Hockey Headlines

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Antler Banter: Volume 6

Antler banter returns this week to find the Moose out on a roadtrip and down several key players as call-ups and waivers have decimated the Moose's lineup again. I'm ok with the fact that the AHL is a stepping stone for players to get to the NHL, but sometimes it's hard watching good players make a stop for no more than a week, do extremely well while with the Moose, and then move on to another team. In any case, we'll look at the Moose's recent trip through the US midwest, update who's here and who's gone, and review the injury situation. 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. To the Hardcore Hockey!

Second Of Two

The Moose played the second game of a two-game set against the Rochester Americans at MTS Centre last Wednesday, and sported a 13-10-4-0 record entering the game. With the danger of falling deeper into a hole behind Rochester, the Moose needed to come up with a big effort to keep pace with the high-flying Americans. Cory Schneider started in the Moose net while Ryan Mior got his first start in the AHL for Rochester.

The Moose had suffered a 4-1 loss on Tuesday night, and head coach Scott Arniel was looking for a big effort from his club. However, the Moose got off on the wrong foot. Graham Mink made Nathan McIver look like a pylon as he deked around the Moose defenseman before sliding a backhander past Schneider just 26 seconds into the first. Mink's ninth goal of the season came just days before being named as PlanetUSA's captain at the upcoming AHL All-Star Game in Portland, Maine.

The Moose had a number of chances, including a Dan Sexton penalty shot, to equal the mark as the period progressed, but Mior stood tall as he turned away chance after chance. However, he couldn't stop them all. With Shawn Matthias and Jordan Henry serving minor penalties, Aaron Rome's wrist shot from the high slot with traffic in front of Mior found the back of the net over Mior's blocker-side shoulder. Rome had his first goal of the season at the 17:07 mark on a two-man advantage. The two teams would take the tied score into the locker rooms.

The second period saw the two teams trading chances again, but both Schneider and Mior were playing extremely well. Between the two of them, only one puck found the twine, and it was off the stick of the hometown Moose. Sergei Shirokov held the puck in at the Rochester blue line, and spotted Aaron Rome open on the half-boards. Rome took the pass, skated three strides into the face-off circle, and wired home a wrist shot to the far side of the net that got under Mior's blocker. Rome's second of the night and the season at the 9:08 mark gave the Moose a 2-1 lead. Chances were had after Rome's goal, but Manitoba held the fort and went into the second intermission up by a goal.

The third period saw Rochester kick it into overdrive as they threw twelve shots in the period at Cory Schneider. The Moose were quick to help their goaltender, clearing rebounds and players out from the crease area whenever necessary. Schneider stood tall, and the Moose shut down the high-flying Amerks in the third period to secure the 2-1 victory.

A very solid effort in all zones from the Moose, and they actually look like can hang with the elite teams in the AHL. With the minor upset, the Moose improve to 14-10-4-0 on the season.

First Of Three

The Moose made their way back to Illinois as they started their three-in-three roadtrip in Peoria against the Rivermen. The Moose had lost to Peoria by a 2-1 score in overtime just a week earlier, so they were looking for a little payback. However, the Moose would be without Erik Christensen as he was claimed by the New York Rangers off waivers, and Mike Keane who was in Montreal for the Canadiens 100th Anniversary celebration. Without two of their better players over the last week in the lineup, the Moose would have to buckle down and play hard. Cory Schneider started against Ben Bishop.

Things started slowly for the Moose as they missed an opportunity on a powerplay to put the Rivermen down. The Rivermen built a little momentum with the penalty kill, and used that to carry the play. With 9:32 to go in the first period, the Rivermen struck. Derek Armstrong fired home a rebound through Schneider's legs for his fourth of the season off a Chris Porter shot, and the Moose trailed 1-0. Lars Eller made it 2-0 at 15:47 when he put home a rebound off an Aaron Palushaj shot that hit the post. Schneider, out challenging Palushaj, was in no position to stop Eller on the rebound, and he deposited his fourth of the season into the empty net. The Rivermen went into the intermission leading 2-0.

The second period looked a lot like the first as Peoria controlled the game from the drop of the puck. A Moose turnover along the half-boards in their own zone led to Porter feeding a wide-open Barry Tallackson in the slot. Tallackson made no mistake, firing the puck through Schneider's five-hole for his sixth goal of the season at 6:54 of the second to make it 3-0 for the Rivermen.

Julian Talbot added his fourth of the season on a brutal defensive breakdown. With Eller standing in the face-off circle looking for a pass, Talbot found himself all alone in front of the net. Eller fed Talbot who redirected the puck past a helpless Schneider, and the Rivermen had a 4-0 lead at the 11:18 mark.

Peoria made it 5-0 before the end of the second period as Aaron Palushaj poked a rebound through Schneider's pads on a powerplay. Palushaj's second of the season came at the 16:21 mark of the second period. With the Rivermen controlling the play for the rest of the period, the 5-0 score after 40 minutes was indicative of the final outcome.

