Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Antler Banter: Season 1, Volume 43

The Moose finished off their two-game series against Rockford before moving to Milwaukee for a game and then moving on to Des Moines, Iowa for a two-game battle with the AHL Wild. In theory, the Moose could have a major win streak going if they can down Rockford and Milwaukee before taking on the league's worst team in the Iowa Wild. Not that Manitoba can claim to be anything better than Iowa at this point in the season as the Wild sit within striking distance of the Moose, but the latest point streak has helped the Moose build confidence and keep them from the bottom of the standings. The Moose play a couple of tougher teams before visiting a team they should beat on this week's edition of Antler Banter!

The Games

On Friday, Manitoba led 2-0 on a first-period power-play goal by Scott Kosmachuk and a second period goal by Thomas Raffl before Chris DeSousa made things a little interesting at 12:02 of the third period by bringing the IceHogs within a goal. JC Lipon would restore the two-goal lead on an empty-net shorthanded goal at 17:21. Cameron Schilling would score on the power-play at 19:38 for the IceHogs, but the last 22 seconds ticked off without further red lights lit as the Moose took the second game in the two-game set by a 3-2 score. Eric Comrie made 37 stops in the victory while Mac Carruth suffered the loss as the former Tri-City American out-dueled the former Portland Winterhawk. The Moose improve to 15-27-4-5.

The Moose moved north up the highway to Milwaukee, Wisconsin where they met the Admirals on Saturday night. The Moose have had excellent success in Milwaukee this season, and this game added to that success. Max Gortz scored at 4:54 of the first period, and then it was all Moose. Brenden Kichton scored 19 seconds later, and Matt Halischuk, John Albert, and Scott Kosmachuk added third-period goals to lead the Moose to a 4-1 victory for their fourth-straight win and sixth game with a point. Connor Hellebuyck stopped 31 pucks while Marek Mazanec took the loss in this game. The win moves Manitoba to 16-27-4-5.

The Moose loaded up the bus and headed west for Des Moines, Iowa where the Iowa Wild were waiting for a Monday night match. Iowa jumped out to the 2-0 lead on goals by Brett Bulmer and Zac Dalpe after 25 minutes of play, so the Moose had to dig out of the hole they found themselves in. Patrice Cormier got one back midway through the second period, and Chase De Leo would tie the game 1:37 into the third period as these two teams were knotted up at 2-2. Iowa would rain on the Moose parade, though, as Dalpe scored his second goal of the game with 1:52 remaining and Leland Irving withstood a late rally as the Wild downed the Moose 3-2. Irving stopped 33 shots while Hellebuyck made 30 saves in the loss. The setback sees the Moose record to fall to 16-28-4-5.

With the win and point streaks over, the Moose looked to start a new one tonight. Thomas Raffl got the visitors on the board early as he scored a power-play goal just 4:04 into the game. Iowa would tie the game late in the second period when Zack Mitchell hit the scoreboard with 1:16 to play in the period. Former Moose defenceman and current Iowa Wild rearguard Maxime Fortunus put the Wild up 2-1 at 9:53 of the final frame, and that would be all that Steve Michalek would need to pick up a win as the Wild held on for the 2-1 victory. Michalek stopped 21 of 22 shots he faced while Hellebuyck dropped his second-straight game. The Moose fall to 16-29-4-5 on the season.

Fronk Conditioning

Jiri Fronk was assigned to the ECHL's Tulsa Oilers on Friday. Fronk has six goals and a helper in 21 games for the Moose this season. I thought he was having an effective season in his first pro campaign, but the Moose are looking for a little more growth, I guess. I don't think Fronk will be there long, but he'll suit up with the Oilers for a few games.

New Opportunities?

With the trade deadline approaching, there has to be some concern in Moose camp about the future. The Moose have a number of prospects that could be included in trades if the right deal comes up, so I don't think anyone outside of a handful of players - Hellebuyck and Comrie most notably - should sit comfortably. Veteran players on the Moose such as Jay Harrison, Matt Fraser, and Thomas Raffl could also be moved if the Jets want more of the youth into the lineup. We'll see what happens come next week, but the Moose have chips that could be included in any deal.

Next Week

The Moose welcome Charlotte to Winnipeg where they'll play a two-game set. The Moose are 1-2-1 against Charlotte this season, so they'll look to win the season series with a pair of wins this weekend. Charlotte has fallen off its early torrid pace to sit in fifth-place in the Central Division, but they're still 17 points better than the Moose. The Herd will have to come in ready to play against a team that desperately needs points to keep pace with Grand Rapids and Lake Erie. It should be a good test, but they played extremely well against Rockford and Milwaukee - first and second in the Central - so this shouldn't be thought of as an impossible task.

We'll check in next week and see how the Moose did right here on Antler Banter!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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