The Moose embark on their seventh week into the 2010-11 AHL regular season, and things are looking up for the club. Players are getting healthy, the team has found its winning ways once again, and a few key cogs are starting to heat up on the ice. Antler Banter takes a look back at a fairly quiet week as the Moose had a pair of games against the Rochester Americans followed by the Moose Super Skills Challenge. If you're looking news or information on the Manitoba Moose, 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. Here is this week's edition of Hardcore Hockey!
The Moose faced off against one of the original AHL clubs in the Rochester Americans on Friday, and they were looking to improve on a two-game winning streak. Manitoba wore special AHL 75th Anniversary jerseys in this game as part of the Heritage Night theme. Rochester and Manitoba always seem to have excellent battles, and it was made a little more interesting as Eddie Lack and Jakob Markstrom, friends in Sweden, could potentially face one another in a showdown between stoppers. However, Tyler Plante got the start on Friday night for the Amerks while Lack started for Manitoba.
The scorers continue to score as both Jeff Tambellini and Cody Hodgson lit the lamp. Tambellini cleaned up a rebound off a Joel Perrault blast on the powerplay for his third of the season, and Hodgson scored his seventh goal of the season after having several whacks at the puck in front of Plante. Having these two men heating up on the top two Moose lines only bodes well for the AHL club. Teams will have to be wary of both lines when they come out over the boards.
Winnipegger Kevin Clark made his impact on Friday as he showed some incredible speed every time he stepped onto the ice. Clark, Volpatti, and Perrault buzzed the Rochester net all game long, and Clark managed to clean up the garbage in the crease with a tap-in off a rebound for his first goal of the season. There's no doubt that the Clark-Perrault-Volpatti line was the "Charlie Hustle" line of the night, and they were rewarded with a goal. Great work by these three men, and it appears that the top-three lines of the Moose are starting to come together very nicely.
Eddie Lack wasn't spectacular, but he stopped 21 shots to give Manitoba a chance in this game. The two goals he surrendered looked "soft", but the Moose have to be happy with their efforts on both ends of the ice. Manitoba fired a season-high 45 shots on Tyler Plante, and they came away with a 3-2 victory after playing hard in the defensive zone. With the victory, the Moose improve to 8-5-1 on the season, and improve their winning streak to three games.
The Moose were looking to continue their winning ways on Saturday night with a second win over the Rochester Americans in as many nights. With the annual Santa Claus Parade happening outside, the Moose took to the ice and lit the lamp a number of times in this game as the offence went all-out against the Americans. Jakob Markstrom got the start for the Americans while the Moose sent Tyler Weiman to their net.
The Moose have found a phenomenal second line in Shirokov, Hodgson, and Bill Sweatt. The four players accounted for three goals and four assists on Saturday as they dismantled the Americans in the third period. All three men accounted for a goal in the third period, and Hodgson finished the game with a goal and two assists. There's no doubt that this line is clicking, and the sky's the limit for these three if the chemistry continues to produce these results.
Kevin Clark and Jeff Tambellini had strong games again as both contributed goals on Saturday night just as they did Friday night. Tambellini's goal was not of the pretty variety as his high shot bounced off the endboards and came back over the crossbar where it hit defenceman Mark Caruso and went in. Clark's goal was a gorgeous deflection of a Kevin Connauton point shot which put Manitoba up 3-2. However, both Tambellini and Clark were dangerous all night with their speed and tenacity, and they deserve some credit for putting in the work on consecutive days that routinely earns victory. The Moose need that kind of effort every night, and it's great to see these two men leading by example.
Manitoba's special teams deserve some kudos as they saw an excellent game put in by both units. The powerplay lines went 2-for-7 in the game while the penalty killers successfully killed off all four Rochester powerplays in the game. Special mention goes out to the Moose blueline as the defenders did an excellent job in giving Weiman clear views on the majority of Rochester's shots. This kind of attention to detail and solid effort will result in more wins than not as the season progresses.
The Moose burned the Americans by a 6-2 score on Saturday to earn wins in both games of the two-game set against Rochester. With the two wins, Manitoba pushes its all-time record against the Americans to 32-13-3-2, and improve to 13-7-1-1 against Rochester at MTS Centre. With the win on Saturday night, Manitoba improves its 2010-11 AHL record to 9-5-1 on the season.
The Rockford IceHogs visit the Manitoba Moose on Thursday and Friday this week as the AHL season rolls on. Manitoba owns a 2-0 record against the IceHogs this season, having defeated them by a 5-2 score on October 9 in Rockford and by a 3-1 score on November 6 in Rockford. These will be the final two games against Rockford this season, so the Moose are in prime position for the series sweep if they can continue to play as well as they have over the last four games.
Rockford comes into the game on a two-game losing streak with a 6-8-1 record, having gone 3-6-1 in their last ten games. Defenceman Brian Connelly leads the 'Hogs with 11 points, all of them being assists. Jeff Taffe and Kyle Beach have been the most dangerous forwards with four goals and eight points while Jeremy Morin also has four goals and five points. The Moose will probably see both goaltenders in Hannu Toivonen, who is 0-2 versus the Moose this season, and rookie Alec Richards in this back-to-back series.
As stated above, the Moose participated in their second annual Super Skills Challenge on Tuesday, and it was a night of competitive fun for the players and fans. Only one of the winners from last season's Super Skills Challenge was still playing with the Moose, so it remained to be seen if Travis Ramsey could defend his hardest shot title.
Here are the results of the competitions:
- Fastest Skater - Bill Sweatt completed the lap in 14.16 seconds.
- Most Accurate - Cody Hodsgon hit all four targets on five shots in 10.8 seconds.
- Hardest Shot - Travis Ramsey defended his title with a 98 mph blast.
- Breakaway Competition - Tyler Weiman stopped all but two shots that came his way.
There were some great moments at the Super Skills Challenge, and it seemed that everyone, players and fans included, had a great time. There were lots of autographs for fans and the players really seemed to enjoy themselves on a night where bragging rights in the dressing room were up for grabs. I'm looking forward to the Moose continuing this event as I'm sure it will be one of the most popular promotions they do throughout the year as word-of-mouth builds the groundswell for the event.
Two games against Rockford should be four points for the Moose if they continue to play hard. They currently sit in third-place in the AHL's North Division as they trail the Hamilton Bulldogs by two points and the Abbotsford Heat by five points. However, both the Bulldogs and Moose have four games in-hand on the Heat, so they should be able to easily catch the Heat if they continue to knock off the lesser teams such as Rockford.
The quest for top spot in the North Division starts tomorrow night down at MTS Centre as the IceHogs visit Winnipeg. DO IT!
Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!