Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Antler Banter: Volume 17

With the second week of the Olympics underway, and a lot of good hockey still to be played in Vancouver, we pause to check out what's been happening with the Manitoba Moose on Antler Banter. The Moose had a Toronto-Rochester-Toronto swing to end their eastern portion of the roadtrip before getting ready for a trip to Texas to end the roadtrip this week. We'll review those games, and talk a little about the Syracuse-Binghamton outdoor game from last Saturday. You can always find all of your Manitoba Moose news and information on the Moose website. If you're interested in attending a Manitoba Moose game, please click here for seating information, ticket pricing, and availability. Let's get cracking with the Hardcore Hockey!

Moose Blinded By Big City Lights

The Moose rolled into Toronto on Wednesday night after having dispatched the Rochester Americans the night before. Having split with the Marlies the weekend before, there was some urgency to pick up at least a point on the road against Toronto. Cory Schenider and Joey MacDonald took to the blue paint at either ends of the ice for this game.

The opening faceoff led to an odd-man rush for the Moose as Dan Sexton cruised into the Toronto zone after taking a pass from Travis Ramsey. On the two-on-one, Sexton fed a lovely pass across to Michael Grabner, and the Austrian-born sniper buried the puck behind MacDonald. Just 11 seconds in, the Moose were up 1-0 on Grabner's 12th goal of the season.

Manitoba increased their lead on the powerplay just before the midway point of the period. Nikita Kashirsky had taken a hooking call at 6:03, but Brett Festerling was sent to the Toronto sin bin 16 seconds later for roughing. Kashirsky spent the two minutes in the box, and emerged as Manitoba stormed up the ice. With their mere 16 seconds of powerplay time, the Moose capitalized when Marco Rosa ripped a shot from inside the faceoff circle past MacDonald. Rosa's 19th goal of the season at 8:14 was a powerplay marker, and gave Manitoba the 2-0 lead.

Brian Salcido took a tripping penalty 27 seconds after the goal, sending Toronto to the powerplay. After a fairly uneventful start to the powerplay, the Marlies began to move the puck well. A point shot by Brendan Mikkelson was tipped in front by Kyle Calder, and the puck found its way past Schneider. Calder's powerplay goal at 10:25 was his fifth of the season, and Toronto was on the board, trailing by a 2-1 score.

The rest of the period was played out without any goals, but the two teams were knotted at 14 shots apiece. While I wouldn't say the Moose were firmly in control, the first period looked like a good road effort. However, the second period proved me wrong.

As the period wore on, you could tell that Toronto was building some momentum by carrying the play. MacDonald played well in the Toronto net, stopping the Moose chances, but Toronto was getting more quality chances, and it showed when the Marlies capitalized.

A delayed penalty call allowed the Marlies to send on the extra attacker, but it didn't take long for them to score. Tim Brent converted a Greg Scott pass into a goal when he left the two Moose defencemen looking like pylons before sliding a puck under Schneider. I'm not sure what Nick Boynton and Nolan Baumgartner were thinking, but someone should have laid Brent out before he got to Schneider. In any case, the Marlies tied the game at 2-2 on Brent's fifth goal of the season with 3:01 remaining in the period.

Jonas Frogren took a selfish kneeing penalty at 18:13, and the Moose were headed back to the powerplay. However, another miscue between Boynton and Baumgartner allowed a shorthanded two-on-one for Phil Oreskovic and Ben Simon. Simon found Oreskovic wide-open at the backdoor, and he buried his first of the season while shorthanded at 18:37 of the second.

The period would close with the Marlies up 3-2 on Oreskovic's shorthanded tally, and the Marlies leading 25-20 on the shot clock. Honestly, Boynton and Baumgartner were truly killer B's out there as their mistakes cost Manitoba the lead in that period.

Tim Brent added his second goal of the evening by squeaking a wraparound past Schneider. Schneider just couldn't get to the post before Brent slid home the puck, and Brent's sixth of the season at 4:23 gave the hometown Marlies the 4-2 lead.

The Moose didn't quit, however. Sergei Shirokov found the back of the net when his shot got underneath MacDonald's glove at 12:23 of the third. Shirokov has been missing from the scoresheet lately, so it's nice to see the Russian rookie doing what he does best again. Shirokov's 17th of the season made it 4-3 for the Marlies.

Joey MacDonald didn't allow another puck past him, despite a furious flurry of shots in the late going, and the Marlies skated to the 4-3 victory. Toronto outshot the Moose by a 33-25 margin in the game - yet another sign that Manitoba really didn't deserve to win. With the loss, the Moose fall to 27-24-5-1 on the season.