Daren Machesney came out to tend to Manitoba's net in the third period, but he fared no better than Schneider. Anthony Peluso put Peoria up 6-0 with his first goal of the season at 3:48 after breaking hard down the left wing to find himself on a partial breakaway. Brian Salcido's second goal of the season broke Ben Bishop's shutout as a blast from the top of the face-off circle eluded the goalie at the 8:30 mark. Peoria, however, finished off the scoring as Winnipeg-born Ryan Reaves netted his third of the season off a wicked blast from the face-off dot that got past Machesney's glove.

A very lackluster effort from the Moose on Friday as they get trounced by a 7-1 score. Defensively, the Moose appeared lost for most of the game, and they certainly didn't help either goalie very much. With the loss, the Moose drop to a 14-11-4-0 mark on the season.

One Mercifully Down, Two To Go

The Moose filed into Milwaukee on Saturday for the second game of their three-in-three roadtrip. Mike Keane was back after participating in the Canadiens' celebration, so one regular would be back in the lineup. However, another solid Moose contributor was recalled as Dan Sexton was off to join the Anaheim Ducks. Daren Machesney drew the assignment against Milwaukee while Winnipeg-born Chet Pickard tended the Admirals' net.

For the first time in what seemed like weeks, Manitoba was the first team on the scoreboard. Mario Bliznak sent a pass to Mike Keane in the slot. Pickard came way out of his net to challenge, leaving Pierre-Cedric Labrie wide open to tap in the gift on the weak side. Labrie's second of the season at 8:09 in the first period put Manitoba up 1-0. A rash of penalties closed out the period, and Manitoba led at the end of a period for the first time on this roadtrip.

The second period was completely forgettable as the Admirals stormed back. Milwaukee tied the game just 2:27 in as Triston Grant was credited with his third of the season after he shoveled the puck across the goal line with a pile of players sprawled all over the ice. Grant struck again at the 15:02 mark when he tapped in Mike Santorelli's cross-crease pass. And Milwaukee closed out the scoring in the period with 1:05 remaining when Peter Olvecky converted an identical goal to Grant's second marker off an identical pass from Mike Santorelli. Olvecky's fifth of the season gave Milwaukee a 3-1 lead after 40 minutes.

Aaron Rome's third goal of the season at the 13:33 mark of the third period closed the gap for the Moose. Rome's blast from the point found the back of the net on the powerplay, and the Moose trailed 3-2. However, the Admirals restored the two-goal lead 55 seconds later when Hugh Jessiman's slapshot from the left face-off circle caught the inside of the post past Machesney's blocker. Jessiman missed the assist on the Gordie Howe hat trick as he and Geoff Waugh went mano-a-mano with 50 seconds left in the game.

The Admirals downed the Moose by a 4-2 score, and drop the Moose to a 14-12-4-0 record. Again, some key defensive breakdowns did the Moose in. Fatigue may have played a role in the breakdowns as they played on back-to-back night, but it would be no easier as the Moose prepared to play Rockford on Sunday afternoon.

Two Down, One To Go, No Points Yet

The Moose desperately needed to salvage something from this roadtrip. The Moose had won the previous week on a 2-1 score when they stopped by Rockford. Rockford wanted to even the season series while Manitoba needed a couple of points to show for their efforts on the weekend. This one looked to be a battle as Cory Schneider and former Vancouver Canucks goaltender Dan Cloutier took to the nets. For Cloutier, it was his first game of the season in the AHL.

The game was slowed by penalties early on. A too-many-men bench minor was handed out to the Moose just over one minute into the game, and that was followed by a Matt Pettinger-Jack Skille fight just past the five-minute mark. Tommy Maxwell picked up a couple of minor penalties as well. The third penalty kill of the period seemed to give the Moose some life as Marco Rosa fed Sergei Shirokov with a gorgeous pass that Shirokov made no mistake on. Shirokov's team-leading tenth goal of the season paced Manitoba to a 1-0 lead at the 16:50 mark of the first period.

The events of the second period were, for lack of a better term, bizarre. Guillaume Desbiens was whistled for goalie interference after being pushed into the net, and Dan Cloutier - all too familiar to Canucks fans - went berzerk. He pummeled Desbiens with his blocker, and was ejected on Rule 51.3: throwing equipment. 26:22 into his first game, and Cloutier is sent to the dressing room. Sound familiar, Canucks fans? Aaron Rome and Mike Brennan settled the skirmish with some more fisticuffs. Joe Fallon came into relieve the ejected Cloutier, and the game resumed.

However, things took a turn for the worse again for the men in stripes. At 10:41, Richard Petiot was sent to the penalty box for hooking. 1:15 later, Ryan Flinn went ballistic, pounding on Desbiens again. Flinn was assessed 29 PIMs for his lack of discipline: two for roughing, two for instigating, five for fighting, a ten minute misconduct, and a game misconduct for being the instigator. All in all, Manitoba saw themselves with over thirteen minutes in powerplay time.

