Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Antler Bantler: Volume 13

Antler Banter returns today with a severe case of triskaidekaphobia. The Manitoba Moose rolled into Hershey, Pennsylvania for a couple of games against the AHL-leading Hershey Bears, and there were some definite questions as to how the Moose would respond after a couple of blow-outs against the Milwaukee Admirals before the AHL All-Star break. Injury news returns today as the Moose see a few players return to the stretchers. For all of your Manitoba Moose news and information, don't forget to check out the Moose website. If you're interested in attending a Manitoba Moose game, please click here for seating information, ticket pricing, and availability. Hardcore Hockey takes a bit of a beating today, so let's get through this.

Mauled By The Bears

This one was simply looming on the horizon. The Moose were playing downright brutal hockey, and the Bears were destroying unsuspecting teams like they had rabies and a thirst for blood. Yes, it was that bad. I can't even begin to describe the horror I witnessed, but let's just say that Manitoba was consistent in scoring one goal per period. Cory Schneider got little help in the Moose net Friday night, while Braden Holtby suited up for the Bears.

Let me blunt here: I'm going to do this quickly. Like tearing off a band-aid. Quick and painless. Well, there's always a little pain. But it's fast so it doesn't last as long. That's better than long-term pain, right? Lots of pictures to try and make you smile through this horrific recap, so let's begin.

Andrew Joudrey poked home a rebound off an Oskar Osala shot from the right side of the crease for his sixth goal of the season at 10:07 of the first. Hershey led 1-0.

Mathieu Schneider pounded home a slaphot from the point on the powerplay to pull the Moose even 48 seconds later. Schneider's third goal of the season made it 1-1.

Keith Aucoin found a seam between Moose defencemen Taylor Ellington and Brian Salcido to streak in alone on Cory Schneider. A quick shot to the glove side found the back of the net, and Aucoin's 23rd goal of the season gave the Bears a 2-1 lead at the 12:42 mark of the first period. That score would hold steady to the first intermission.

Marco Rosa was sent to the box at 1:28 of the second period for charging, and the Bears went back to the powerplay. However, things got worse for the Moose when Mathieu Schneider was given two minutes of time in the box for hooking 1:02 later. With two Moose players in the box, Chris Bourque hammered a one-timer home from the slot to give the Bears a 3-1 lead on the powerplay at 3:07.

Marco Rosa brought the Herd within one goal at 4:55 when he shoveled home a loose puck under Holtby while a conference of players stood in front of the goaltender. Rosa's 12th goal of the season had the Moose trailing by a 3-2 score.

At the 6:26 mark, Steve Pinizzotto converted a Kyle Wilson pass from behind the net when he found a hole in the right corner. Pinizzotto's eighth of the season restored the Bears' two-goal lead at 4-2. Surprisingly, this was the last goal of the period despite there being 20 shots on net between the two teams. Hershey led in shots-on-net by a 20-16 margin.

Marco Rosa's 13th goal of the season was set up by a gorgeous feed from Michael Grabner. Grabner ate up a turnover and fed Rosa who beat Holtby to make it 4-3 just 2:41 into the third period. Let's just say that the Moose had poked a sleeping bear for too long.

Nikita Kashirsky was sent off at 6:04 for slashing, and the Bears went back to the powerplay. Alexandre Giroux sent a rocket from the point towards the net, and Andrew Gordon got a piece of it to deflect it past Schneider at the 7:25 mark. Gordon's 20th goal of the season on the powerplay put the Bears up 5-3.

39 seconds later, Oskar Osala scored his 11th goal of the season, and Kyle Wilson added his 17th of the season 1:20 after Osala's marker. Before the Moose could breathe, they were down 7-3.

Three minutes later, Jay Beagle scored a gorgeous shorthanded goal while teammate Patrick McNeill was off for hooking. Beagle skated down the middle of the ice after the Moose turned the puck over, allowing him to break in alone on Schneider. He deked around Schneider's left leg, and notched his eighth of the season past the sprawling Moose goaltender. Hershey led 8-3.

