Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Antler Banter: Season 1, Volume 29

The Moose returned home to the comfortable confines of MTS Centre for a four-game home stand that kicked off against a former IHL rival. The Chicago Wolves have been a thorn in Manitoba's side since the IHL days, and they are proving to be a tough game again this season for any and all opponents. They already have taken the Moose down twice en route to leading the Central Division, and this past weekend featured the pack of Wolves wandering into Moose territory. The Moose, on the other hand, needed to step up their game in a big way if they hoped to reverse this 2-7-1-1 slide they've been on to open the season. Knocking off the Central Division leaders? That would do wonders for the confidence of a young team.

Game 12 - Vs Chicago

There were some early chances for the Moose in this one, but Wolves netminder Jordan Binnington stood tall. That gave the Wolves a little momentum which they used to their advantage. Evan Tropp played give-and-go with Jordan Caron, and Tropp scored top-shelf from a sharp angle near the goal line past Connor Hellebuyck at 8:32 for the 1-0 Wolves lead. The Moose would answer back quickly, though, with some excellent tic-tac-toe passing. JC Lipon found Joel Armia on the right side who one-timed a pass to Chase De Leo perfectly at the left side of the crease, and De Leo buried the deflection behind Binnington at 12:49 for the 1-1 equalizer. However, the Wolves would take a one-goal lead into the intermission when Petteri Lindbohm's point shot eluded Hellebuyck at 19:04, and Chicago had the 2-1 lead.

The Moose would knot this game up midway through the second period when Brenden Kichton threw a long outlet pass up to Patrice Cormier who broke in on Binnington alone. Cormier faked backhand which caused Binnington to bite on the deke, and he went to the forehand and slid it into the yawning cage at 11:07 to make it a 2-2 game. Chicago would jump ahead late in the period once again. Peter Harrold broke in across the line on the right wing and took the puck towards the corner when he threw it out front to a streaking Jeremy Welsh. Austen Brassard couldn't tie up Welsh's stick, and he chipped it past Hellebuyck at 17:51 to give the Wolves the 3-2 lead through 40 minutes.

The Moose tie the game up for a third time as Lindbohm misplayed a puck at the blue line, and Jiri Fronk was off to the races. His breakaway featured a forehand-backhand deke that Binnington once again bit on, and Fronk pulled it back to the forehand where he tucked it past the sprawling netminder at 1:36 for the 3-3 tie. Chicago would storm back midway through the final frame. Four Wolves moved into the Moose zone after a turnover at center ice, and the puck found O'Brien alone in the slot. His one-timer was stopped by the right pad of Hellebuyck, but Ivan Barbashev was waiting at the top of the crease for the rebound, and he made no mistake putting it past Hellebuyck at 10:56. Welsh would add his second gola of the game 2:28 later while on the power-play when he took a feed from O'Brien at the bottom of the face-off dot and handcuffed Hellebuyck with his shot for the 5-3 lead. Binnington would lock down the game after that goal as the Wolves downed the Moose 5-3 on this night.

The Moose looked much better in holding the Wolves to just 19 shots, but Hellebuyck could only corral 14 of those shots as he takes the loss. Binnington picked up the win in stopping 33 of 36 shots sent his way. Manitoba falls to 2-8-1-1 on the season with the loss.

Game 13 - Vs Chicago

Pheonix Copley got the start for the Wolves in this one, and he was tested early by Moose just as they did to Binnington the night before. The results, unfortunately, were the same as Copley turned the Moose away. However, the Moose hit the scoreboard first in this game. Halischuk's shot from the high slot area was stopped by Copley, but Kosmachuk picked up the rebound in the right corner and somehow found room between Copley and the goal post at 10:24 while on the power-play to give the Moose the 1-0 lead. Chicago would answer back on a power-play of their own when Ty Rattie's shot from the top of the face-off circle found its way through Andrew MacWilliam and under Eric Comrie to tie the game 1-1 at 14:23.

The Wolves would jump ahead at 15:23 in the second period with the man-advantage. Danny Kristo set up on the left wing half-boards looking for a pass, but the Moose gave him enough room to drift into the top of the face-off circle and wire home a big-league wrist shot past Comrie for the 2-1 lead. Manitoba would push for the equalizer once more, and hey would find it at 9:18 of the third period when Jiri Fronk picked up a loose puck in the corner, banked it off the side of the net to get around Pat Cannone, and he somehow tucked it through Copley with no room along the post to even the game at 2-2. The horn would sound at the end of 60 minutes, so it was off to overtime for these two teams!

The overtime period was end-to-end action as both teams tried to capitalize on the others' odd-man rushes, but it was a stretch pass that ended the game. Josh Morrissey picked up a loose puck just inside the Manitoba end with Chicago scrambling to get back, and he hit Joel Armia at the Chicago blue line for the breakaway. Armia didn't follow the lead of Cormier and Fronk from a day before. He simply ripped a wrist shot home on the glove-side at 2:25 of the extra frame to give Manitoba the 3-2 overtime win! Cormier stopped 22 of 24 shots in the win while Copley was sent home with the loss after stopping 28 of 31 shots. The Moose improve to 3-8-1-1 with the victory!

The Infirmary

Seems like the same thing to fill in this area of the recap as defenceman Jay Harrison and forwards Matt Fraser, John Albert, and Thomas Raffl are still listed as week to week as the Moose look to get some of these key cogs back in the lineup. Defenceman Jan Kostalek was in the lineup against Chicago, so one of the bright, young stars for the Moose returned this past weekend as the Moose medical center gets a little less crowded.

Born And Raised

The Moose have a Winnipeg-born played in Peter Stoykewych, but there's no harm in having another, right? How about one with a little bit of a name as well? The Moose signed Kelly Zajac on Monday to help them find a little more offence. Zajac, brother of New Jersey's Travis Zajac, has played 108 games in the AHL with the Albany Devils, amassing 17 goals and 44 assists in that time. The 27 year-old had started this season with Rauma Lukko of the Ligga in Finland where he had four points in 11 games, but he's now a member of the Manitoba Moose and is looking to add to those AHL numbers! According to the Moose roster page, Zajac will wear #32 for the Herd.

Welcome home, Kelly, and it's good to have you in a Moose uniform!

Who's Next?

The Moose welcome another one of those new-fangled California teams to MTS Centre this weekend as they play host to the Bakersfield Condors on Friday and Sunday. The Condors enter the weekend at 6-6-0-1, good for fifth-place in the Pacific Division, but they've only played one other team from outside the Pacific Division thus far. That team was the Grand Rapids Griffins, and the Condors downed the Griffins 1-0. Matthew Ford and Brad Hunt lead the team in points with 10 apiece while Ford is tied with Ryan Hamilton for the team-lead in goals with five. Laurent Brossoit is the netminder of choice in Bakersfield as he's played in nine games while posting a 6-2-1 record with a 2.08 GAA, a .938 save percentage, and three shutouts. Ben Scrivens has played in three games and Eetu Laurikainen has appeared in one game.

The Moose will try to clip the wings of the Condors this weekend, so hit this very site next Wednesday for another update on Antler Banter!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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