It was a very quiet week for Antler Banter as there were only two games to report on thanks to my seeing the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins live on Wednesday last week. This week sees the Texas Stars roll through town as the Moose continue to play through the busiest month of their season. The Moose were hunting down the Lake Erie Monsters in the North Division while trying to fend off the Hamilton Bulldogs, Toronto Marlies, and Grand Rapids Griffins. Don't forget to head over to 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 try to rise above the Stars in this week's edition of Hardcore Hockey!
The Moose honoured the men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces on Friday night with their annual Military Tribute Game. The Herd took to the ice in some very stylish camouflage uniforms to help honour the bravest men and women on the planet, and then took the battle to the visiting Texas Stars. Veteran Tyler Weiman got the start for the Moose on this night while Texas would need both of their masked men in this one. Tyler Beskorowany started, but Richard Bachman was called upon to finish the game.
For the first time in a very, very long time, the Moose got contributions from both sides of the special teams coin. The powerplay, which had been taking a beating from me in recent weeks, notched Manitoba's first goal of the game when Cody Hodgson potted his 16th goal. Later in the first period, Guillaume Desbiens found himself in alone on Beskorowany, and he made no mistake in firing the biscuit home. Desbiens' 11th goal of the season came shorthanded, and was Manitoba's ninth goal this season while playing with a man down. Even though the Moose surrendered a powerplay goal late to the Stars, the special teams made a huge difference in this game as the powerplay went 1-for-3 and the penalty killers knocked off 3-of-4 powerplay situations.
The most dangerous skater for the Moose was Sergei Shirokov on this night, and he made good on one of his shots. Shirokov's goal of the season at 13:05 of the season was his 20th marker on this campaign, but, more importantly, it stood up as the game-winning goal! Congratulations on Shirokov for hitting the 20-goal mark! Shirokov finished the night with one goal, two penalty minutes a +1 rating, and an incredible seven shots on net! It was a very productive night at the office for Sergei Shirokov.
As stated above, Shirkov's goal stood as the winner in this game as the Moose jumped out to leads of 3-1 and 4-2 before eventually take the game by a 4-3 score. Tyler Weiman was very good in the blue paint, and the Moose turned in a very solid effort in this one. With the victory, the Moose improve to 38-26-6 on the season!
The Sunday afternoon affair between these two teams looked to be a good one as the Moose tried to extend their winning streak while the Stars needed the split to keep pace in the West Division. Batman was on-hand for the kids, and it appeared that the Moose could have used the Dark Knight's help on this afternoon. Eddie Lack got the call for the Moose while the Stars went with Richard Bachman in the hopes of salvaging the split.
Cody Hodgson and Bill Sweatt came out of this game relatively unscathed. Both men fired five shots apiece on Bachman, accounting for nearly one-third of Manitoba's total offence. They both picked up an assist on Joel Perrault's goal in the third period, ending the night each with one helper, an even rating, and five shots. In a relatively sloppy and uninspired game by the Herd as a team, these two men played well enough not to hurt the squad.
On the flip side of the coin, the pairing of Nolan Baumgartner and Mark Flood is normally a very reliable tandem on the ice, but they were victimized twice as a pairing in the game by the Stars, and once while both men played with a different defensive partner. While both men were on the ice for Joel Perrault's goal, the fact that they saw four of the five goals go past Eddie Lack doesn't bode well for these two "stoppers". Despite being off for this game, these two men need to be better.
If there was one word to describe the Sunday afternoon game from the Moose's perspective, it would be "ugly". The Moose seemed to sleepwalk through most of the game, and it was the former Moose players who now toil for the Stars that had a big afternoon. Greg Rallo had three goals for the Stars, Maxime Fortunas had a pair of helpers, and Ray Sawada had an assist in helping the Stars down the Moose by a 5-1 count. With the loss, the Moose fall to 38-27-6 on the campaign.
The Moose tackle two divisional foes that are fighting for their playoff lives. The Abbotsford Heat are up first this weekend as they invade MTS Centre for a pair of games. Abbotsford needs points, and has to start winning if they want to a spot in the Calder Cup Playoffs. They currently sit on the outside looking in, so wins over the Moose - especially since they are divisional games - are of vital importance.
The Moose can put the Heat into dire straits with a pair of wins this weekend. It would be really nice to see the Herd end the hopes of a rival team with a couple of wins, so there's some importance here. Not to mention that the points will help the Moose track down the Lake Erie Monsters who sit above them in the standings.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, the Moose will host the Rochester Americans. Rochester is all but done, although they still mathematically could make the dance. Rochester will need A LOT of help along the way, but it starts with wins against the Moose, so they'll have something to play for in these two games. Especially if they've accepted their fate as "spoiler".
The Moose, however, definitely need the points. Lake Erie has games against Rochester, Toronto, and the Rockford IceHogs by Wednesday, so the Moose could be anywhere from tied with to eight points behind the Monsters by then. Beating up on the weaker teams ensures that the Moose keep pace with the team that's just slightly ahead of them.
Divisional games mean four-point swings. There's only one thing to do: DO IT!
Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!