Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Antler Banter: Season 1, Volume 30

The Moose split with the Chicago Wolves last weekend which, in a way, was a small victory considering how well Chicago has been playing this season. That being said, the Moose needed to keep their eyes on the prize, so to speak, as the Bakersfield Condors arrived in town for a two-game set. It was announced last Thursday that Matthew Ford, one of Bakersfield's leading scorers, would miss this weekend's games thanks to a suspension for a check to the head in a prior game, so the Moose were catching a break as the Condors invaded Winnipeg. Let's get to the action on these two games!

Game 14 - Vs Bakersfield

The Moose broke out a promotional jersey as they took the ice in camouflage for Friday's game, and there was some new blood in the lineup as Nic Petan, seen to the right, suited up for his first AHL game this season. However, it would be the Condors who struck first in this game as Ryan Olsen coughed up the puck in his own zone, and it found the stick of Mitch Moroz in the slot who went high on the glove-side past Hellebuyck for the 1-0 lead just 2:24 into the game. The Moose would respond 10:05 later, though, when a centering pass from the corner by Nic Petan found Brenden Kichton, and his wrist shot eluded Laurent Brossoit for the 1-1 tie.

This game became a bit of a goaltender's duel as Hellebuyck and Brossoit went save-for-save for the better part of twenty minutes, and some were of the unbelievable version. However, Bakersfield would find another goal midway through the second period. Brad Hunt's point shot would be redirected by Alexis Loiseau in front of Hellebuyck, and the deflection would get past the Moose netminder at 10:07 for the 2-1 lead.

The third period would be more of the Hellbuyck-Brossoit goaltending clinic as these two netminders put on a show, but neither team would dent the twine any further as Bakersfield earned the victory in a 2-1 game. Brossoit stopped 32 of 33 shots in the win while Hellebuyck made 28 saves on 30 shots. The Moose fall to 3-9-1-1 in the setback.

Game 15 - Vs Bakersfield

The Moose looked to rally back in winning the second half of the two-game set as they did a week before against Chicago, and they got things started the right way. Joel Armia broke in on a 2-on-1 and made a perfect pass to JC Lipon at the edge of the crease who redirected it past a sliding Laurent Brossoit for the 1-0 lead at 10:39. It appeared that the Moose would carry that lead into the intermission, but a late power-play goal evened the game up. Jujhar Khaira found Anton Slepyshev, and he beat Eric Comrie with 11 seconds in the period for the 1-1 equalizer.

The Moose would grab the lead again in the second period. Scott Kosmachuk spotted Austen Brassard streaking down the middle the ice, and hit him with a perfect pass as he had a step on Brad Hunt. A quick deke to the forehand past Brossoit allowed Brassard to deposit the puck into the open net at 18:58, and the Moose took a 2-1 lead into the intermission.

A turnover in the Condors' zone led to the the third Manitoba goal on this night. Marc-Olivier Roy coughed the puck up to Brenden Kichton just above the left face-off circle, and he went cross-ice to Scot Kosmachuk who one-timed a blast past Brossoit 2:10 into the final frame for the 3-1 Manitoba lead. Eric Comrie would shut things down the rest of the way in helping the Moose to the 3-1 win! Comrie grabs the win while Brossoit was tagged with the loss. With the victory, the Moose improve to 4-9-1-1 on the season!

The Infirmary

Defenceman Jay Harrison and forward John Albert are the only two players still on the sidelines for the Moose as both Matt Fraser and Thomas Raffl returned to the lineup. There's hope these two will be ready to go for the upcoming road trip, but it appears that Albert is closer than Harrison in returning to the lineup at this point.

How The Dominoes Fall

The Moose moved a few players this week to open up some roster room for the healed. There was also a couple of recalls that may affect how the Moose move forward. All in all, there was considerable player movement in one week for the AHL club.

First, Ben Walker was re-assigned to the Tulsa Oilers again. Walker played a pair of games with the Moose since being recalled, and he recorded two penalty minutes in those games. He was sent back to Tulsa on Saturday.

Sunday saw Connor Hellebuyck recalled by the Winnipeg Jets after the knee injury to Ondrej Pavelec. Pavelec was seen leaving MTS Centre on crutches following Saturday's game against the Arizona Coyotes, and head coach Paul Maurice stated this week that Pavelec has a knee sprain that will keep him out until January or February. In other words, Hellebuyck will have a great opportunity to prove he's ready for the NHL when he gets his chance.

To make up for the lack of goalies, the Moose signed former Manitoba Bison backstopper Joe Caligiuri to an amateur tryout contract on Sunday in time for the game against the Condors. Caligiuri was 24-16-2 in his time with the Bisons, and has been an emergency goalie at times for the Jets.

The Moose recalled goaltender Jesse Olkinuora from Tulsa on Sunday as well, but he was unable to get to Winnipeg in time for the game. Olkinuora sports a 2-3-2 record along with a 2.80 GAA and a .909 save percentage in seven appearances for the ECHL Oilers this season, and he was 7-5-0 with the IceCaps last season. He'll serve as the backup for Eric Comrie going forward on the road trip.

The Moose then released Caligiuri Sunday night with Olkinuora joining the team. If you want a cameo jersey, Caligiuri wore #30 for his one AHL game. I'm pretty sure the Moose let him keep his jersey as a souvenir of his one AHL game thus far.

On Monday, the Jets recalled Joel Armia from the Moose as they embark on a road trip. Armia has three goals and three assists in 14 games thus far, but I'm not sure he'll see much action unless head coach Paul Maurice is looking to add some offence to his bottom-six. Armia will be relied upon to step into the lineup if someone does go down on this road trip, though.

Finally, the Moose released Kevin Lynch from his professional tryout contract on Tuesday. In five games with the Moose, he recorded two penalty minutes. He will return to the ECHL's Florida Everblades where he had recorded eight points in ten games prior to signing the tryout deal with the Moose.

Who's Next?

The Moose hit the road for a pair of games in Cleveland against the Lake Erie Monsters. The Monsters are one of the teams ahead of the Moose in the Central Division standings, so wins against the Monsters are important. The Monsters are 10-4-0-2 on the season, and have a pile of balanced scoring through their lineup.

Markus Hannikainen, Sonny Milano, Ryan Craig, and Alex Broadhurst all have double-digits in points, so the Moose won't be able to target one or two players. Anton Forsberg and Joonas Korpisalo are both putting up impressive numbers in between the pipes, so scoring goals won't be easy either. Lake Erie is 2-0 versus Manitoba already this season as they downed the Moose at MTS Centre by scores of 3-1 and 2-0, so the Moose will have to come out ready if they hope to take a pair of games off the Monsters.

The Moose and Monsters play Wednesday and Friday, and then the Moose are off to Milwaukee. We'll have those updates next week right here on Antler Banter!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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