Volume Seven of Antler Banter finds the Moose out on the road for a couple of games, and a chance to see captain Mike Keane honoured by one of his previous teams on Tuesday night. The Moose spent the weekend in Norfolk, Virginia battling the Admirals before returning home to prepare for the Lake Erie Monsters. We'll recap both of those games, and then look forward to the games with the Monsters.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. Onward for Hardcore Hockey!
The Moose and Admirals had met twice at MTS Centre earlier this season, and the Admirals had taken both games by identical 3-1 scores. Manitoba looked to return the favour to the Admirals as they started this two-game tilt in Virginia. Cory Schneider drew the start for the Moose while Dustin Tokarski stood in the oppostie blue paint.
The game started with some pushing and shoving as Darryl Bootland and Scott Jackson exchanged pleasantries, did some square dancing, and earned five minutes in the penalty box each. Bootland picked up an additional two-minute minor for roughing, but the Admirals couldn't solve Cory Schneider with the man-advantage.
At 14:17 of the first period, Aaron Rome continued his torrid scoring pace by blasting home a point shot that eluded Tokarski for his fifth goal of the season. I need to point out some great work by Guillaume Desbiens to carry the puck out of the corner and feed Rome at the blue line past three collapsing Norfolk defenders. Effort like that will be rewarded, and Rome's goal is proof of that. At the first intermission, Manitoba owned a 1-0 lead.
A fairly quiet second period saw only one goal scored as the Admirals finally solved Schneider. A wrap-around attempt by Radek Smolenak was initially stopped by Schneider, but Smolenak's second attempt deflected up and off Moose defenseman Nathan McIver past Schneider. Smolenak's fourth goal of the season at 12:12 evened the game at 1-1.
The game appeared to be headed to an extra frame as neither team gave an inch through the third period. However, a Chris Lawrence hooking penalty at 13:11 proved costly to the home team. Aaron Rome struck again, hammering home another point shot past Tokarski on the powerplay for his sixth of the season. Again, some excellent puck control proves positive for the Moose as Mike Keane controlled the puck against a defender before feeding the cross-ice pass to Rome.
With the Admirals in catch-up mode, Tokarski was called to the bench. The Moose didn't waste any time in icing the game as both Matt Pettinger and Marty Murray scored into the empty net. Pettinger's sixth goal and Murray's seventh goal of the season gave Manitoba the 4-1 victory, the first win over the Norfolk Admirals in their history.
The Moose really were doing the little things right on Friday night. Races to loose pucks were won by the Moose, and the Moose finished the game with a 32-29 advantage in shots on net. Paced by veteran goal scorers and savvy leadership, the Moose's record improves to 16-12-4-0 with the victory.
After falling to the Moose on Friday night, the Admirals looked to rebound on the back-end of the two-game affair. Continuing as they have done for most of the season, the Admirals flip-flopped their goalies for this game, starting Riku Helenius in net against the Moose's Daren Machesney.
Dusty Collins sniped his first goal of the season early in this game as he banked a puck in off Helenius' pads at 2:17. The speedy forward's goal was also his first point of the season as well. With the two teams trading chances throughout the first period, you knew that one of them had to capitalize sooner or later. Manitoba was the team to do so, and Alexandre Bolduc scored his first goal of the season at 16:12 of the first. Bolduc roofed a backhander past Helenius after taking a great feed from Marco Rosa, sending the Moose into the dressing room with a 2-0 lead.
The Moose looked to jump ahead by three goals after Kevin Quick was sent to the box, but consecutive penalties by Marty Murray and a bench minor for too many men not only nullified the powerplay, but ended up giving Norfolk a two-man advantage. Norfolk sniper Brandon Bochenski didn't waste the opportunity as he fired a rocket of a wrist shot through Machesney's five-hole for his 13th goal of the season at the 7:37 mark.
The Admirals weren't done there. With just over three minutes to play in the period, Mitch Fritz broke down the right wing and shoveled a weak backhander at Machesney. Machesney made the easy stop, but left the rebound sitting in front of him. Fritz's second chance at the puck found its way under Machesney's right arm, and came to rest in the crease as bodies crashed the crease. Travis Ramsey and Evan Oberg didn't see Matt Syroczynski charging through the slot, and the Admirals' forward tapped the puck across the line for his fifth of the season at 16:42.
However, the Moose retook the lead with 1:31 to play in the second frame. Sergei Shirokov and Marco Rosa broke in on a two-on-one after a defensive breakdown by the Admirals. Shirokov appeared to be looking for a pass the entire way before pulling the puck to his backhand at the top of the crease and firing it past Helenius. With Shirokov's 11th goal of the season, the Moose took a 3-2 lead into the second intermission.
The third period saw the Admirals continue to build on their swell of momentum they had started building in the second period. Mark Parrish scored his sixth of the season at the 3:39 mark on a partial breakaway. The veteran fired home a quick shot to the blocker side of Machesney, and the Admirals were even with the Moose once again.
1:05 later saw the Admirals take the lead. Ryan Craig drove the net hard, pushing the puck into Machesney's pads, ending up out front. With Craig and Bolduc battling on the right side of the cage, Adam Hall and Evan Oberg battling in the crease, and Martins Karsums sprawled on the left side of the net with three Moose players around him, somehow Karsums swept the puck into the net for his second goal of the season. Honestly, this wasn't a highlight reel goal by any means, but the result is the same, giving the Admirals their first lead of the night at 4-3.
Coincidental minors to Alex Bolduc and Radek Smolenak at 10:25 gave the teams some extra room out on the ice. However, Moose defenseman Brian Salcido opened up some more room when he cleared the puck over the glass from the defensive zone - two minutes for delay of game. On the four-on-three powerplay, Mike Lundin fed a gorgeous cross-ice pass to Brandon Bochenski, and the Norfolk sniper made no mistake as he roofed a one-timer past Machesney. Bochenski's 14th goal of the season at 11:32 on the powerplay gave Norfolk a 5-3 lead.
Marty Murray scored his eighth goal of the season on a blast from the blueline that appeared to handcuff Helenius at 13:56 of the third. However, Norfolk buckled down and kept Manitoba's chances to a minimum as they went on to victory by a 5-4 score.
With the loss, Manitoba's record falls to 16-13-4-0. After a seemingly complete game the night before, Manitoba ends the roadtrip with a split. Costly penalties and some defensive breakdowns hurt Manitoba in this one.
After 33 games this season, the Moose find themselves in third place in the North Division with 36 points. They sit one point back of second-place Hamilton, and five points back of division-leading Rochester. It doesn't get any easier for the Moose, though, as Grand Rapids is one point behind the Moose and charging up the standings. The unbalanced schedule is once again working against the Moose as the Americans, Bulldogs, and Griffins all have five games in hand on the Moose.
Tuesday night saw Moose captain Mike Keane travel to Denver, Colorado as part of the Colorado Avalanche's series of honouring former Avalanche players. The Avalanche Alumni Association decided to honour Keane before the December 15 game against the Washington Capitals.
All fans in attendance received one of these beautiful posters of a painting of Keane done by artist Stephen Holland, and that might be worth the price of a ticket alone. Keane participated in the ceremonial puck drop before the game started, and was cheered loudly by the Avalanche fans.
Adrian Dater of the Denver Post wrote a great article about Mike Keane, and it's one that should be read by all Moose fans. It just goes to show you how appreciated the Moose captain is by his former teams and the scribes that followed them. This is the second NHL ceremony for Keane this season after he participated in the Montreal Canadiens 100th Anniversary celebration as well.
One major loss this week as the Moose see Aaron Rome's conditioning stint come to an end. In the seven games that Rome played, he scored six goals, added an assist, and leads the Moose in game-winning goals with three. Four of his seven goals were powerplay markers, jump-starting a once dormant unit. With the Moose losing one of their most reliable players in the last two weeks, there is hope that some of the players in sick bay will be back soon. Speaking of which....
- Nolan Baumgartner - broken finger. A Christmas return is still possible.
- Michael Funk - concussion. No return date set.
- Lawrence Nycholat - foot and shoulder problems. He was skating this week, so he could be back for the weekend against Lake Erie. If not, he should be ready by December 27 for games against Abbotsford.
- Matt Pope - high ankle sprain. Like Nycholat, he has been skating with the team. It seems more realistic for Pope to return against Abbotsford.
- Michael Grabner - ankle injury. Grabner is back on skates, but this weekend seems highly unlikely. The week off for Christmas would be best spent on strengthening and conditioning.
- Matt McCue - concussion. No return date set.
The two upcoming games against Lake Erie are important for the Moose in two regards.
Lake Erie is last in the North Division with a 9-16-0-3 record, and the Moose have to start beating the teams that are lower than them in the standings if the want to have a shot at the playoffs.
Secondly, Rochester battles the Hershey Bears and the Hamilton Bulldogs this upcoming weekend. If Manitoba can win both over Lake Erie, they can either make up ground on Rochester or overtake Hamilton. No matter which way you look at it, two wins would be big in helping the Moose stay close to these teams that have a handful of games in hand on them.
The Moose will have to be aware of former MVP Darren Haydar this weekend. Haydar leads the Monsters in points with 22, and is tied with Chris Durno for goals with 10 apieces. Tyler Weiman will most likely get at least one start for the Monsters, and Weiman is an excellent goaltender despite his win-loss record. His 2.67 GAA shows that he is a solid netminder, and the Moose will have to work hard to beat him.
If you're heading down to MTS Centre on Friday, don't forget to take a teddy bear with you! Teddy bears will be tossed onto the ice in an effort to cover the ice with bears for the Christmas Cheer Board. And don't fret if you can't get out to a store to get a bear. The Moose will be selling bears for $5 at the game that you can toss! Head down to the rink on Friday night, and help the Moose help people in Manitoba!
Saturday night is "Beat the Winter Blues" night, and you'll have a chance to win a trip to Jamaica! There will be a ton of giveaways throughout the night, and you can find the list of potential winnings here. Mick E. Moose will be handing out candy canes all night, and carolers will be stationed throughout the concourse!
Lots of great stuff going on at MTS Centre this weekend, so come on down and check out the Hardcore Hockey!
Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!