Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Antler Banter: Season 1, Volume 37

The Moose were finishing off a home stand that had the squad on a 2-1-1 streak! The only problem is that the Toronto Marlies - the AHL's best team - were visiting this week, and they were looking to continue their excellent play. On their heels, the Lake Erie Monsters would visit Winnipeg as well, and they were looking to do some damage at MTS Centre as they looked to climb the Central Division standings. Needless to say, that winning record the Moose were sporting in the 2016 calendar year would be challenged by these two tough opponents. With ownership having deemed the Moose a "developmental team", beating these two opponents would go a long way in putting the Moose on the right track of that development!

Marlies Are Good

It took until the second period for the Marlies to impose their wills on the Moose, but it happened. On the power-play from the top of the umbrella, TJ Brennan fed Josh Leivo in the left face-off dot, and Leivo's one-timer found room high on the stick side past Eric Comrie to put the Marlies up 1-0 at the 16:00 mark.

The Marlies would go up by a late in the game when Stuart Percy's wrist shot found room through the screen and dented the twine behind Comrie at 17:41 of the third period. An empty-net goal by Ryan Rupert 41 seconds later sealed the deal as the Marlies skated to the 3-0 victory. Rob Madore made a number of excellent saves to keep the Moose off the board, stopping 26 pucks sent his way in the shutout win. Eric Comrie stopped 23 of 25 shots in the loss, and the Moose fall to 10-18-1-3 on the season.

Polar Bear Night!

January 9 was Polar Bear jersey night at MTS Centre as the Moose took to the ice in the jerseys to the right. The jerseys were being worn for one night as the Moose were helping the Assiniboine Park Zoo raise money for the Assiniboine Park Zoo's Polar Rescue Team that works to rescue and rehabilitate orphaned and abandoned polar cubs so they can be returned to the wild as the majestic bears they are. The auction for the jerseys is ongoing, so get over there and grab one of these special jerseys and help out some polar bear cubs!

The Toronto Marlies, however, are not interested in helping the Moose. Early in the second period, Jeremy Morin threw a long shot on net that Eric Comrie stopped despite the screen and battle in front of him. The problem? The rebound went to TJ Brennan in the slot and he buried it at 1:01 to put Toronto up 1-0. The Moose would square up the game late in the period, though. JC Lipon one-timed a pass in the high slot from Josh Morrissey, beating Ray Emery high on the glove side with the man-advantage at 16:10 to make it a 1-1 game.

In the third period, the Moose did nothing to help themselves. Nic Petan was called for hooking at 5:06 and Jimmy Lodge was whistled for tripping at 6:55, and the Marlies took advantage of the man-advantage opportunities. First, Josh Leivo tipped home a TJ Brennan point shot at 5:19 to set Petan free. Following that, Jeremy Morin finished off a passing play from Nikita Soshnikov and Brett Findlay to set Lodge loose from the sin bin at 7:58, but the Moose now trailed 3-1. It didn't help that Soshnikov followed that goal with one of his own at 10:05 as his wrist shot from the left face-off dot beat Comrie on one I'm sure he'd like back. That would round out the scoring as the Marlies downed the Moose 4-1. Ray Emery stopped 21 of 22 shots for the win. Eric Comrie stopped 41 of 45 pucks sent his way in the loss. The setback puts the Moose at 10-19-1-3 on the season.

Monster-Ugly Game

Let's just get this one over with because it was ugly. Trent Vogelhuber put the Monsters up 1-0 at 14:31. Manitoba evened the game at 19:44 when Matt Halischuk scored his fourth goal of the season. All seems fine, right?

And then the floodgates opened. Michael Chaput scored at 7:04 and Daniel Zaar scored at 18:46 to make it a 3-1 game for the Monsters. Sonny Milano opened the third period with a goal at 3:13 and Ryan Craig added the fifth Lake Erie goal just 1:01 later that would end Eric Comrie's night as he was replaced by Jesse Olkinuora in the blue paint for Manitoba.

