affair by a 4-3 margin before Houston responded on Saturday with a 4-2 victory. This left the Moose with a 1-1-0-0 record to start the season.
The Chicago Wolves visited Winnipeg on October 9 and 10. Former Moose Drew McIntyre and Jason Krog were welcomed back to the MTS Centre in different ways: McIntyre drew cheers, while the boos rained down on Krog. The Moose saw a couple of new players hit the scoresheet as Michael Funk and Russian prospect Sergei Shirokov dented the twine with their firsts of the season on Friday night. The Moose skated to a 4-1 victory. On Saturday, the Moose saw Mike Keane add his third of the season as Drew McIntyre misplayed the puck, and the Moose recorded a 2-1 victory on Michael Grabner's game-winner in the second period. Goaltender Daren Machesney recorded his first win as a member of the Moose with the 2-1 victory as well. With the two wins, the Moose improved to 3-1-0-0 this season.
The Moose had a couple of days off before the Abbotsford Heat invaded the MTS Centre on October 13 and 14. Jason Jaffray returned to the MTS Centre after signing with Calgary in the off-season, and the long-time Moose sniper was greeted with a loud ovation. Mikael Grabner scored his fourth goal of the season, but Abbotsford's Jason Jaffray scored the game-winning goal late in the second period as Abbotsford took the first of two games by a 4-2 score. Marco Rosa scored his third goal of season on Wedenesday night, and Jaffray added his second against his former team as the two clubs battled through regulation to a 4-4 draw. Guillaume Desbiens scored the shootout winner for the Moose as they split with Abbotford on a 5-4 shootout win. The Moose's record stood at 4-2-0-0 after six games.
The Moose spent the next six games away from home, stopping in Cleveland, Ohio on October 16 and 17 for a couple of games with the Lake Erie Monsters. Mike Keane's fourth goal of the season midway through the second period stood as the winner as the Moose took the first of two games by a 3-2 score. Lake Erie stormed out of the gates on Saturday night, doubling up the Moose in the first two periods to take a 4-2 lead into the third. Darren Haydar added a single in the third to give Lake Erie the split in the two games. The Moose's record after eight games stood at 5-3-0-0.
No rest for the wicked as Manitoba spent the next day traveling for two games against the Hamilton Bulldogs on October 19 and 20. The Moose faced off against former teammate Curtis Sanford as he manned the net for the Bulldogs. Both he and Cory Schneider played extremely well in the opening game of this two-game set. Sergei Shirokov scored his third of the season for the Moose. Ryan Russell tied things up, sending this game to overtime. In OT, Nolan Baumgartner's first of the season gave the Moose the 2-1 victory. On Tuesday night, Mathieu Darche had his third and fourth goals of the season, and the Moose were not able to recover from the Bulldogs' press all night as they fell 4-1. Matt Pettinger did notch his third of the season for the Moose in the loss. With the split, the Moose moved to 6-4-0-0.
On Friday, October 23, the Moose arrived in Chicago for a date with the Wolves - the third time in two weeks that these two teams have tangled. Former Moose goaltender Manny Legace got the start for the Wolves against Cory Schneider, and these two men put on a goaltending clinic. Manitoba peppered Legace with 31 shots through regulation time, but none found the back of the net. Chicago threw 24 shots at Cory Schneider, but they also couldn't find the back of the net. With a scoreless draw through 65 minutes, a shootout would decide this game. Mike Keane scored for the Moose, but Tim Stapleton tied it up on the next shot. Matt Pettinger would give Manitoba the win with his shootout goal as the Moose prevail with a 1-0 victory. This moved the Moose's record to 7-4-0-0 in October.
No rest for the wicked, however, as Saturday, October 24 saw Manitoba travel to Milwaukee for a game against the Admirals. The road weary Moose played hard as they battled to a 2-2 through 60 minutes. Sergei Shirokov netted his fourth of the season while Anaheim prospect Brian Salcido scored his first on the powerplay. However, Ben Guite's powerplay goal in overtime with Brian Salcido sitting in the penalty box proved decisive as the Moose recorded the 3-2 overtime loss. After twelve games, the Moose had a record of 7-4-1-0.
The first Eastern Conference team to visit the MTS Centre this season were the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins on October 29 and 30. Daren Machesney matched up with John Curry, and the two goaltenders matched each other save for save through sixty minutes. 39 seconds into overtime, however, former Moose forward Ryan Bayda slipped a puck past Machesney to give the WBS Penguins the 1-0 win in overtime. Friday night's game saw a little more scoring. Sergei Shirokov had his team-leading fifth goal. However, a penalty shot goal by Dustin Jeffrey equalized the score for the Penguins at 1-1. Machesney and Curry matched each other again after the goals, and this game would be decided in shootout. Shirokov was the only player to net a goal in the shootout, giving the Moose a 2-1 win. The Moose closed out October with a record of 8-4-2-0 record for a total of 18 points.
With their 18 points, the Moose sat in second place in the North Division, but had played the most games. This doesn't bode well if the other teams can take advantage of their games-in-hand, but the Moose are certainly performing well over the first month.
One obvious issue plaguing the Moose right now are injuries. More specifically, injuries to players in Vancouver. Mikael Grabner is day-to-day with an ankle injury, and has missed two games in Vancouver since being recalled. Alexandre Bolduc is day-to-day with a shoulder injury, and has missed three games in Vancouver since being recalled. Roberto Luongo is day-to-day with a rib injury, meaning Cory Schneider has been in Vancouver since October 24. Players that should be in Manitoba right now - Matt Pettinger, Mario Bliznak, and Cory Schneider - are filling roles in Vancouver due to their injury problems. Defenceman Lawrence Nycholat is currently in Manitoba's sick bay nursing shoulder and knee injuries, while Guillaume Desbiens is out for four-to-six weeks after blocking a shot with his foot in the Friday game against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
While this is an issue for all AHL teams, Manitoba's best players are now in Vancouver, and the Moose look like they may struggle over the short-term. Once the injury bay for the Canucks begins to clear out, scorers like Grabner, Bolduc, and Bliznak will most likely be returned to the Moose. Until then, it's all hands on deck for the Moose as they look to piece together a top-flight scoring unit.