On the five-on-three, Brian Salcido's blast from the point got past Fallon for Salcido's third of the season at 12:33. With Manitoba still working the man advantage, Guillaume Desbiens added a little insult to injury when he potted a powerplay goal at the 17:33 mark. With Desbiens' third goal of the season, the Moose carried a 3-0 lead into the dressing room after 40 minutes.

The third period saw the powerplay units make this game a little more interesting. With Mike Keane still in the box after a late second-period penalty, Jack Skille fired the puck over Schneider to break the shutout on his sixth goal of the season just 53 seconds in. Defenseman Neil Petruic was whistled for interference, sending the IceHogs back to the powerplay. Skille added his second of the night at 5:19, whacking one in while on the doorstep, and suddenly the Moose found themselves with only a one-goal lead.

Bryan Bickell was called for slashing at the 6:04 mark, and the Moose powerplay went back to work. With 7:15 gone, sniper Aaron Rome fired a wrist shot past Fallon - his fourth goal in the last five games, and fourth of the season - to put Manitoba up 4-2. Alex Bolduc and Danny Bois did the Dance of Fists for off-setting majors at 17:17 while Mike Keane and Rob Klinkhammer went sent to the dressing room for starting another scrap. Marty Murray was sent to the penalty box for tripping 15 seconds later, and the IceHogs powerplay struck again. Bracken Kearns tipped a Kyle Greentree shot past Schneider at 19:02 for his fifth of the season, and it was 4-3 for Manitoba.

However, Schneider and the Moose played the last 57 seconds without incident, closing the book on a wild 4-3 win in Rockford. With the win, Manitoba improves to 15-12-4-0 on the season, finishing the roadtrip in second place in the North Division.

Quick Notes
  • The three powerplay goals scored in the Rockford game is only the second time in 31 games this season that the Moose have scored more than once on powerplays in a game.
  • Aaron Rome has been more than adequate in replacing the injured Nolan Baumgartner. Rome has four goals and one assist in five games. Baumgartner, on the other hand, has one goal and six assists in 24 games this season.
  • Saturday's game was the 30th game for the Moose. December 5 is the earliest that any Moose team has played its 30th game. In comparison, the Moose logged their 30th game last season on November 27, 2008.
  • The Moose have the most games lost to call-ups and injuries in the AHL at this point. 171 man-games have been lost thus far. That's more than two players lost for the entire season. And we're only 31 games in thus far.
  • Nolan Baumgartner was named as the captain of the Team Canada all-star team Baumgartner is the third Moose player to be selected by AHL President and CEO David Andrews, following in the footsteps of Jimmy Roy in 2006 and Mike Keane in 2007. Congratulations to Mr. Baumgartner!
Manitoba Moose Intensive Care Unit

The Moose got one played back from the injured list, and he played a big role in that Rockford game. Here's the list of players who are still sidelined by injuries.
  • Nolan Baumgartner - broken pinky finger. The earliest he could return would be after Christmas.
  • Michael Funk - concussion. No return date set at this time.
  • Lawrence Nycholat - foot and shoulder problems. I'm guessing January 2010 at this point.
  • Matt Pope - high ankle sprain. Looks like possibly Christmas.
  • Michael Grabner - ankle injury. He should be skating by the third week of December.
  • Matt McCue - concussion. No return date set at this time.
Player Movement

As fast as they were here, the Moose are down a few good bodies.

Erik Christensen is now property of the New York Rangers after Rangers GM Glen Sather plucked him off re-entry waivers from the Anaheim Ducks. Christensen has yet to register a point, but fills Donald Brashear's spot on the fourth line as Brashear recovers from an injury.

Dan Sexton was recalled by the Anaheim Ducks after a good showing in Manitoba. Sexton replaces Teemu Selanne in the Ducks' lineup after Selanne broke his hand. In two games with the NHL club, Sexton has yet to register a point, and is a -1.

The Moose returned defenseman Taylor Ellington to the ECHL's Victoria Salmon Kings. Ellington appeared in two games with the Moose since he was recalled by the team on November 25, but didn't register a point.

Moose Outlook

Just two games for the Moose before the next Antler Banter hits your local website. This upcoming weekend sees the Moose battle the Norfolk Admirals in Norfolk, Virginia. It's the first visit ever to the Norfolk Scope for the Moose in their history.

The Moose were defeated by the Admirals at MTS Centre on November 2 and 3 by scores of 3-1 and 3-1. The Moose will need to play hard against the Admirals as they sit fourth in the East Division with a 12-14-1-0 record. Brandon Bochenski leads the Admirals in goals (12), powerplay goals (3), and points (23). Dustin Tokarski has been giving the Admirals excellent goaltending, and he looks to continue his winning streak against the Moose.

A split with the Admirals is minimum on this roadtrip, but a two-game sweep would go a long way in helping the Moose keep pace with the Rochester Americans. The Moose sit one point ahead of the Hamilton Bulldogs, two points ahead of the Abbotsford Heat, and six points ahead of the Grand Rapids Griffins. The problem? Hamilton has six games in hand, Abbotsford has two games in hand, and Grand Rapids has an incredible eight games in hand on the Moose. Every point is crucial right now until this schedule starts balancing out.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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