Antler Banter wants to wish each and every reader a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays during this festive time of season! The Moose battled the Houston Aeros at MTS Centre this past week in a relatively quiet two-game homestand before a week off for the holidays. We'll also take a look at the stats to see how the Moose are doing in relation to the rest of the AHL as we prepare for next week and a new year. As always, check out the Moose website for all your Manitoba Moose news and information. If you're interested in attending a Manitoba Moose game, please click here for seating information, ticket pricing, and availability. It's the all about the spirit of giving in this week's Hardcore Hockey!
It was a big night on Friday, December 17 as the Moose and Houston Aeros tangled for the first time this season. While the title of this section has nothing to do with Hershey's AHL team, there were bears flying all around MTS Centre. 7906 fans turned out to help support the Christmas Cheer Board with the Moose's annual Teddy Bear Toss! 2071 stuffed animals found their way to the ice surface of MTS Centre, and the Moose raised an additional $3040 for the Christmas Cheer Board! Well done, Moose fans! Your generosity this holiday season will certainly help some underprivileged families in Winnipeg!
As for the Moose, there were some excellent contributions made on the ice on Friday night. Joel Perrault made a big impact on the scoresheet as he recorded a goal, added two assists, and finished with three shots. The key to Perrault's play on this night was that all of his points came on the powerplay as he awakened the Moose extra-man unit with his play. Perrault controlled the powerplay from his usual spot on the point, and the Moose saw immediate benefits to having him back in the lineup!
A player who has made significant impact since returning from injury is defenceman Mark Flood. Flood had a goal and assist, both on powerplays, and his late second-period goal was his first of the season. Flood scored one-third of his point total on Friday night, and it's always nice to get a big contribution from a guy who isn't expected to light the lamp all that often. Where Flood really looks good is on the powerplay, and he should score a lot more if he continues with his strong play of late.
Guillaume Desbiens, recently sent to Manitoba from Vancouver, showed that he hasn't lost a step. Desbiens scored his first AHL goal of the season, and finished the night with a +1 rating - exactly what you'd expect from a player who has spent a third of the season in the NHL. Desbiens looks inspired and hungry, and he should help the Moose immensely while Cody Hodgson is injured.
Overall, the evening was a very good night for both the Moose and the fans. The fans did their part by bringing out cash and stuffed animals, and the Moose did their part on the ice by taking out the Aeros in 5-3 victory. Manitoba improves their record on the season to 14-10-4 with the win.
The Moose and Aeros had a rematch on Saturday night, and the Aeros were looking to avenge a loss the previous night after leading 3-1 early in Friday's second period. The Moose were looking to build on a solid effort from Friday night, so both teams were looking for two points. Eddie Lack took to the nets for the Moose while the Aeros sent Anton Kudobin out to guard their twine.
There weren't a lot of goals on Saturday evening, but Sergei Shirokov deserves a little of the spotlight as he scored the only goal on the night and tied for the game-high total of four shots. Shirokov is showing that blazing speed down the wing that we saw so often last year, and he has the confidence to finish strong. While the Canucks have recalled some of the other Moose wingers recently, I truly feel that Shirokov will have his number called before the end of the season due to his impressive play thus far this season. Shirokov leads the team with 13 assists and 20 points, and looks dangerous every time he steps onto the ice.
Another player whose play has significantly improved from last season is that of defenceman Travis Ramsey. Ramsey was a goal short of the "Gordie Howe hat trick" on Saturday, but he has become the physical force that the Moose desperately need on the blueline. If the Moose had one more player who pays with as much heart and tenacity as Ramsey, they would be a much tougher team to play against in their zone. Ramsey is showing great improvement over last season at this point, and those strides should bring him closer to an NHL job.
While it wasn't a busy night for Eddie Lack, he did make 20 saves to record his first doughnut of his professional career. Because of Lack's performance, the Moose only needed Sergei Shirokov's third-period goal, and they took the second-half of the back-to-back games against Houston by a 1-0 score. With the win, the Moose improve to 15-10-4 on the season as the holiday break begins.
The Moose have played 29 games thus far in the AHL season, tied for the lowest games-played total by any AHL team. They sit in fourth-place in the North Division, but have every opportunity to jump ahead of teams with all the games they have in-hand. However, this section is all about the numbers the Moose have recorded thus far this season in those 29 games.
- Kudos to Moose fans as the Manitoba Moose rank second in the AHL for attendance up to this point! The Moose have seen 100,473 people come through the turnstiles for 12 home games thus far for an average of 8373 fans per game! Well done, Moose fans!
- Eddie Lack is seventh for goaltenders in terms of goals-against average. Lack is sporting a 2.03 GAA through the 18 games he has appeared in.
- Manitoba sports an 8-4-0 record at home, but needs to be better on the road after posting a 7-6-4 record away from MTS Centre.
- Manitoba is 3-4 in shootouts thus far, but has yet to win or lose in overtime. Apparently, the Moose feel they have a better chance of winning in the breakaway competition despite their below-.500 record in the shootout.
- The Moose are 7-for-28 on shootout shots, placing them 19th overall in the AHL.
- The Herd's goaltenders have stopped 19 of 29 shootout chances, placing the Moose 19th overall in the AHL for shootout goals-against.
- When scoring first, Manitoba carries an 8-1-3 record through to the final buzzer.
- Manitoba is pretty consistent in terms of their divisional play. The Moose are 7-5-2 against North Division opponents, and 8-5-2 against West Division opponents.
- Manitoba has climbed to 28th overall in the AHL for their powerplay conversions with a 12.3% conversion rate. They rank 24th at home with a 13.4% rate, and 26th on the road with an 11.5% rate.
- The Moose are sitting at 4th overall for their penalty killing this season at 86.7%. At home, the Moose are 10th in the AHL at 86.0%, but are 5th overall on the road at 87.2%.
- The Moose have scored one shorthanded goal on the season, and are one of two teams who has yet to give up a shorthanded goal. Division rival Hamilton Bulldogs are the other team.
- Manitoba is 20th overall for goals-for-per-game with 2.79. They have scored 81 goals thus far this season.
- The Moose are 9th overall for goals-against-per-game with 2.72. The Moose have allowed 79 goals on the campaign.
The Moose have a two-game set after Christmas with the Peoria Rivermen on Monday and Tuesday. Peoria has charged up the standings in the West Division after going 8-1-1 in their last ten games, and goaltender Jake Allen has made Peoria into a dangerous team. Allen is 11-2-0 on the season with a sparkling 1.58 GAA and four shutouts. The Moose will have to come out guns a-blazin' to get a few pucks past Allen, so there's only one thing to say: DO IT!
Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!