The Manitoba power-play would get one back as Paul Postma's blast found room past Brad Thiessen to make it a 5-2 game, but Lake Erie would answer back 29 seconds later when Joe Devin beat Olkinuora. The quick goals would continue as Manitoba's Jiri Fronk scored his third goal of the season just 11 seconds after the Devin goal. I'm not sure of the logic behind this, but Manitoba decided to pull the goalie down 6-3, and this allowed Devin to notch his second of the game into the yawning cage at 17:33. That's all that would be needed as Lake Erie took this one by a 7-3 score. Thiessen made 24 saves in the win. Eric Comrie stopped 21 of 26 shots he saw, and Olkinuora stopped seven of eight shots he saw in his 14:12 of work. Manitoba drops to 10-20-1-3 on the season in the loss.

Monsters Mauled By Moose

I'm not sure what was said after the 7-3 loss to the Monsters, but the Moose looked like an entirely different team tonight as they imposed their wills in this game. They were physical, they scored goals, they played defence, and there was even a Gordie Howe hat trick! It was all Moose, so let's get to it!

On a broken play where Brad Thiessen made three saves but gave up four rebounds, JC Lipon would find the back of the net for his eighth goal of the season at 19:48 on a wrap-around with Thiessen nowhere near the play and bodies strewn all over the place to give the Moose the 1-0 lead going into the first intermission.

The second period would be the De Leo period. Just before a power-play expired, JC Lipon found Auston Brassard in the slot, but his one-timer was stopped by Thiessen. However, Chase De Leo was out in front of the crease where the rebound came out, and he slammed home his tenth of the season at 4:32 to put Manitoba up 2-0. 2:15 later, De Leo would strike again. Jan Kostalek fed De Leo at the right face-off dot, and De Leo one-timed his 11th of the season past Thiessen as the Moose took a 3-0 lead! It should be noted that JC Lipon earned the Gordie How hat trick after he picked up his first-period goal, his second-period assist, and a fight with Dillon Heatherington at 6:25!

The Moose would add a fourth goal at the 13:00 mark of the third period when Nic Petan won a puck battle in the corner and fed a completely unchecked Jiri Fronk in the slot who went forehand-backhand in deking Brad Thiessen out of position. Fronk flipped his fourth of the season into the yawning cage, and the Moose would shut the door on this 4-0 win for their first shutout of the season! Eric Comrie stopped all 24 shots he saw while Thiessen took the loss. The Moose improve to 11-20-1-3 on the season with the win!

Here Today, Gone Tomorrow

The Moose got a big addition from the Winnipeg Jets when the Jets decided to send defenceman Paul Postma to the Moose for a conditioning assignment. Postma's presence was noticeable in both games against the Marlies, and he even picked up a goal in the 7-3 loss. If Postma is looking to get back on track this season with the Jets, a good conditioning assignment will help. So far, he's looking like he's taking this opportunity seriously.

To make room for Postma, the Moose re-assigned defenceman Aaron Harstad to the ECHL's Tulsa Oilers. Harstad played in one game since his recall and recorded no points. The 23 year-old needs to start finding his game, and some extended time in Tulsa would be good for him.

No Changes

The injury list for the Moose still has Jay Harrison and Thomas Raffl on it. Both are skating, but are not yet ready for game action. There's hope that both will return prior to the AHL All-Star Game break, but I'd opt for keeping them out until after the break to allow them the maximum amount of time to recover.

On The Road Again

The Moose visit the Charlotte Checkers this weekend with games on Saturday and Sunday from North Carolina. Charlotte is third in the Central Division, and have a rather large lead on the Moose in the standings. However, points against division rivals are always important, so the Moose need to be ready for the Checkers.

Charlotte's Derek Ryan is dominating the stats board. He leads the team in goals (12), assists (20), points (32), power-play goals (4), and is tied for the team lead in plus/minus (+5). Brock McGinn is the only other player with double-digits in goals (10), but defenceman Trevor Carrick has 21 points and both winger Justin Shugg and defenceman Jake Chelios have 20 points apiece. Netminding would be a lot more solid with Drew McIntyre in the blue paint, but it appears the Checkers will go with the tandem of Daniel Altshuller and Rasmus Tirronen this weekend. Altshuller is the better of the two, sporting an 8-1-1 record, a 1.78 GAA, and a .940 save percentage.

Following their time in North Carolina, the Moose will jet off for a cross-country adventure as they head to California to play the Ontario Reign, a pair of games against the Stockton Heat, another pair against the Bakersfield Condors, and a final game against Ontario before returning home in February.

This won't be an easy road trip, but an effort like they game against the Monsters tonight will do wonders for coming home with a winning record on this trip! Let's hope the Moose can bring it on the road!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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