Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Antler Banter: Season 1, Volume 38

The Moose were off on a road trip that would take them to both coasts in the United States as they started the trip in Charlotte, North Carolina and would end the trip off in California. The Moose are chasing the Checkers in the standings, but the gap is large between the two teams so getting points would be helpful for the Herd. California's teams are nothing to sneeze at either as they're playing solid hockey as we saw when Ontario visited Manitoba earlier in the season. In other words, this road trip isn't going to be a walk in the park and the Moose will have to earn every inch on the ice as well as every point in the standings. In saying that, let's see how the Moose did in Charlotte as they kicked off the road trip!

Checked Off

The Moose sent Eric Comrie to the blue paint to start the road trip while the Checkers called upon Daniel Altshuller to defend their net. Both goalies would stand tall in the opening period for the scoreless tie through 20 minutes, so we'll jump ahead to the second period where we saw goals scored.

6:17 into the middle frame, Ryan Murphy loaded up a blast from the point that Comrie kicked out, but Brody Sutter was parked out front and was able to backhand the rebound over the sprawling Comrie for the 1-0 Charlotte lead. Sutter would be in on the next goal as well as his wrist shot from the left face-off dot hit Brendan Woods who was standing at the left post and caromed into the net behind Comrie for the 2-0 lead at 11:29. The Moose would cut the lead in half at the 14:11 mark, though, when Altshuller turned the puck over to Patrice Cormier in the corner who fed the puck to John Albert in the slot. His one-timer found the back of the net to make it a 2-1 Checkers game.

The third period saw the Moose tie the game off a solid individual effort by Paul Postma who held possession all the way down the left wing while escaping the check of two defenders. Once around the net, Postma threw the puck into the slot that was meant for Chase De Leo, but the puck got by him. However, Austen Brassard was standing behind De Leo, and Brassard's shot would not be stopped as Manitoba tied the game at 2-2 with 5:34 to play. Neither team would find the back of the net in the last five minutes, so it was off to overtime!

2:34 in, we'd find a winner. TJ Hensick carried the puck into the Manitoba zone on a 2-on-1 and out-waited a sprawling Postma to set up Ethan Werek for the easy game-winner as Comrie was out of position. Charlotte would take the first game of the two-game set by a 3-2 score in overtime! Altshuller picked up the win after making 27 saves while Comrie took the loss. Manitoba falls to 11-20-2-3 on the season with the loss.

Checked Out

From a solid effort the night before to a rather unspectacular showing the next day. David Wohlberg opened the scoring off a long wrist shot from the high slot area that Eric Comrie appeared to whiff on at 6:39, and the Checkers went ahead 1-0. Scott Kosmachuk would even the game on a good individual effort as he beat Daniel Altshuller to the far side after chipping a puck past Ryan Murphy for the partial breakaway at 19:29 to send to the game into the intermission tied 1-1.

The second period saw a second goal by the Checkers that Comrie seemed to completely miss as Phil Di Giuseppe fired a shot using Moose defender Peter Stoykewych as a screen that Comrie barely moved on. Di Giuseppe's shot found the twine at 17:16 for the 2-1 Charlotte lead.

Ethan Werek would use a power-play to make it 3-1. Werek skated into the middle of the ice and threw a backhander on net that Comrie got a piece of, but the puck went over him and landed in the back of the net at 4:34. The Checkers would add another less than two minutes later as Derek Ryan flew down the left wing and cut to the middle where he unleashed a wrist shot high to the glove side that Comrie couldn't bring down at 6:25. That would be all Charlotte needed on this night as they took the second-half of the back-to-back by a 4-1 score. Altshuller stopped 17 of 18 shots for the win while Comrie suffered the loss. Manitoba falls to 11-21-2-3 on the season.

Player Carousel

Matt Halischuk was recalled by the Jets last Wednesday, and he's been skating with the NHL club. While he's been playing on the fourth line, you can't really fault the Jets for bringing up an energy guy for their checking line. The only problem is that Manitoba will miss that energy.

Adding to that pain was Sunday's recall of Patrice Cormier and JC Lipon as the Jets are suffering through a pile of injuries. Again, the loss of some good energy guys and scoring from the Moose lineup won't help as they travel to California. Hopefully, the three Moose players can help the Jets in a big way.

The AHL also suspended Darren Kramer for one game as a consequence of his actions following the January 17 game against Charlotte. As a result, Manitoba called up Tulsa in the ECHL and had them send Axel Blomqvist to the squad. Blomqvist has recorded one goal and three assists in 12 games since being re-assigned by the Moose on December 18. There's hope that Blomqvist can bring some offence and energy to the lineup as the team moves on to California.

No Changes

The injury list for the Moose remains the same: Jay Harrison and Thomas Raffl. Both have been skating in Manitoba, but are not yet ready for game action. We're looking at a post-All-Star Game return for these two.

California Soul

The Moose will visit the Ontario Reign tonight, the Stockton Heat on Friday and Saturday, the Bakersfield Condors on Tuesday and Friday, and finish off the California swing with a return engagement with the Reign on Saturday, January 30. This isn't going to be easy for the Moose as Ontario leads the Pacific Division. Stockton is in sixth-place and could be conquered if the Moose play well, and Bakersfield sits in fifth-place but appear to have more talent than their record implies. If the Moose can split the six games, I'd call that a victory. We'll see what happens!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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