Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Antler Banter: Volume 15

We're back with three games this week on Antler Banter! The Milwaukee Admirals visited Winnipeg and MTS Centre for two games over the weekend, and the Moose are in the midst of a two-game series with the Toronto Marlies. There has been a lot of movement between the Moose and the NHL's Vancouver Canucks, so we'll recap a little of that activity this week. And as always, we'll take a look ahead at next week's set of games as the Moose continue their quest for first-place in the North Division. 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. Here is this week's Hardcore Hockey!

Sinking The Boat

The Moose squared off against the Milwaukee Admirals on Thursday night to kick off a play-off-play series with the Admirals. The Moose and Admirals have Friday off before playing again on Saturday in one of those AHL schedule quirks, but both teams were hungry to kick this series off right. The Admirals won the only previous match-up by a 6-3 score this season, so the Moose were looking to even the series on this night. The red-hot Eddie Lack hit the ice for Manitoba while Mark Dekanich donned the pads for the Admirals.

While this seems to be a running theme over the last few weeks, Sergei Shirokov's night was pretty big on Thursday. His one assist and +1 rating don't tell the story. Instead, he tied the Moose franchise record with a point in his eleventh-straight game! Shirokov has really looked good in these last few weeks, and his point totals are showing just how much hard work he's putting into his game. We'll have more on Shirokov below, but he deserves credit for tying a franchise record!

The other man who made a big impact on this night was the man guarding the twine. Eddie Lack flashed the leather all night as he stopped all 27 shots he faced in blanking the Admirals. Milwaukee outshot the Moose in all three periods, so the Swede was definitely busy. If Lack continues to play this well, the Vancouver Canucks - once thought to be a goaltender wasteland - could be the new goaltender goldmine as Cory Schneider continues to fare well in Vancouver.

The Moose delivered a solid game at both ends of the ice on Thursday as they down the Milwaukee Admirals by a 3-0 score behind Lack's shutout. The Moose used the powerplay to down the Admirals as they scored twice with the extra attacker before scoring into an empty net. With the victory, the Moose improve to 22-12-4 on the season.

Admirals Salvage Their Ship

Saturday saw the Moose and Admirals renew their battle as the two teams met once again at MTS Centre. Could Sergei Shirokov put himself into the Manitoba Moose record book? Could the Moose take all four points from the Admirals? Could the Admirals finally break the goose egg that the Moose gave them on Thursday? Eddie Lack and Mark Dekanich were back in the nets for their respective teams.

The defensive combination of Ryan Parent and Nolan Baumgartner struggled while playing together on this night. Parent ended the night with one shot and a -2 rating while Baumgartner ended the night with one assist and a -1 rating. Where the issue lies is that both men were on the ice for the overtime goal. While Marco Rosa and Bill Sweatt were also on the ice, defencemen are paid to keep the puck out of the net. Especially when the game is on the line.

Sergei Shirokov will get one more mention as it took him all of 56 seconds to write his name into the Moose record books. Shirokov scored his 16th goal of the season early in the first period to extend his scoring streak to twelve games, eclipsing the mark set by Brett Hauer and Bill Bowler. You will see Shirokov's name once more on the article, but for a completely different reason than for what he's been doing in Winnipeg. Congratulations on the record, Sergei!

While the Moose jumped out to 2-0 lead after the opening 20 minutes, the Admirals chipped away before finally sinking the Moose in overtime by a 3-2 score. The Moose have to be happy with the three points, but can't be complacent when they have a team in a hole. Burying the Admirals would have been nice, but instead the Moose fall to 22-12-5 on the season with the overtime loss.

Stomping The Baby Leafs

It's always weird to see a divisional rival for the first time while being three months into the season, but this is the AHL. The Toronto Marlies and Manitoba Moose clashed for the first time this season on Tuesday night, and both teams were looking to climb the North Division standings. The Moose were playing without two of their better players as Sergei Shirokov and Chris Tanev are with the Vancouver Canucks, so the Moose needed a big effort from the supporting cast to keep the Marlies at bay. Tyler Weiman took to the nets for Manitoba while James Reimer, hot off his NHL debut, got the start for the Marlies.

