Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Antler Banter: Season 1, Volume 31

After a split with Bakersfield in that the Moose won the second-half of the two-game set, it was out on the open road once more as the Moose visited Cleveland and Milwaukee this past week. There was hope the Moose could string together their first win streak of the season against a tough Monsters squad as the Moose looked to move up the standings, and the Moose already had a win in Milwaukee this season so they know they can win there. Eric Comrie will be your starter for the majority of this road trip with Connor Hellebuyck traveling with the Jets, and there's a lot of enthusiasm about the youngster's game already. Can he backstop the Moose to their first win streak of the season? Let's take a look at how the first three games of this six-game road trip played out!

Game 16 - At Lake Erie

Just two minutes into this game, the Moose found themselves down. Sonny Milano centered to Markus Hannikainen who deflected it by Comrie, and the Monsters were out to the 1-0 lead. Lake Erie would go up 2-0 at 7:30 of the second period when Michael Paliotta's slap shot was stopped by Comrie, but the rebound came to Daniel Zaar who had escaped the check of Scott Kosmachuk. Zaar made no mistake backhanding the puck into the yawning cage to put Manitoba down two goals. 35 seconds later, the Moose were down 3-0 when Dean Kukan's wrist shot for the point found its way past a partially-screen Comrie. Things were not looking good for the Moose.

The Moose would get one back before the period ended while on the power-play. Chase De Leo's initial shot was stopped, but the rebound bounced to Nic Petan who had his cross-crease pass deflected in the air. A crowd assembled around the crease as everyone searched for the puck, but it would JC Lipon who found it and buried it past Anton Forsberg at 13:12 to make it a 3-1 game for the Monsters. Lake Erie would restore the three-goal lead just 41 seconds into the final frame when Hannikainen converted a feed from TJ Tynan behind the net. Manitoba would get one more goal when Chase De Leo threw a backhander on net that Forsberg couldn't find, but it wasn't enough as the Monsters take this one by a 4-2 score.

The Moose drop to 4-10-1-1 in the setback. Eric Comrie stopped 39 of 43 shots in a losing effort while Anton Forsberg picked up the win.

Game 17 - At Lake Erie

It would be the Moose who jumped out to the early lead in this game. JC Lipon's centering pass was knocked away from Chase De Leo, but Nic Petan picked up the loose puck and slid it under Joonas Korpisalo for the 1-0 lead just 1:30 into this game. It would be great to write that the Moose shut the door the rest of the way and Eric Comrie was outstanding, but only half of that sentence is correct.

Michael Chaput just 54 seconds into the second period tied the game. A power-play goal by Nick Moutrey at 15:32, and Ryan Craig's goal at 18:28 put the Monsters up 3-1 after 40 minutes, and things looked grim once again for the Moose. Sonny Milano would add a fourth goal for Lake Erie at 9:36 of the third period, and the Monsters skated to the 4-1 victory. Missed defensive assignments, lost checks, and poor defensive zone coverage will cause your goaltender nightmares, and Eric Comrie may have had one or two after watching Monsters skate with ease through the Moose. The Moose fall to 4-11-1-1 in the loss. Comrie stopped 27 of 31 shots he faced while Korpisalo made 24 saves in the win.

Game 18 - At Milwaukee

The Moose are 1-0 in Milwaukee this season, and they were desperately needing another win. Things started well when Matt Halischuk picked off a pass at the Admirals' blue line and broke in alone on Marek Mazanec. Halischuk saw daylight through the five-hole, and his wrist shot found the back of the net at 6:12 for the early 1-0 Manitoba lead. The Moose would double their lead at 15:38 when Brenden Kichton toe-dragged the puck around a diving Admiral before wiring the puck on net. His shot didn't get past Mazanec, but Thomas Raffl was on the doorstep for the rebound, and he potted his first AHL goal! 1:20 later, the Admirals found themselves on the power-play when Eric Comrie stopped Vladislav Kamenev's slap shot, but the rebound was picked up by Frederick Gaudreau and sent cross-ice to Max Gortz at the bottom of the face-off circle, and Gortz buried the one-timer in the back of the Moose net to make it a 2-1 game.

The Admirals would tie the game at 8:19 of the second period. Just as a Manitoba penalty was expiring, Trevor Murphy's point shot was kicked out by Eric Comrie into the face-off dot, and Kevin Fiala was awaiting this opportunity as he teed up the loose puck and ripped it home for the 2-2 equalizer. The Moose would respond, though. Scott Kosmachuk caused a turnover in the neutral zone, and John Albert was in on the 2-on-1 with Matt Fraser. Albert elected to shoot the puck, and his initial shot was saved. However, the rebound came right back to the Moose captain, and he wouldn't make the same mistake twice as Mazanec fished it out of the net behind him at 17:16 with Manitoba up 3-2.

Both goalies were perfect in the third period, but that meant that the Moose came out on the right side of the 3-2 score! Comrie stopped 30 of 32 shots on this night while Mazanec was on the losing end after making 20 of 23 stops. The Moose improve to 5-11-1-1 with the victory!

The Infirmary

Well, look at this! There are no official injuries keeping any of the Moose starters out of the lineup!

Still Gone

The Moose are still without the services of Connor Hellebuyck who won his NHL debut against the Minnesota Wild. Ryan Carter spoiled the shutout for Hellebuyck, but it will go down in the history books that Hellebuyck made 14 saves en route to the 3-1 victory. Congratulations to Connor on his achievement!

Joel Armia is still with the Jets as well, but has yet to see the ice outside of practice. He currently is the only scratched forward the Jets have, so his time with the club might be for a while unless the Jets decide to play musical chairs in the press box with some of the Moose.

Up Next

Things don't get any easier from this point forward. The Moose are in Chicago tonight where things have not gone well for the Herd. Chicago is 3-0-1 against the Moose this season and 2-0 on home ice against the Herd, so it might be another tough visit to Allstate Arena. Chicago has struggled as of late and have fallen to fourth-place in the Central Division, so I'd assume they'll be chomping at the bit at home when the Moose visit.

From there, the Moose travel to Toronto for a two-game set against the Marlies and Jonathan Bernier. The last time Bernier played in the AHL, he was with the Manchester Monarchs, so this will be a different feel for the netminder while he fulfills the conditioning stint that the Leafs have him on. Toronto, for what it's worth, are cruising along at 15-5-1-0 this season and are atop the North Division standings. There won't be anything easily earned in Toronto, so the Moose will have to be ready to play an NHL-calibre goalie and a very good AHL team!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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