November 2 and 3 saw the second Eastern Conference team visit the MTS Centre as the Norfolk Admirals spent two nights in Winnipeg. These two teams have never played a regular-season game against each other in the AHL, so the Monday night tilt was a historic one.
Enforcer Matt McCue scored his first goal for the Moose on Monday night, but, as stated above, scoring is as abundant as water in the desert right now for the Moose. I'll take nothing away from the hometown boys: they still play hard, they are still tenacious on defence, and they still run the systems as best as they can. But like any team missing four of its top six forwards, the snipers are clearly missed. The Moose deserve an A for effort as they outshot Norfolk, but the Admirals put three behind Machesney to win the Monday night game by a 3-1 score. Brandon Bochenski scored his seventh of the season as the game-winner for Norfolk.
Tuesday night's battle saw Tommy Maxwell score his first goal of the season as the Moose paced themselves to a 1-0 lead through 20 minutes. Paul Szczechura of the Admirals tied the game midway through the second period as be banged in a rebound past Machesney for his fourth of the season. With 2:22 remaining in the frame, Martins Karsums went top-shelf on Machesney as he drove the net, and the Admirals had the lead at 2-1 after 40 minutes. Adam Hall unintentionally elbowed a puck into the net in the third period to ice the game for the Admirals, giving them the sweep in the first meetings between these two teams after a second 3-1 victory. With the two losses, the Moose drop to 8-6-2-0 on the season after 16 games.
It's clear that the Moose need some help with the call-ups to Vancouver becoming more and more frequent, and they are doing everything at this point to find someone who can score goals. Jokes were made with Moose head coach Scott Arniel that "Help Wanted" signs might need to be posted outside the MTS Centre.
"I'll take anything right now with two legs and can handle a stick," Arniel joked as he spoke to Ken Wiebe of the Winnipeg Sun. "Certainly we want someone who can fit into the mould here. We're trying. Hopefully, through the middle of the week here we'll get some help from somewhere else."
Winger Olivier Latendresse was brought back from the ECHL's Victoria Salmon Kings, while forward Mark McCutcheon was signed to a professional tryout contract in an attempt to alleviate some of these injury and call-up concerns. Latendresse was the leading scorer for the Salmon Kings at the time of his recall to the Moose, while McCutcheon played 65 games with the Lake Erie Monsters last season, recording six goals and 11 assists.
These two won't solve all of the Moose's scoring woes, but it's a start. At this point, they're better than not having anyone in those roster spots. And if they catch fire playing here in Manitoba, that's all the better for both them and the Moose.
Leading Moose scorer: Sergei Shirokov - 5G + 6A = 11pts.
Leading Moose goal-scorer: Sergei Shirokov - 5 goals.
Leading Moose setup man: Shirokov/Michael Funk - 6 assists each.
Leading Moose plus/minus guy: three players at +2.
Leading Moose sin bin resident: Tom Maxwell - 41 PIMs.
Leading Moose power player: Sergei Shirokov - 3 PPGs.
Leading Moose shortie: Keane/Bliznak - 1 SHG each.
Leading Moose shooter: Marco Rosa - 51 SOG.
Leading Moose blueliner: Michael Funk - 1G + 6A = 7pts.
- The Hamilton Bulldogs, one of the teams that the Moose are now chasing in the North Division, have yet to lose a game in regulation. They have a record of 7-0-1-3 thus far this season, and are the only team to have yet to lose in regulation time.
- The Rochester Americans, another team that the Moose are chasing in the North Division, have the best record in the AHL right now with a 9-1-1-1 mark. Their .864 winning percentage has them ranked first overall in the AHL.
- The Abbotsford Heat are the most penalized team thus far this season. To date, the Heat have racked up an astounding 432 PIMs through 14 games, an average of 30.9 minutes of sin bin time per game!
- Corey Locke of the Hartford Wolf Pack leads the league in scoring with 17 points. Chris Minard of the Springfield Falcons leads the AHL with nine goals.
Thursday night sees the Moose travel to Houston for a game against the Aeros. The Aeros are currently third in the West Division with a 6-7-0-0 record. Robbie Earl and Jean-Michel Daoust lead the Aeros in points with six points each. The Moose will have to battle hard, but they should be able to squeeze at least one point out of this game.
Friday and Saturday night see the Moose move to Austin, Texas where the Moose will match-up with the Texas Stars for the first time in the regular season. The Stars are 8-2-0-2 and first in the West Division. They feature a number of former Moose players, and this should be a test for the shorthanded Moose. Colton Sceviour leads the team with eight points, while former Moose forward Greg Rallo has seven points. Any sort of split with the Stars should be considered a victory for the Moose.
After those three games, the Moose are off until the following weekend when the Toronto Marlies come to Winnipeg for a two-game set on November 13 and 14. We'll preview those games next week.
That's all for Antler Banter today, kids. If there's anything you wish to see featured on Antler Banter, please let me know through the comments or via email. I'm open to suggestions on things you want to see, so please let me know. Just as an aside, the next issue of Antler Banter will be markedly shorter as there will be no recap for the previous month. I will, however, add an additional section profiling a Moose player for that week. Again, if you want to see something added or changed, please let me know!
Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!