A Rochester State Of Mind

Manitoba regrouped and headed to Rochester for a Friday night game with the Americans at Blue Cross Arena. Manitoba's 6-3 victory on Tuesday was still fresh in the minds of both teams, so there was some hope that Manitoba could continue their winning ways against the Amerks while the Amerks wanted some revenge. Cory Schneider got the call yet again for the Moose, while Rochester sent out Alexander Salak to the cage.

Rochester opened the scoring 8:01 into the game. Jeff Taffe gained a head of steam as he tore down the right wing on a two-on-one. His backhander went upstairs in a hurry over Schneider's glove to the top shelf. Taffe showed why he has 19 goals on the season with that effort, and Rochester had the 1-0 lead.

However, I would like to point out what appears to be one of the worst non-calls on the season. Referee Terry Koharski stood idly by while a Rochester forward laid out Brian Salcido at the Moose blueline, causing the two-on-one to develop. It had to be one of the most obvious interference calls to make, but no call was made on the play. The result was Taffe's goal as Travis Ramsey was the only defender back during the rush.

The Moose made up for the non-call 1:24 later. Pierre-Cedric Labrie caught a break as he came down the left wing. His centering pass intended for Tom Maxwell in front of the net was deflected by Stefan Meyer's stick. The deflection, though, went up and over Salak's right shoulder and landed behind the surprised goaltender inside the net. Labrie's unconventional third goal of the season tied the game at 1-1.

Late in the period, the Herd went ahead. Rochester's Victor Oreskovich was in the box for his high-sticking infraction, and the Moose powerplay took control. A shot on net from the slot by the streaking Nick Boynton was stopped by Salak. However, the rebound landed into the feet of Boynton and three Americans, and Salak couldn't cover it. The puck squirted loose to the left hash marks where sniper Dan Sexton was waiting. With Salak down and out, Sexton tickled the twine as he sent the puck high. Manitoba took a 2-1 lead into the break after Sexton scored the powerplay marker, his fifth goal of the season, with 1:11 left.

7:26 into the second period, the Moose added to their total. On a three-on-one, Guillaume Desbiens carried the puck down the right wing as Mike Keane hustled to catch the play. The trailer, defenceman Travis Ramsey, stayed put in the middle as Keane filled the left wing lane. A nice saucer pass from Desbiens to Keane settled on Keane's stick, and Salak slid across to play Keane's shot. Keane caught Ramsey in the slot and dropped the puck to him. Ramsey wasted no time in slapping the puck into the open part of the net, and Manitoba was up 3-1 on Ramsey's first goal of the season.

Rochester opened the third period by inching closer on the scoreboard. At the 56-second mark, the Moose were whistled for too many men. The Amerks' powerplay made them pay. Jason Garrison's point shot looked like it caught teammate Michael Duco up high, and ricocheted to the left side of the crease. Mike York was standing wide-open at that spot, and he fired the puck home over Schneider's pad from the sharp angle. York's powerplay goal was his sixth of the season, and the Americans trailed 3-2 just 2:06 into the third frame.

Both teams battled down the stretch, but Manitoba went up by two goals again. Marco Rosa caused a turnover in the Rochester zone, and fed a pass from the middle of the ice to Michael Grabner on the right side. The puck was slightly behind Grabner, but he corralled the puck and fired a high laser over Salak's shoulder to the far post. Grabner's 13th goal of the season gave the Moose a 4-2 lead with 4:14 to play.

The Americans closed the gap 1:22 later. Evgeny Dadonov started a give-and-go with Michal Repik the resulted in a shot on net for Dadonov. Chris Taylor was battling in front of Cory Schneider with Nolan Baumgartner, and Taylor got his stick on the puck to shovel the Dadonov rebound between Schneider's pads to the back of the net. Taylor's 12th goal of the season made it a 4-3 game for Manitoba.

The Americans could not get any closer as the Moose defencemen and Cory Schneider kept them off the scoresheet. With the win, Manitoba moves to 28-24-5-1 on the season.

Returning To The Scene Of The Crime

The Moose were back in Toronto for a Saturday afternoon game against the Marlies. The Moose had dropped the last two games to the Marlies, so they needed to get back on track against a team trailing them in the standings. The Marlies wanted to continue their recent success against the Moose, and sent James Reimer to the net to continue his winning ways against the Herd. The Moose went to Daren Machesney for this game after Cory Schneider had dropped his last two games against Toronto.