Like any mauling, it mercifully came to an end after Beagle's goal, and the Bears claimed victory with their 8-3 thrashing of the Moose. The Hershey fans went home happy on Friday night, and the Hershey Bears left the Moose in a bloody mess. With the loss, the Moose dropped to 23-18-4-1, but there was no silver lining on this game. Instead, all the Moose had to look forward to was a Saturday night game against these same Bears.

Dead Moose Carcass

The Moose looked to rebound from a disappointing effort that saw the Bears hang a season-high eight goals on the Herd, but this was nothing more than a repeat of the mauling they took a night before. Daren Machesney was thrown to his former Bear teammates, but they took little mercy on their former friend and ally. Braden Holtby returned to the den for the Bears.

Guillaume Desbiens solved Holtby just 1:19 as the Moose looked like they were going to reverse their fortunes early on. Mario Bliznak found Desbiens with a cross-ice pass that Desbien zipped past Holtby on the right side for his ninth goal of the season. The Moose jumped out to a 1-0 lead on the surprised Bears. However, you never surprise a bear. Ever. Because just when you think it's safe, you're bear dinner.

Keith Aucoin rifled a slapshot past Machesney on the powerplay with Evan Oberg in the box. Aucoin's 24th of the season knotted the game at 1-1 at 7:14. Oskar Osala netted his 12th of the season at 11:50 after zipping the puck upstairs past Machesney. And 27 seconds later, Jay Beagle scored his ninth of the season with a low shot that eluded Machesney.

For all the good that Manitoba had done in the first few minutes, it came undone in a hurry in the first period as the Bears closed out the first stanza with a 3-1 lead on the scoreboard, and a 22-9 advantage in shots. The Moose should have considered that a victory in itself as it could have been much, much worse.

The second period didn't fare much better, however. The Bears were buzzing the Moose net like jet fighters in an air raid.

Keith Aucoin scored his second of the night and 25th of season just 1:48 in as his wrist shot found the back of the net. This gave the Bears a 4-1 lead, and the rout was just starting.

Defenceman John Carlson made the Moose pay during some four-on-four hockey when he broke in all alone on Machesney, and ripped a shot past Machesney's glove hand. Carlson's third of the season made it 5-1 at 8:07 mark of the second period.

In what should also be considered a bright spot for the Moose, Evan Rankin scored his first career AHL goal at the 14:17 mark. Rankin had been signed by the Moose earlier that day on a professional tryout contract, and he showed management that he deserves a look with his marker.

With 40 minutes in the book, Hershey led by a 5-2 score, and they had a huge advantage in the shot department with a 34-20 count. If there was a time to wave the white flag, this may have been it. However, professional hockey doesn't allow for teams to throw in the towel, so it was on to the third period.

With Travis Ramsey off for an early tripping penalty, Andrew Gordon took full advantage on the powerplay. Off a beautiful backdoor feed from Keith Aucoin, Gordon scored his 21st goal of the season at 1:05, and the Bears took a 6-2 lead.

The powerplay continued to kill the Moose. Guillaume Desbiens took a delay-of-game penalty, and Chris Bourque used the extra room to make it 7-2. Bourque's 13th goal of the season came at the 11:13 mark of the third period.

Boyd Kane scored his 16th goal of the season with 1:39 to play in the game. Despite the score, you would have thought that the Moose's pride would have eventually prompted them to play with a little more passion, but it wasn't to be.

After the slaughtering on Saturday night that resulted in an 8-2 Hershey win, the Moose drop to a 23-19-4-1 record.

What Can I Say?

Honestly, when you're outshot 76-58 and outscored 16-5 in the last two games, there's probably going to be a whole lot of wind sprints at practice in the next few days. This weekend is one to be forgotten.

