It's been an interesting week on Antler Banter as the Moose find themselves stuck in neutral in February. All teams go on streaks, whether they be hot or cold streaks, but the Moose seem to be stuck in these extended streaks that have serious consequences on their overall standing. Going 3-4 so far in March has put a serious halt on the upward movement through the standings that the Moose saw in December and Janaury. Can they break out of this slump against the Toronto Marlies and Lake Erie Monsters? Make sure you stop by 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. The Moose finish off their six-game homestand with a little Hardcore Hockey!
The Moose dropped the Tuesday night affair to the Marlies by a 2-1 score, so they were looking to bounce back against a feisty Marlies squad. They also needed to see if they could score more than one goal in a game after having only potted one marker in each of four of the last five games. Tyler Weiman got the call for the Moose as he hoped to reverse the Herd's fortunes, and he faced off against Ben Scrivens who was standing 200-feet away.
It was a "good, bad, and ugly" evening for the Moose powerplay. The good: Ryan McGinnis scored his first goal of the season with the man-advantage with less than five minutes to play. The bad: the Moose went 1-for-6 on the night, missing several excellent opportunities to put this game away early as Toronto found themselves in penalty trouble. The Moose had a 5-on-3 for a full two minutes and four minutes of total powerplay time, but could not capitalize. The ugly: Tyler Weiman whiffed on what appeared to be a routine glove save, giving up a shorthanded goal early in the second period that really seemed to deflate the squad. Overall, poor marks for the powerplay units on this night for not capitalizing on chances, and Weiman has to be better.
It looked like another night at the office for Sergei Shirokov as he picked up an assist on Guillaume Desbiens' second-period goal, but things went completely off the rails in the third period as Sergei Shirokov had had enough of Nazim Kadri's antics. After Kadri slashed the Russian sniper across the shinpads, Shirokov's soft hands lost the gloves as he and Kadri wrestled their way to the ice along the boards. I'd normally say that your best scorers shouldn't be fighting, but I fully believe that a player should be able to defend himself. Good on Shirokov for dropping the mittens and showing Kadri that he's not going to be pushed around.
It took the Moose nearly 56 minutes to wake up in this game as the Marlies built a 4-1 lead in that time. The Moose stormed back in the final four minutes to make it a 4-3 game, but Ryan Hamilton iced it with 2.2 seconds to play as the Marlies hung on for the 5-3 win. The Moose have now dropped two straight games to the Marlies after winning the first three, and see their record on the season drop to 29-19-6.
The Monsters were nipping at the heels of the Moose as they entered Friday's game, so that meant that the Moose needed to put four points on the board with two wins over a team that looked to overtake them in the standings. Eddie Lack looked to reverse the fortunes of the Moose while Jason Bacashihua got the call for the Monsters.
Kevin Connauton should feel responsible for the opening goal of the game. Connauton got muscled off the puck by Greg Mauldin, and then couldn't recover to chase down Mauldin. Mauldin circled behind the net, and Mark Flood left Ben Walter in front of the net to track down Mauldin. Connauton arrived in front of the net seconds late after Mauldin centered to Walter for the first goal of the game. I'm not sure what Connauton was doing, but he certainly seemed to give up after losing the puck in the corner to Mauldin. The effort shown by Connauton might be a reason why the Moose are on a two-game skid.
The Moose penalty killing units took a hit tonight as well as they gave up two powerplay goals to the Monsters. I'm not going to blame the penalty killing units for the result in this game, but they could use a little help from the other special teams unit. Manitoba's powerplay fired blanks again as they went 0-for-4 on the night, and find themselves ranked as the 25th best powerplay in the league. When the penalty kill has an off-night, it would be nice if the powerplay units brought their lunch pails to work and scored a couple of goals.
Overall, there wasn't much to brag about on the home side as the Moose got walloped by the Monsters in a 5-1 loss. The Moose fired 30 shots on Jason Bacashihua, but there weren't many of the high-quality variety that tested Bacashihua often. With the loss, the Moose drop to 29-20-6, and lose their spot atop the North Division standings as the Monsters leap-frog into first.
It was a big night for one minor hockey team in Winnipeg as the Gateway Flyers took to the ice for their first AHL game in history! Ok, so they weren't the real Flyers, but the Moose donned the jerseys of the Gateway Flyers for their Saturday clash with the Monsters as part of the Community Jersey Program! It was weird seeing the Moose in black-and-orange for the first time in history, but it was easy to get used to when they began playing like the Flyers - scoring and hitting. Eddie Lack would take to the pipes again for Manitoba. Jason Bacashihua started the game for the Monsters, but he would be relieved by Trevor Cann after the Moose had staked themselves to a sizable lead.
It was another big night for Manitoba's Garth Murray. The scrappy, defensive forward scored a goal, added a helper on Sergei Shirokov's goal, picked up two minutes for tripping, had two shots, and finished the game as a +2! The scorekeepers certainly used a lot of ink on his stats tonight! Murray played really well at both ends of the ice, deserving some kudos despite not earning one of the three stars on the night. He scored, he played physical, and he was responsible in his own zone. That's the kind of effort the Moose need from all 22 players.
Manitoba's best player continues to make great plays as Sergei Shirokov scored a goal, added an assist, had four shots on net, and ended the night as a +2. Shirokov's assist was a gorgeous backhanded no-look pass to Mario Bliznak that seemed to confuse Jason Bacashihua. Shirokov made a move to head behind the net casuing Bacashihua to move off the post, but Shirokov threw the puck out front on the backhand. Bacashihua, realizing he made a mistake, went back to hugging the post, but Bliznak wired it past his right shoulder into the cage before Bacashihua could find the puck again. Great plays like that show you why Sergei Shirokov was an easy choice as Manitoba's AHL all-star representative.
The Moose really played well for 57 minutes before giving up a couple of goals to the Monsters. Despite giving up a pair of goals late, the Moose hung on for the 4-2 victory to jump ahead of the Monsters in the standings once again as they have a better winning percentage. With the win, the Moose snap their three-game losing streak and improve to 30-20-6 on the season.
The Moose hit the road over the next week with games starting tonight against the Rochester Americans. They'll battle the Amerks again on Friday before heading into Toronto for games against the Marlies on Saturday and Sunday. You can catch the Sunday game against the Marlies on CBC as the AHL on CBC comes to the Ricoh Coliseum for the Marlies-Moose tilt.
The Americans come into the games having gone 6-4 over their last ten games. During that stretch, the Americans have beaten the Hamilton Bulldogs twice, the Hershey Bears once, and knocked off the Worcester Sharks. They're led by Tim Kennedy and Clay Wilson offensively as both men are nearing the 40-point mark on the season. Tyler Plante is playing fairly well in net, and is even sporting a blocker with the old-style holes painted on it! Or maybe they're real holes? Either way, that looks cool! The Moose have to keep winning as the Bulldogs and Monsters are breathing down their necks, so two wins over the Americans would help immensely!
The Marlies need no introduction as the Moose re-engage in battle with them. Kadri is becoming a thorn in the side of Moose players, Scrivens and Gustavsson are playing well in net, and the Marlies are closing the gap with each win over the Moose. Again, beating divisional rivals is vital if a team wants to go far in the AHL, so the Moose need to play well against the Marlies this coming weekend after dropping the these last two games at home against Toronto!
Eight points await the Moose if they are hungry enough to get them. Working harder than their opposition is a good way to start, and the talent that the Moose bring should put them over the top in each game if they work hard. Only one thing to say as the Moose head down the stretch: DO IT!
Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!