Just 4:50 in, Toronto grabbed a lead. Tim Brent's backhander was stopped by Machesney, but the rebound popped out front into the scrum. Greg Scott banged away at it, but the Moose goalie held his ground. Unfortunately, the puck bounced to Machesney's right where Viktor Stalberg was standing at the edge of the crease, and Stalberg buried the puck past a helpless Machesney. Stalberg's 12th goal of the season gave Toronto the 1-0 edge.

The play went back and forth for the majority of the period with both goalies matching each other save for save, but a Toronto powerplay proved fruitful for the home squad. Juraj Mikus teed up a point blast that hit Machesney, but the rebound found its way back into the crowd of people on the doorstep. Kyle Calder picked up the puck with Michael Grabner on his back, and slid the puck past the outstretched glove of Machesney into the open net. Calder's sixth goal of the season put Toronto up 2-0 at 17:46.

Aside from a round of fisticuffs between a few competitors later in the game, that was it, folks. James Reimer made 31 saves for his first AHL shutout, but not many were of the spectacular variety. Toronto hands the Moose another loss, this one by a 2-0 score, and sends Manitoba home with a 28-25-5-1 record on the season.

Taking It Outside

Saturday was a special day for the AHL as the Syracuse Crunch hosted the first outdoor game in AHL history. The Mirabito Outdoor Classic was played at the New York State Fairgrounds, setting the scene for a game between the Syracuse Crunch and Binghamton Senators.

If anyone asks, the first goal scored outdoors by an AHL player was scored by Syracuse forward Alexander Picard. The game also set an AHL attendance record as 21,508 fans turned out to see the Syracuse Crunch defeat the Binghamton Senators by a 2-1 score. In one of the cooler moments, skydiver Ray Maynard arrived on the ice from the air above to deliver the first puck used in outdoor game to New York Governor David Paterson and Senator Chuck Schumer. That puck was originally used on September 27, 1991 when the Los Angeles Kings hosted the New York Rangers in Las Vegas in the first professional outdoor game in modern history.

As stated above, Picard gave the Crunch the lead 6:47 in. Binghamton's Josh Hennessy tied the game up early in the second period. David Liffiton's goal late in the second period restored the one-goal lead for Syracuse, and ended up being the game-winner. It was all about goaltending in the third period as neither team could put the puck past the opposing goalie. Kevin Lalande recorded the victory for Syracuse while Binghamton's Mike Brodeur took the loss.

So why I am talking about this game? The Moose had their own outdoor game on Monday! Bob Hobson of Winnipeg won the Home Depot Backyard Rink contest for his awesome backyard rink, and his prize was a game of shinny against the Moose players!

Daren Machesney, Matt Pettinger, Evan Oberg, Michael Grabner, Nathan McIver and Guillaume Desbiens showed up for the fun, and the neighbourhood kids played the Moose! Mick E. Moose was there to stir up some fun as well. All in all, a very cool promotion run by Home Depot and the Manitoba Moose. Congratulations to Bob Hobson! Make sure you check out the Moose's Build A Rink page so you can get some tips on how to build your own rink, and maybe the Moose will be in your backyard next season!

Heading South

The Moose have a three-game affair to take care of in Texas this week. The Houston Aeros are up first on Thursday, and then its off to San Antonio for dates with the Rampage on Friday and Saturday.

The Aeros have a nearly identical record to Manitoba, so this should be a close game. Houston enters the game with a 28-24-6-1 record, and currently sit fifth in the tightly-contested West Division. Maxim Noreau leads the team with 43 points, and Jon DiSalvatore leads the team in goal-scoring with 18 goals. Both Barry Brust and Wade Dubielewicz don't have very impressive records, but their 2.43 and 2.51 GAAs, respectively, show that they are effective puck-stoppers. Manitoba will need to find its scoring touch to win this game.

San Antonio sit seventh in the West Division with a 24-24-3-6 record. This is another team that doesn't score a lot, so Manitoba will need to have its scoring production on hand. San Antonio is led by forwards Kevin Porter, Kyle Turris, and Sean Sullivan. All three men have 37 points this season. Chad Kolarik is the leading goal-scorer on the Rampage with 17 tallies to his name. Josh Tordjman is still a very capable goaltender, but Justin Pogge has come on strong since being assigned to the Rampage. I'd expect to see both men in the two-game set.

Looking at the three-games-in-three-nights set, I'd be happy if Manitoba returned with four of six points. Personally, all six point would really help as the Moose sit in fourth spot in the AHL's North Division, two points back of third-place Abbotsford with a game in hand. Here's hoping the Moose can go guns-a-blazing through Texas, and come home with six points in their pockets.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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