Combine that effort with the weekend before, and the Moose have been outscored 29-9 in their last four games. This is not the team that played so confidently two weeks ago at MTS Centre against the Bears whatsoever. Whatever has changed since then hasn't helped one bit.

Moose Infirmary

There were a few key additions to sick bay this week, and they have a lasting impact on the team. For a fragile blueline as it is, losing a couple of key cogs isn't helping matters at all.
  • Mathieu Schneider - knee injury. Reports say he tweaked his knee during Monday's practice, and will likely be out for 7-14 days.
  • Nathan McIver - broken hand. It could be up to a month before McIver returns to the Moose lineup.
  • Geoff Waugh - broken hand. It's the same story for Waugh as his broken hand needs time to mend. Losing both McIver and Waugh is a huge blow for the team.
  • Alexandre Bolduc - shoulder surgery. Bolduc blew out his shoulder in a fight while with the Vancouver Canucks, and the gritty forward is most likely done for the season. This is a huge blow to the offensively-challenged Moose.
Bodies Everywhere

Players were recalled. Players were signed. Players were back from injury. All in all, it was a busy few days of paperwork for GM Craig Heisinger and head coach Scott Arniel.
  • Nolan Baumgartner - recalled by Vancouver. Baumgartner's play and recent AHL All-Star appearance prompted the Canucks to recall the veteran in place of injured Sami Salo. If you're counting, that's four Moose blueliners who are now missing.
  • Marty Murray - return from injury. Murray was out with a groin injury, but should be ready for action tonight in Worcester, Massachusetts.
  • Matt Pettinger - return from injury. Pettinger was also nursing a groin injury, but he's expected back tonight as well.
  • Nikita Kashirsky - signed to PTO. Kashirsky has been plying his trade with the South Carolina Sting Rays of the ECHL, and comes to the Moose having scored 17 goals and 14 assists in 36 games this season. The 24 year-old forward was an ECHL All-Star this season.
  • Chad Painchaud - signed to PTO. Painchaud has been with the Victoria Salmon Kings this season in the ECHL where the forward has scored 18 goals and 28 assists in 40 games this season. He does have 38 AHL games to his name with both Chicago and the Iowa Chops.
  • Evan Rankin - signed to PTO. Rankin has been playing with the Toledo Walleye this season. The 23 year-old forward has 20 goals and 14 assists in 41 games this season in the ECHL, and spent time in the Central Hockey League last year.
  • Tom Galvin - signed to PTO. Galvin comes to the Moose having played with Grand Rapids and Providence in previous years. The 30 year-old defenceman was on the blueline for Muskegon of the IHL this season before the Moose came calling.
Full Steam Ahead

After having been dismantled by the Hershey Bears, the Moose travel into Worcester, Massachusetts for a couple of games against the Sharks. They play the Baby Sharks on Wednesday and Friday before moving on to tackle the Baby Penguins in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Saturday and Sunday.

The Sharks are holding "Guaranteed Win Night" on Friday for their fans. If they win, everyone goes home happy. If they lose, everyone gets tickets to a Sharks game for free! Let's hope that the Moose show up and cost the Sharks some tickets on Friday.

Steven Zalewski leads the team in scoring among their active players with 17 goals and 25 assists. Former Moose defenceman Danny Groulx is right behind him with 32 points, so the Moose won't have it easy in their defensive zone. Alex Stalock is 25-10-1 with a 2.50 GAA, so scoring will require an all-out effort for the Moose.

In Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Dustin Jeffrey leads the team in scoring with 43 points while winger Luca Caputi leads the team with 14 goals. John Curry is a respectable 16-13-1 with a 2.54 GAA in the Penguins' net. Being that these games will be Game Two and Three of a three-in-three set, the Moose will need a big effort.

Let's be honest here: with all the turnover in the roster for the Moose, four out of eight points would be a minor miracle. If anything, the Moose simply need a win right now, and that's where they need to start. Don't worry about points; rather, just get a "W", and go from there.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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