Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Antler Banter: Volume 19

Antler Banter is back this week as the Moose return home for a battle two teams as they welcome the San Antonio Rampage and the Toronto Marlies to MTS Centre this week. The Moose have seen their blueline depleted as the Vancouver Canucks are keeping Vancouver's hospitals in business, so the Moose need to roll up their sleeves and apply a little elbow grease in their own zone. We'll take a look at how the Herd did in the three games thus far this week. Don't forget to visit 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. The Moose push forward in this week's Hardcore Hockey!

All Hooves And Horns

The Moose welcomed the San Antonio Rampage to MTS Centre this weekend as they began a six-game homestand. With all of the roster changes happening in the Moose locker room right now, it will be interesting to see how the Herd responds, especially with their defence corps being depleted due to the NHL's Canucks. Tyler Weiman got the call for the Moose at home on Friday while San Antonio sent Matt Climie out to the nets.

Nothing says impact like scoring in your first game after being out with an injury, and Tommy Maxwell made that impact tonight. Having been out since the middle of January, the pugilistic Moose winger took a pass from Shawn Weller in the right face-off circle and snapped a puck past under Climie's glove. Maxwell's fourth of the season showed that any effects from that hand injury are non-existent.

The Moose penalty killing units, now ranked second in the AHL, are looking to regain their spot atop the AHL statistics board as they went 3-for-3 in killing off penalties tonight. The Moose have been playing some excellent hockey while down a man for nearly two months, and the penalty kill will be an important factor down the stretch and into the playoffs. The Moose must keep this going as this could be the difference in a playoff round or two.

Juts as we've seen over the last week, it's feast or famine for the Moose as they were unable to build on Tommy Maxwell's first period goal. While Tyler Weiman stopped 27 of 29 shots sent his way, it wasn't enough to push the Moose to a victory as they drop the first of two games against the Rampage by a 2-1 score. With the loss, the Moose fall to 28-17-6 on the season.

Moose "Keane" To Grab Bull By Horns

It was a big night on Saturday as the Manitoba Moose looked to hang their first jersey from the rafters in a retirement ceremony as hometown hero and fan favorite Mike Keane was being honoured not only for his work in a Moose uniform, but for his overall hockey career. The former Moose captain remained at MTS Centre to catch the second half of the Moose-Rampage series as Eddie Lack donned the mask and pads for the Moose. Matt Climie would start this game, but Joe Fallon would close this one out.

Moose all-star Sergei Shirokov was the set-up man all night as the Moose sniper showed off his vision in collecting four assists in the game. Shirokov looked dangerous all night, ending the evening with four assists, four shots, and a +2 rating. While some may say that all four assists of Shirokov's assists were second assists, I say you still need a good first pass to get the play going. Shirokov possessed that talent tonight.

I was very impressed with the Moose blueliners on this night. All evening, the rearguards were active in the play, and they were very physical in their own zone without going over the line. If the Moose can get some continuity on their blueline with these men, they could be a very dangerous combination of offensive talent and pure physicality. The six defencemen finished the night with one goal, four assists, 12 shots, and a +4 rating - pretty darn good night for the men defending the goal!

Overall, the Moose hammered everything and everyone they could on this night, bringing the same work ethic to the ice that Mike Keane brought each time he laced up the skates. Efforts like this are entirely why hard work beats talent almost every time out, and the Moose put their hard hats on and brought their lunchpails to work on this night. Eddie Lack picks up the 5-0 shutout over the Rampage, and the Moose improve their record to 29-17-6 on the season with the victory!

More Marlies, Different Result

The Toronto Marlies came back to town less than a month after dropping the first three games to the Moose by a combined score of 12-4. The Marlies desperately need to beat some of the teams ahead of them in the North Division standings if they want to have a shot hosting a playoff series. The Moose went back to Eddie Lack on this night while the Marlies turned to Ben Scrivens to tend their nets.

The Moose penalty killing unit is really starting to become the best part of their special teams. The Moose PK unit scored a big first period goal with Kevin Connauton sitting in the sin bin. Again, the hard work put in by the PK teams is paying dividends, and may be the reason that the Moose win a round or two in the playoffs. Keep it up, Moose penalty killers!

The Herd as a team really need to see if they can break out of this funk that they have found themselves in. 35 shots against the Marlies resulted in only one goal on the evening - not the kind of firepower that an elite team should show. If the Moose can't fill the net with any sort of regularity, it will be a difficult battle down the stretch. Losing to teams that are behind you in the standings certainly won't help in the long run either.

The Moose found themselves on the wrong side of the ledger again on this night as the Marlies held on for a 2-1 victory over the Herd. The feast or famine continues as the Moose juggle their lineup once again, but the Moose can't find the chemistry to pick up a win over a division rival. With the loss, the Moose fall to 29-18-6 on the season.

Up Next - More Beatable Teams

The Moose have to respond against the Marlies tonight. Losing a second game to the Marlies is a four-point swing as the Marlies gain on the Moose. After firing blanks at the Marlies last night, a wake-up call is needed. The only way that the Moose are going to break out of this is to work hard, dig deep, and pump a few goals past the Marlies' goalkeepers.

The weekend sees the Moose welcome the Lake Erie Monsters to town for a pair of games. Saturday should be a big game as the Moose don the jerseys of the Gateway Flyers as the Flyers won the Community Jersey Program this past season! This should be a great night where the Moose will take on the look of the Philadelphia Flyers in the second game of the set with the Monsters.

Lake Erie comes into the game riding a hot streak as they have shot up through the North Division standings to sit tied with the Moose. They enter the weekend on a 7-2-1 tear, knocking off Hamilton twice and Texas twice through the last ten games. Goaltender Jason Bacashihua has turned his season around, playing very well through the last ten games, and the Monsters are getting balanced scoring as they have five players with 30+ points on the season. Manitoba will have to play extremely well if they hope to grab four points off these divisional foes.

We'll be back with more next week, but here's hoping the Moose can sort out their scoring woes before the weekend or they may find themselves in third-place in the North Division by Monday!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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