Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Antler Banter: Volume 10

While the weather appeared to be nice in the southern United States this past week, the Manitoba Moose were battling on the ice against the Texas Stars, Oklahoma City Barons, and the San Antonio Rampage as they worked to climb up the North Division Standings. Antler Banter also has your updates on the roster front as there were more ups and downs than the stock market between the Moose and Canucks this week. Don't forget to check out the Moose website for all your Manitoba Moose news and information. If you're interested in attending a Manitoba Moose game, please click here for seating information, ticket pricing, and availability. Southern hospitality is on display in this week's Hardcore Hockey!

Getting Drilled

The Manitoba Moose faced off against the Oklahoma City Barons in Oklahoma City for the first time this season. Friday night's game was the third meeting for these two teams in the past week. The Moose took the first meeting by a 5-4 shootout victory one week previous before the Barons shut the Herd out on the following night. The rubber match was all set for Friday evening as the Barons and Moose tangled once again!

Lee Sweatt had a solid game on Friday as he ended the evening with six shots and a +1 rating. Sweatt's offensive skills were definitely on display, and he played very well in his zone. This is exactly what the Moose need from Sweatt on a nightly basis, and, despite not scoring, he turned in one of the better efforts from the Moose on Friday. I've been hard on Lee Sweatt this season, but I can honestly say that he played a complete game on Friday.

On the other side of the coin, Marco Rosa continues to struggle. He ended the night with three shots on Martin Gerber, but he was also on the ice for two goals-against. His -2 rating doesn't help the team, but his offensive woes are starting to worry me. Is he snake-bitten or was last season just an aberration for a normally defensive player? Rosa needs to crack down and play some simple hockey to break out of this slump he's currently mired in.

The Moose got goals from Victor Oreskovich and Mario Bliznak, but it wasn't enough as the Barons put four goals past Eddie Lack to win the game by a 4-2 score. Manitoba's powerplay continues to fire blanks as the Herd went oh-fer in six opportunities, and this has to concern the coaching staff as the Moose rank dead-last in the AHL for powerplay percentage. With the loss, the Moose fall to 12-10-3 on the season.

Stopped At The Alamo

The Moose rolled into San Antonio having lost three games in a row, and it was clear that they were under some pressure as the Moose buzzed goaltender Matt Climie in the Rampage net in the opening period. Would they break out of their powerplay slump? Would some of the big guns start finding their marks again?

Lee Sweatt continued his strong play from a night before as he notched himself an assist and recorded a +3 rating. If Sweatt continues with this kind of play, he certainly deserves the accolades with which he came advertised. In any case, Sweatt's strong play and veteran presence has certainly benefited the Moose blueline.

Bill Sweatt, Lee's brother, also had a strong game with a goal and two assists on four shots. With Cody Hodgson missing from the lineup due to injury, veteran players like Bill Sweatt will have to find a way to continue to put pucks in the net. Sweatt worked hard on Saturday night, and his efforts resulted in three of the four Manitoba goals scored. Efforts like that do not go unnoticed here on Antler Banter!

A flurry of goals in the third period, including a late goal with Tyler Weiman on the bench, saw the Rampage and Moose tied at 4-4 as time ran out. Nothing was solved in overtime, so the two teams took to the breakaway challenge to decide the game. It only took three rounds as Matt Climie stonewalled the Moose while the Rampage scored on three of four attempts. The Rampage take the game with a 5-4 shootout victory, and the Moose see their record fall to 12-10-4 on the season.

Extinguishing The Stars

Manitoba came into Tuesday night's game needing a victory in a big way after dropping their last four games. The Moose showed a better effort on Saturday night in San Antonio, so there was definitely something to build on in Tuesday night's game against the Texas Stars. And we'll finally see a few droughts come to an end at the conclusion of this game.

Victor Oreskovich snapped a long drought early in the first period with his goal as he notched a powerplay marker for the Moose. The Moose had gone 29 straight powerplays without denting the twine, but Oreskovich's fourth goal of the season snapped the drought. Manitoba actually ended the night at 100% powerplay efficiency as they went one-for-one, and there's hope that this slump will be a thing of the past when Manitoba continues down the road. While this seems less like a highlight, there's something to be said when the AHL's 30th overall powerplay converts an opportunity.

Marco Rosa, a name that has taken some heat from this writer, deserves some credit as he broke out of his 19-game goalless drought with a third-period goal. Rosa's third goal of the year came after he had spent two minutes in the penalty box for a rather lazy hooking penalty. I'll say this about Marco Rosa: the man never quit working during his goalless streak, and he certainly was the embodiment of a professional as he never got too down on himself. Hard work and effort is rewarded by the hockey gods, and here's hoping that they reward Rosa with a pile of goals over the next few weeks and months!

And we'll even throw out a third star for this game as the Moose got some phenomenal goaltending out of Eddie Lack once more. Lack stopped 39 of 40 shots sent his way in this game, including an incredible 19 saves in the third period alone! Lack played extremely well, giving the Moose a chance to win when scoring has come at a premium, and the Moose blueline played very well in front of him. Mark Flood and Travis Ramsey both finished the game with +2 ratings, and Flood assisted on two of Manitoba's three goals! Kudos to the defensive game shown by the Moose!

Thanks to Oreskovich's powerplay marker, Rosa's long-awaited third goal of the season, and Mario Bliznak's shorthanded insurance marker, the Moose left Austin, Texas with two points after a 3-1 victory. The Moose head back to Winnipeg having gone 1-1-1 in the southern USA, but improve their overall record to 13-10-4.

Are You New Here?

The Vancouver Canucks have decided to tinker with their lineup as much as they can, and it has definitely taken its toll on the Moose's nightly roster. That being said, here are the latest Moose moves in point form.
  • Cody Hodgson sees stars - Hodgson took an accidental high stick from Lee Sweatt in practice last Thursday, and there was concern that he may need surgery to repair a cracked orbital bone. Thankfully, surgery is not needed, and his recovery time is anywhere from 3-6 weeks. The Moose's most productive player will be missed.
  • Moose sign Francis Lemieux to PTO - Lemieux had 31 points in 25 games for the ECHL's Florida Everblades. He looks like he has some solid potential. Lemieux will wear #37 for the Herd.
  • Canucks recall Ryan Parent - Parent was on a conditioning stint, and recorded one assist in seven games with the Moose. The blueline takes a hit.
  • Moose recall Josh Aspenlind from ECHL - Aspenlind had seven assists in 25 games with the Victoria Salmon Kings, but he did play with the Lake Erie Monsters last season. Could be an "under-the-radar" kind of player.
  • Moose sign Garth Murray to PTO - Murray has two goals an assist in eight games with the Victoria Salmon Kings. Again, he shows potential, but it has to translate into AHL scoring.
  • Canucks assign Guillaume Desbiens to Moose - Desbiens cleared waivers, and was assigned to the Moose. He has seen action in 12 games with the Canucks, but has yet to record a point this season. He should be a welcome addition for the Moose.
  • Moose release Francis Lemieux from PTO - Two games, no points, and nothing significant to report. He ended his two-game contract with an even rating.
What Lies Ahead

The Moose have a pair of games at home against the Houston Aeros on Friday and Saturday before taking a week off for Christmas. Next week's update will be a fairly quiet one as the Moose prepare for a much-needed break. The Moose sit in sixth-place in the North Division right now, but have games in-hand on all of their divisional rivals still. They trail the first-place Hamilton Bulldogs by six points, so you can see that the North Division is tightly-contested. Four points against the Aeros would do wonders leading into the Christmas break. DO IT!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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