The Banter returns today with the Moose staring down a couple of dates with the Hamilton Bulldogs at MTS Centre in a rematch of the Calder Cup North Division semi-final from last year. The Moose faltered in their home-opening weekend against the Grand Rapids Griffins, falling to 2-2-0 on the season, so they were looking to get back on the right track with a couple of wins against their divisional opponent. 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. On to Week Three of Hardcore Hockey!
There is something to be said for North Division matchups between the Moose and Bulldogs. Both of these teams have good scoring, good defences, and high-quality goaltending. The Bulldogs came into Winnipeg with several of their players from last season still on their roster, but they certainly have some new talent added to their lineup. This game was wild and wacky, but there would be a good finish.
If there has been one thing that has been consistent this season for the Moose, it is the play of their goaltenders. Eddie Lack got the call on October 21 for the Moose, and he turned in a decent effort again. Lack was not as spectacular as he was a weekend earlier, but he made the majority of the saves he could see, and that's what you need your goaltender to do if you want to win night in and night out.
The Moose have to be happy with the offensive contributions they are receiving from their blueliners, especially one young man. Kevin Connauton chipped in with a goal and an assist on this evening, and leads the Moose defencemen in scoring. The youngster still needs a little work on his defensive play inside his own blueline, but he seems to be able to read the play very well in the offensive zone when he has the puck.
We all know shootouts are extremely important when it comes to points in the standings, so your best players have to be at their bests when the breakaway competition begins. It was nice to see Marco Rosa score on a nice move to slip the puck between Robert Meyer's pads, and that was followed by a big league backhander upstairs by Jordan Schroeder after a nice kick and deke. The Moose probably would like to win at the end of sixty minutes, but getting the extra points from the collection of talent on the bench is definitely an advantage.
Hamilton's Robert Meyer had a strong game, but when it came to the shootout, Eddie Lack was perfect in stopping four Hamilton players. With goals by Rosa and Schroeder, the Moose took the first of the two dates by a 4-3 shootout victory, and push their record to 3-2-0 for the season.
It took just over a period to get these two teams to start up the scoring machine, but once they did, it was like an old-fashioned pond hockey game. After having lost to the Moose one night earlier, the Bulldogs were certainly looking for some revenge. The Moose are 2-1 on the back-end of a two-night affair as well as 2-1 on Friday nights, so they were looking to improve upon those records as they met the Bulldogs on the back half of a home series on a Friday night.
Big game for three men that were thought to be cornerstones of the Moose offence this season. Cody Hodgson, Marco Rosa, and Joel Perrault all found the scoresheet with goals against the Bulldogs, and there's hope that these three men can continue to light the lamp. If there were proverbial monkeys on their backs, they all shook them off in one game. Here's hoping this a trend to come as the Moose have far too much talent on the bench not to score.
There seems to be a disturbing trend where the Moose fall asleep in front of their goalies for a short period of time. It happened a couple of times earlier this season, but it was very apparent that the Moose were just going through the motions for about three minutes in the second period while the Bulldogs padded their lead. Tyler Weiman can only do so much, and it was hard to watch the Moose ease up on their physical play. In their own zone, the Moose were guilty of standing around rather than forcing errors, and it nearly cost them two points on this night. I'm quite certain that head coach Claude Noel will have a discussion with his troops about this, but it must be corrected.
I'll give some credit to Aaron Volpatti, but I'm not going to give him nor the Moose an outright pass on this evening. Volpatti and Ryan White may have offered up the best hockey fight of the season in any professional league thus far, but the Moose seemed to step backwards after this physicality. I'm going to be a broken record this season, it seems, as I want to see the Moose play far more physical than what they currently show. They need to prove to me and to the rest of the AHL that they will not be pushed around by anyone, and are willing to sacrifice the body for the greater good. If the Moose aren't willing to play more physical, they will end up as also-rans in this 2010-11 AHL season.
Manitoba's Tyler Weiman and Hamilton's Peter Delmas battled it out in the shootout for the additional point as the two teams were deadlocked at 3-3 through four periods of play. Again, the collection of talent on the bench for the Moose is scary. Joel Perrault, Cody Hodgson, and Jordan Schroeder all scored in the shootout while Weiman stopped all three Hamilton shooters, and the Moose took the game by a 4-3 shootout score for the second straight night. With the win, the Moose improve to 4-2-0 on the season.
The Moose had a lot of man-games lost to injuries and call-ups last season, but it's been relatively quiet for the AHL squad thus far. No injuries at the NHL level means that the Moose might actually get to develop some good chemistry, but they have yet to show a five- or six-goal game this season. Chemistry takes time to develop, though, and we've only played six games. I'm hoping that it's now just a matter of time for the Moose.
The one player who has missed a few games is Victor Oreskovich. The big winger was given the weekend off after taking what looked like an elbow or forearm to the head in the series against Grand Rapids. From the reports out of Moose camp, it sounds like the cobwebs are clearing for Oreskovich, and he should be available on the upcoming weekend for the Moose. This is great news as Oreskovich has two goals and one assist in four games this season.
The Moose have a three-game road set on the weekend to start their seven-game roadtrip. The Moose will visit the Monster on Friday, October 29 and Sunday, October 31 in some Halloween-appropriate games. The bookend games surround a game on Saturday against the Grand Rapids Griffins, and the mythological Griffins are already 2-0 against the Moose this season. Long roadtrips are hard in the AHL where games come in rapid succession, so the Moose will have to play some smart, fundamental hockey in their upcoming games.
Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!