Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Antler Banter: Season 1, Volume 32

The toughest part of the three-game road trip loomed on Wednesday as the Moose ventured into Chicago to play the Wolves followed by a pair of games in Toronto against the Marlies. In other words, it was three games against a couple of Calder Cup favorites for a team that doesn't have as many points as these two opponents have wins. With Joel Armia and Connor Hellebuyck still with the Winnipeg Jets, the challenge would be made even tougher for the Moose. Nevertheless, there's no skipping or postponing games so the Moose were going to have to dig deep if they wanted to give these two teams runs for their money. Would the Moose show up and shock the world? Or would it be a feast-famine situation when it came to goals-against and goals-for?

Game 19 - At Chicago

I'm not sure that there's any other word for this game that would accurately portray the carnage on the ice than "massacre". Chicago literally wiped the floor with the Moose on this night, so let's get through this as quickly as we can. No one likes to watch a train wreck.

Spencer Asuchak at 3:12, Jordan Caron at 8:20, and Ty Rattie at 19:51 put the Wolves ahead 3-0 after the opening period, and you can see where this is headed. Asuchak added his second of the night at 7:52 to make it 4-0 before John Albert ripped one past Pheonix Copley at 12:37 to make it 4-1, and that score would hold through the remainder of the period.

And then the floodgates opened again. Andre Benoit scored a shorthanded goal at 1:20, Yannick Veilleux added another at 4:39, and Pat Cannone scored on the power-play at 16:39 to put Chicago up 7-1. Manitoba would add a power-play goal of their own at 18:10 off the stick of Chase De Leo, but Spencer Asuchak would complete the hat trick and round out the scoring at 19:19 with his third of the game. When the dust settled, Chicago hammered Manitoba by an 8-2 score. Copley picked up the win while Eric Comrie was responsible for all eight goals in the loss. Manitoba falls to 5-12-1-1 after this outing.

As an aside in this game, Manitoba's power-play was an abysmal 1-for-8 which now has the Moose dead last in power-play percentage in the AHL. Wanna know why this team is in the tank? Look no further than the 30th-ranked power-play and the 25th-ranked penalty kill.

Game 20 - At Toronto

Things got no easier for the Moose as they rolled into Toronto still licking their wounds after the beating they took on the ice and on the scoreboard at the hands of the Chicago Wolves. The Marlies lead the North Division, so this would be another tough test for the Moose.

Surprisingly, these two teams played to a 0-0 stalemate through 40 minutes. 6:36 into the third period, however, Richard Panik tapped home a rebound in front of Eric Comrie to put Toronto up 1-0. The Marlies would go up 2-0 when Zach Hyman's rather innocent-looking wrist shot from the high slot area managed to find room between Comrie's pads. The Moose would respond with a goal when Rob Madore made the initial save, but John Albert crashed the net and shoveled the puck just past the outstretched right leg of Madore to make it a 2-1 game with 3:41 to play. Stuart Percy, though, would squash hopes of a comeback at 19:19 with his empty-net goal to seal the deal for a 3-1 Toronto win.

Eric Comrie suffered the second straight loss in this one despite stopping 33 of 35 shots sent his way while Rob Madore picked up the win. The Moose fall to 5-13-1-1 after this setback. Not to pile on the suffering, but the Moose went 0-for-4 on the power-play once more.

Game 21 - At Toronto

Ugh. Simply brutal. There's no point in dwelling on this any longer than needed since only one team showed up on Sunday afternoon at the Air Canada Centre.

Andrew Campbell opened the scoring at 10:09, Rich Clune added a shorthanded goal at 13:50, and Mark Arcobello scored on the power-play at 19:06 to put Toronto out in front 3-0 after 20 minutes. If that sounds like the Chicago game, it only gets worse.

Casey Bailey scored at 2:43 and Brendan Leipsic scored at 5:46 to put the Marlies up 5-0 through 40 minutes of play. Josh Leivo made it 6-0 at 1:18 of the third period. Richard Panik added the seventh goal at 4:44. William Nylander put Toronto up by eight goals at 11:48, and Frederik Gauthier closed out the scoring with his goal at 19:01 to make the final a 9-0 victory for Toronto. Jussi Olkinuora, who started his first game of the season, got shelled for all nine goals in the loss while Jonathan Bernier stopped all 21 shots in the shutout win. Manitoba falls to 5-14-1-1 on the season.

The Infirmary

No one. Not that it matters after being outscored 20-3 in the final three games of a 1-5-0 road trip. Just brutal.

Gone, Gone, and Gone

As mentioned off the top, the Moose are still without the services of goaltender Connor Hellebuyck and forward Joel Armia. Announced today, the Moose sent defenceman Aaron Harstad to the ECHL's Tulsa Oilers. Harstad had only appeared in seven games with the Moose and had no points. It will be good for the young defenceman's confidence if he can play some meaningful minutes for the Oilers rather than watching from AHL press boxes.

Dreams Dashed

At this point in the season, it's fair to say that the Moose aren't going to compete for the Calder Cup this year. Making the playoffs will be something to look forward to for next season. The Moose are 29th-overall in the league, surpassing only the equally-woeful Iowa Wild who are 4-18-1-3 this season. The Moose have only scored 35 goals this season, some 13 goals less than Iowa and Stockton who are the next lowest in the league. They have the worst power-play in the league, and are slowly creeping towards the worst penalty kill as well. In short, this team has been absolutely brutal to this point outside of the goaltending.

To make matters worse, Nic Petan, who started with the Jets, has been absolutely invisible most nights. Jan Kostalek and Josh Morrissey - two players who came into training camp with heavy expectations on them, have been awful as well. If this team was supposed to be a "developmental" team, I'm not sure what the Moose are developing right now.

Up Next

If there is a bright side to this whole thing, the Moose welcome a team to MTS Centre who they've beaten twice already this season. The Milwaukee Admirals visit for a pair of games on Friday and Saturday, and there's hope that the Moose can build upon their 2-0-0 record against the Admirals. Both wins came in Milwaukee as well, so having the home-ice advantage in these games should help the Moose even more.

Friday night's game is also the annual Teddy Bear Toss game! Fans are encouraged to bring new or gently used stuffed toys to toss onto the ice during the first intermission which will be donated to the Christmas Cheer Board to help those in need this holiday season. Fans must have their stuffed toy registered at one of the Teddy Bear Toss registration tables on the concourse. If one doesn't have a stuffed toy to toss, Build-a-Bear will be at the game and will have stuffed toys available on the concourse while supplies last!

Following the blowouts over the last week, getting a pair of games against a team you've beaten twice should be a mouthful of sugar after the bitter taste of ugly defeats. We'll see if the Moose can make these games count!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

No comments: