Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Antler Banter: Season 1, Volume 48

With a vast number of rostered players out of the lineup for various reasons, watching Winnipeg Jets games is turning into watching Manitoba Moose games. Lots of Moose players are in the lineup for the Jets as the season winds down, and head coach Paul Maurice appears to be having himself a little training camp in March. The good news for the Manitoba Moose is that there are a lot of the younger kids getting into the lineup and we're seeing some excellent signings starting to show fruit as GM Craig Heisinger is certainly earning his keep in working the phones and finding solid talent. The new guys may not be household names, but if they help the Moose put up a few wins they may be back next season for a longer look. Let's get this party started here on Antler Banter!

The Games

Saturday saw the Moose and Charlotte Checkers kick off a two-game set at MTS Centre as the Moose wore special jerseys for Autism Awareness Night! The only problem was that the Checkers showed up to play while the Moose sat back and admired their new threads. Charlotte jumped out to a 3-0 lead 21 minutes into the game that saw Eric Comrie head to the bench to be replaced by Connor Hellebuyck as head coach Keith McCambridge looked to spark his team. It seemed to work as Ben Walker scored his first of the season at 18:19 and Scott Kosmachuk put his 15th puck in the net 1:20 after that! Unfortunately for the Moose, the Checkers came out in the third period and buried them as they scored three more goals to give them the 6-2 victory. John Muse was good on 24 of 26 shots in the win while Eric Comrie took the loss in stopping six of nine shots. Hellebuyck stopped 15 of 17 in relief. The Moose fall to 21-37-4-5 on the season after the setback.

The two teams would resume hostilities on Monday at MTS Centre, and things started off well for the visitors as Derek Ryan notched a goal just 1:23 into the game to put the Checkers up 1-0. It would remain that way until just after the halfway mark in the game when Scott Kosmachuk hit the scoresheet again, putting his 16th goal of the season on the board for the 1-1 tie. At 7:35 of the third period, the kid struck again as Kosmachuk registered goal #17 on the power-play to put Manitoba up 2-1! Connor Hellebuyck would stand tall with the lead in keeping Charlotte off the board for the final 12 minutes of the game as the Moose take this one by the 2-1 score. Hellebuyck stopped 26 of 27 shots he faced while John Muse took the loss. With the win, the Moose improve to 22-37-4-5 on the campaign.

Additions And Subtractions

There have been a pile of moves made by the Jets and Moose, so hold on tight as we roll through this.

Friday saw the Jets return Chase De Leo and Scott Kosmachuk to the Moose. De Leo played two games without registering a point while Kosmachuk had three assists in eight games with the NHL club. Based on his performance against the Checkers, it appears Kosmachuk picked up a ton of confidence in his eight-game stint with the Jets.

In exchange for the two forwards, the Moose recalled Brenden Kichton to the NHL club on Friday. The 23 year-old defenceman leads the Moose in points with nine goals and 25 assists, and he's been an effective player for the Moose all season long. Kichton, if given the chance, could be productive for a Jets team that needs a good puck-moving defenceman.

In response to Kichton's recall, the Moose also announced that they had signed defenceman Sean Escobedo to a PTO on Friday. The 25 year-old rearguard has played in 62 games with the ECHL's Greenville Swamp Rabbits, picking up one goal and 21 assists in that time. He has also seen AHL time in three games with Hartford and Charlotte this year. He should be a steady addition to the patchwork Moose blue line.

On Saturday, the Moose announced that they had signed forward Brandon Denham to an ATO. The 24 year-old played for Robert Morris University in the NCAA this season where he posted 22 goals and 20 assists for 42 points in 39 games with RMU. He also served as their assistant captain, so it appears that Craig Heisinger has found another good collegiate player who brings scoring and character to the Moose!

The Winnipeg Jets made Brenden Kichton's time with the NHL club a short one as they returned him to the Moose on Saturday. Kichton has yet to appear in an NHL game in his career, but he's trending in the right direction for that to happen soon.

Monday morning, the Moose recalled goaltender Jussi Olkinuora from the ECHL's Tulsa Oilers as Eric Comrie was absent from practice. Olkinuora sports a 9-8-2 record in 20 games for the Oilers with a 2.73 GAA and a .907 save percentage. His six games with the Moose haven't gone so well, so he's looking to improve on those statistics before the year is done.

On Wednesday morning, the Jets recalled Chase De Leo once more. Will he see action this time?

The Moose also announced Wednesday morning that they had signed three defencemen: Jordan Hill, Jordon Southorn, and Jon Jutzi. A whole lot of J's in there. So who are these guys?

Jordan Hill was signed to a PTO. The 27 year-old played 66 games with the ECHL's Norfolk Admirals this season, amassing four goals and 22 assists. Hill spent time in the last two seasons with the St. John's IceCaps, so he's familiar with the True North franchise, and he made his pro debut with the Moose back in 2009-10. Hill's a good, steady defenceman who takes care of the puck in his own end. He's a solid addition to the club.

Jordon Southorn also joins the Moose on a PTO. The 25 year-old Southorn has played 60 games with the ECHL's Fort Wayne Komets where he's put up nine goals and 29 assists. He's seen time in the AHL with Providence and Portland to the tune of 29 games, but he's a solid ECHL blueliner as he has 273 games experience there. He won't be flashy, but he should do well.

Jon Jutzi comes to the Moose on an ATO. The 24 year-old arrives in Manitoba having finished a college career at Minnesota State University where he played 41 games this season, putting up five goals and ten assists. He's more of a stay-at-home type of defenceman, so it will be interesting to see how his transition to the pro game goes.

Not Many Left

The season is winding down as the Moose, as of writing this piece, have a total of eight games left. That includes tonight's and Friday's games in Des Moines versus the Iowa Wild in a battle of the cellar dwellers. The Wild trail the Moose by three points in the standings, and the Moose trail the Springfield Falcons by one point when it comes to the bottom of the AHL standings. Clearly, these four points mean a lot to both the Moose and Wild as it will determine who may finish in the cellar of the AHL standings this season.

Beyond that, the Moose welcome the Central Division-leading Milwaukee Admirals to town next Tuesday and Wednesday. Of all the teams that Milwaukee has defeated this season, the Moose hold a 4-1-1 record against the Admirals. There have been four one-goal games, and the Moose won the only game in their last meeting by three goals. In other words, the Moose have the Admirals' number this season. We'll see if they can push the season series to a 7-1-1 record when the Admirals visit town next week!

That's all for tonight! The Moose are currently in action against the Iowa Wild, so GO MOOSE GO!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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