Hometown boy Kevin Clark showed that he's willing to step up into a scoring role as the winger had himself a heck of a game! Clark finished the night with one goal, two assists, a +1 rating, and two shots on net. While he was on the ice for three goals total - two by the Moose and one by the Marlies - Clark's three points showed off his hustle and drive, and he certainly was a large part of Manitoba's offence on Tuesday.

The Moose powerplay got a little help from an unlikely source as Mario Bliznak cashed in with the man-advantage. With a lot of Manitoba's offensive stars either out with injury or playing in Vancouver, it's great to see a checking forward step up on the powerplay in letting his offensive skills shine. Bliznak recorded his sixth goal, and the Moose were off and running in this game thanks to Bliznak's tally.

Tyler Weiman had himself another strong game, posting his fifth win in his last five starts, as he stopped 29 of the 30 pucks that came his way. The Moose didn't have to be spectacular tonight as their lunchpail-like effort saw hard work turn into a win. I like this showing of work ethic by the club in their recent weeks, and kudos have to go out to the Moose coaching staff for holding the bar high each and every time the Moose hit the ice. With the 4-1 victory over the Marlies on Tuesday, Manitoba improves to 23-12-5 on the season!

Where Have I Seen You Before?

The Moose saw a lot of changes to their roster in a very short time as the Canucks, dealing with injuries of their own, came calling for a few bodies. Because of this shortage, GM Craig Heisinger began photocopying a number of PTO documents for new players to sign. Here are the roster moves over the last week:
  • Chris Tanev: recalled by Vancouver.
  • Sergei Shirokov: recalled by Vancouver.
  • Dusty Collins: signed PTO with Manitoba.
  • Andy Brandt: signed PTO with Manitoba.
  • Cody Hodgson, Jordan Schroeder, Victor Oreskovich, Joel Perrault, Stefan Schneider: still injured.
The good news is that both Hodgson and Schroeder are close to returning, and both players could see a return to the lineup this weekend against Abbotsford if things go well. We'll have to see what head coach Claude Noel will do with his lineup as the weekend nears.

From Records To Firsts

I had to post this just because it's good to see that a young player's hard work is certainly paying off. Sergei Shirokov got his first action with the Canucks this season against the Colorado Avalanche. And wouldn't you know it, but Shirokov's point-scoring streak continued!
Congratulations, Sergei, and keep up the good work!

The Week Ahead

The Moose and Marlies renew acquaintances tonight as they finish off their two-game series at MTS Centre. The Moose inched closer to the Hamilton Bulldogs after their win on Tuesday while creating a larger gap between themselves and the Marlies. The Marlies, of course, want to salvage the series and restore the two-point gap between themselves and the Moose. This game should be a good one between two fierce division rivals!

The Moose then welcome the Abbotsford Heat to Winnipeg for two games on Friday and Sunday. The Heat currently sit in fifth-place in the North Division, but are a mere seven points out of first-place in the division. This divisional match-up should be another good match-up as the Moose look to move into first-place while the Heat work to catch the Moose in the standings. Abbotsford is 4-4-2 in their last 10 games, so the Moose will have to continue to show the same strong work ethic that we've seen over the last month to ensure victory.

If you're free on Sunday, make sure you get down to MTS Centre early for the game so you can pick up your free Nolan Baumgartner bobblehead! Baumgartner will follow in the steps of Mike Keane and Cory Schneider, becoming only the third Moose player to be bobbleheaded in franchise history! The first 5000 fans into the building will get themselves a smaller Nolan Baumgartner to take home!

Six points are on the line this week against divisional rivals, so get down to work, Moose, and DO IT!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

No comments: