Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Antler Banter: Season 1, Volume 33

The Moose returned home from the butt-kicking they took in Chicago and Toronto, and it was time to take advantage of a team that has had no success against the Moose thus far in the Milwaukee Admirals. The Moose had been outscored 20-3 in their previous three games, and head coach Keith McCambridge ran his squad through some lively practices in the lead-up to the two game set with Milwaukee. Would this pay off for the Moose who desperately need points if they hope to keep the word "playoffs" in their vocabulary? Let's take a look at how the Moose did in their weekend set against their old IHL foes!

Game 22 - Vs Milwaukee

The Moose are 2-0 on the season against the Admirals with both wins coming in Milwaukee. Would that same success follow the Moose back to Winnipeg? It didn't start well as the Admirals jumped out to the 1-0 at the 12:37 mark when Joe Pendenza fired a rolling puck from the left wing that may have caught the stick of Jay Harrison as it went up and over the shoulder of Eric Comrie. The Moose, though, would knot things back up when a poor clearing attempt up the middle of the ice by Petter Granberg was one-timed into the back of the net past Marek Mazanec by Julian Melchiori for the 1-1 tie.

Manitoba owned the second period as they took control of this game. Nic Petan won a face-off in the Milwaukee zone back to Pete Stoykewych, and his point shot was stopped by Mazanec. However, Matt Fraser was in front and he corralled the rebound before burying the puck into the yawning cage past Mazanec for the 2-1 lead at 9:54. The Moose would make it a 3-1 game when Chase De Leo threw a rather harmless shot on net as he circled out from behind the net, and Mazanec completely misplayed it as it found the back of the net off his own stick! De Leo's marker at 16:38 gave the Moose a nice cushion for the third period.

The two teams would trade chances, including Manitoba giving up a couple of power-play opportunities, but there would be only one goal scored. Taylor Aronson banked a pass off the end-boards to Max Reinhart who caught Comrie a little late in his lateral move across the goal line to make it 3-2 with just 12 seconds to play. Comrie would close the door in the final seconds as Manitoba wins this game 3-2! Comrie was outstanding in this one, stopping 30 of 32 shots in the victory while Mazanec took the loss. Manitoba improves to 6-14-1-1 on the season with the win!

Game 23 - Vs Milwaukee

The Moose were now 3-0 against the Admirals, and there was a good chance they could turn that into 4-0 and their first two-game winning streak of the season if they continued their mastery over Milwaukee. Once more, the Admirals opened the scoring in this one. While on the power-play, Trevor Murphy went cross-ice to Pontus Aberg, and his one-timer found room between Eric Comrie and the right post for the 1-0 lead at 9:45. Manitoba would respond a few minutes later when Joel Armia chipped a puck past Kristian Nakyva, and John Albert picked up the loose puck. It looked like Taylor Aronson would run Albert out of room when Albert spotted Josh Morrissey breaking into the slot unchecked. Albert's pass would find Morrissey and he chipped it past Juuse Saros for the 1-1 equalizer at 12:37.

Manitoba would take the lead 4:47 into the second period when Austen Brassard found a loose puck in the corner and spotted Ryan Olsen in the slot. Olsen wasted no time in one-timing it past Saros to put Manitoba up one goal. It appeared Manitoba would take the lead into the third period again, but Milwaukee would strike late. Vinny Saponari would cut into the Moose zone and strea up the right wing before putting a shot on net that Comrie would kick out into the slot. Frederick Gaudreau made good on his drive to the net through the slot by banging home that dangerous rebound at 19:49, and it was a 2-2 game to start the third period.

Victor Bartley and Adam Payerl would break in on the Moose on a 2-on-1 while shorthanded midway through the final frame. Melchiori could do little to stop the pass from Bartley to Payerl, and Payerl had nothing but an open net to shoot at as he scored at 10:45 to put the Admirals up 3-2. Late in the game, Aronson would rattle the puck around the boards in an attempt to clear the puck, but Jay Harrison would cut it off at the blue line. Harrison would send a wrist shot in on Saros that fooled the netminder entirely as it got through him and ricocheted off the middle post before any of the Amdirals realized what had happened. Harrison's third of the season at 17:34 made it a 3-3 game, and it was off to overtime!

Overtime would solve nothing, so it would take a shootout to determine a winner in this game. Manitoba would shoot first, and Saros would stop all five shooters Manitoba sent his way. Comrie would see Saponari go forehand, freeze Comrie with a good fake, and then deke to the backhand before depositing the puck past a prone Comrie for the shootout winner as Milwaukee wins 4-3. Comrie stopped 34 of 37 shots sent his way before giving up the winner on the fifth Milwaukee shootout attempt in the loss. Saros picked the shootout win, and the Moose fall to 6-14-1-2 on the season.

The Infirmed

Nada. Zip. Zilch. No one. The Moose are healthy.

The Dressing Room Is Getting Full

Joel Armia was returned to the Moose on Saturday prior to the first game against the Admirals. He actually set the screen on Melchiori's goal and it was thought he may have tipped the puck, so he had a bit of an impact upon his return. They'll need more from Armia if the Moose want to continue earning points.

In a rather shocking and unforeseen move, the Moose announced around noon today that second-year forward Adam Lowry was being sent to the Moose. Lowry is off his production from last year as he's posted just one goal and seven assists in 31 games thus far. According to Jets head coach Paul Maurice, he needs to find more speed to compete at the NHL level. This could be a huge addition to the Moose if Lowry comes down with determination to get back to his NHL self. He should be in the lineup in time to face the San Antonio Rampage tonight!

Merry Christmas

The Moose start a two-game set starting tonight against the San Antonio Rampage at MTS Centre. The Rampage enter the back-to-back set at 11-8-6-0, and should be a good measuring stick for this newly-equipped Moose squad. Miko Rantanen leads the Rampage in points with 23, and is tied for the team lead in goals with Andrew Agozzino at 9 and tied for the team lead in assists with Maxim Noreau at 14. Those three, along with Colin Smith, have 19 points or better so far this season, so there are definitely players who can score for the Rampage.

Calvin Pickard comes home to Winnipeg with an 8-6-4 record, a 2.83 GAA, and a .917 save percentage. He hasn't been lighting the world on fire, but he's capable of winning games as long as there's a bit of offensive support. We may see Roman Will in one of these two games, but his 1-1-1 record coupled with his 4.31 GAA and .868 save percentage should worry no one at this point.

From there, the Moose hit the American midwest once more as they travel to Milwaukee for a Saturday night tilt where the Moose have played some excellent hockey. The Moose are 3-0-1 against the Admirals, and they are 2-0 in Milwaukee thus far. Whatever they're doing against Milwaukee needs to happen some more because half of the Moose's regulation wins have come against Milwaukee thus far. Keep it going in Cream City and cream the Admirals once more!

After that, it's on to Chicago for a Monday night game where the Wolves have kicked the hell out of the Moose thus far. While I'm not suggesting that the Moose just mail the Wolves the two points, they need to come in with a sense of desperation as they try to hunt the Wolves down in the standings. They're not invincible, but the Moose can't let Chicago lay another 8-2 beating on them either.

We'll check out how the Moose close out their pre-Christmas games next week. Personally, if the Moose can go 3-1, they would significantly close the gap between themselves, the Wolves, and the Charlotte Checkers, and they'd give themselves a shot at the playoffs in the second-half of the season. It's time for the Herd to bear down and score some wins!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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