Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Antler Banter: Season 1, Volume 27

The Moose hit the road this weekend to see a couple of American teams as the Herd invaded Cream City and the Windy City. For a team that needs a win desperately to simply keep pace with those teams above them, the Moose had to find something in the tank against either the Milwaukee Admirals or the Chicago Wolves. While it's hard to write off a team's playoff hopes in October, the Moose find themselves tied with the Grand Rapids Griffins for the lowest point total in the Central Division and the Western Conference. That's not the start that any team wants, so the fight to return to respectability starts with this road trip one would hope. In saying that, let's follow the Moose on their migration to the America midwest for the fourth weekend of games in their AHL schedule!

Game 7 - At Milwaukee

The Admirals sit just ahead of the Moose in the Central Division standings, so this game had big implications on the Moose's standing in their own division. And beating a division rival? Always nice. The Moose did themselves a favour just 23 seconds into the game when John Albert tracked down a loose puck and shoveled a backhand cross-ice that found an open Matt Halischuk. Halischuk chipped the puck through Marek Mazanec for the early 1-0 lead! The Moose doubled their lead at the 6:34 mark when Chase De Leo spotted Joel Armia cruising into the slot, and his pass was redirected by Armia past Mazanec for the 2-0 lead.

The Admirals would chip away on the power-play, though. Viktor Arvidsson one-timed home a perfect cross-ice feed from Kevin Fiala that Connor Hellebuyck had no chance in stopping 8:43 into the opening frame, and it was a 2-1 Manitoba lead. The Admirals would tie the game with 3:09 left in the first period when Anthony Bitetto brought the puck across the line and spotted Colton Sissons cutting towards the net from the left wing. Sissons barely had the puck on his stick for a second when he threw a cross-crease pass to Steve Moses who buried it behind Hellebuyck for the 2-2 equalizer.

The Moose would grab the lead at 12:21 of the second period when Joel Armia's rather harmless looking shot was kicked out by Mazanec right to Brendan Kichton who simply tapped the puck into the yawning cage for the 3-2 Moose lead. From there, it was all Connor Hellebuyck as he put up a wall in the final two periods to keep the Admirals at bay as Manitoba picked up their first regulation win of the season with the 3-2 victory! Hellebuyck stopped 39 of 41 shots he faced in the victory while Marek Mazanec took the loss in this game. The Moose improve to 1-4-1-1 on the season for four points.

Game 8 - At Chicago

The Moose would be in tough against the AHL's highest scoring team as they battled the Chicago Wolves on the second half of a back-to-back setup. It's been 1699 days since the Moose and Wolves last met in a regular season game, so let's see how these two teams fared!

The Wolves would strike first as they got on the board at 9:16 of the second period while on the power-play. Ivan Barbashev fed Jeremy Welsh at the edge of the crease, and his no-look pass to Zach O'Brien at the bottom of the face-off circle was ripped past Connor Hellebuyck for the 1-0 lead. Manitoba would even things up at 1:28 of the third period when Austin Brassard intercepted a pass and went in alone on Jordan Binnington where he fed it though the netminder's five-hole for the 1-1 equalizer.

The Wolves would jump ahead at 11:40 when a deflected point shot was stopped by Hellebuyck, but Yannick Veilleux tapped in the rebound for the 2-1 lead. Pat Cannone would close the book on this game when he stepped out the penalty box, picked up a loose puck, and fired it into the empty net in the Moose end for the 3-1 lead with 1:19 to play. Binnington earned the win in stopping 17 of 18 shots he faced while Connor Hellebuyck was assessed the loss despite 28 of 31 shots. The Moose fall to 1-5-1-1 on the season.

Game 9 - At Chicago

Goaltender Pheonix Copley - yes, spelled E-O not O-E like the city - got the start for Chicago in this one, and the North Pole, Alaska native showed why the St. Louis Blues are excited about his talents.

The Wolves opened the scoring at 4:20 of the second period when Pat Cannone finished off a pretty tic-tac-toe passing play that Eric Comrie had little chance in stopping. Jeremy Welsh would make it a 2-0 game when he picked off a pass at center ice, skated into the Manitoba slot area, and faked a slap shot before going backhand over Comrie's glove.

The real story was Copley, though, as he looked outstanding while defending the net in the Chicago zone. He stopped all 26 shots for his second shutout of the season and fifth of his AHL career in helping the Wolves to the 2-0 win. Eric Comrie stopped 28 of 30 shots in the loss. The Moose drop to 1-6-1-1 on the season after this setback.

The Infirmary

Thomas Raffl is still on the shelf, but Jay Harrison returned for the Moose this weekend. There's hope that Raffl returns soon, but getting a veteran presence like Harrison back on the blue line should help the Moose as they battle the Charlotte Checkers this upcoming weekend.

Up And Down

Thanks to a few injuries to players on the Winnipeg Jets' roster, the Jets recalled Patrice Cormier from the Moose for their games on the road this week. Cormier has a goal and an assist in nine games with the Moose this season, but he is an experienced, gritty player that doesn't mind going into high-traffic areas. We'll see how long he's up with the Jets while Andrew Copp is out with injury.

To replace Cormier, the Moose dipped into the Tulsa Oilers' lineup and recalled Ben Walker. Walker was signed by the Moose, but was re-assigned to the Oilers in the preseason after failing to secure a roster spot. The 22 year-old has one goal and two assists in seven games with the ECHL's Oilers, scoring Tulsa's first goal of the season against Wichita on October 16. Walker should be an element of toughness with him as well as he's dropped the gloves in the ECHL already, so the Moose will get a pretty decent player to fill out their bottom-six.

On The Road Again

The Moose are in Charlotte, North Carolina to play the Checkers on Saturday and Sunday in another back-to-back series. Charlotte is 6-4-0-0 on the season and sit eight points ahead of the Moose. Clearly, a pair of wins are needed to try and draw even with some of the teams pulling away from the Moose. Phil Di Giuseppe leads the team with ten points on four goals and six assists while Derek Ryan leads the team with six goals. Friend of The Hockey Show Zach Boychuk has five assists in the ten games he's played.

Drew MacIntyre has appeared in all ten games thus far, posting a record of 5-4-0 with a 3.16 GAA and an .888 save percentage. Backup netminder Rasmus Tirronen is 1-0-0 on a 4.08 GAA and an .840 save percentage. Needless to say, the Moose need to get pucks to the net on these two if they hope to take four points.

We'll be back next week to recap all the action from this weekend and setup next week's homestand on Antler Banter!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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