Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Antler Banter: Season 1, Volume 50

Can you believe we're two weeks away from having the Moose back in Winnipeg for an entire year and one week from the end of the AHL regular season? Like their NHL affiliate, the Moose will miss the postseason by a large margin of points, but there have been some bright spots through the course of the season, and we will see a few more this week as some of the kids are assigned to the AHL club. The Moose had one objective this past week and it will carry forward into next week as they look to play the role of spoilers against their opponents as the season winds down. I'm more interested in seeing the next wave of players start to bring a new sense of optimism and a bigger skill set to the Moose. In the end, this is an audition for next season, so let's see how the kids did on this edition of Antler Banter!

The Games

We pick this week's games up with the second half of the two-game set against Milwaukee as the Admirals visited MTS Centre. Milwaukee took the first game by a 4-2 score, but Wednesday's game started off well for the Moose! Andrew MacWilliam found the back of the net for his first goal of the season past Marek Mazanec at 14:19 of the opening frame for the 1-0 lead. The second period would see the Admirals score three goals as they mounted the 3-1 lead through 40 minutes, but Darren Kramer's seventh of the season would make it a 3-2 game at 11:48. Milwaukee wouldn't let the Moose get any closer, however, as they popped another pair of goals past Eric Comrie for the 5-2 victory and the two-game sweep. Mazanec stopped 27 shots for the win while Comrie took the loss after making 32 saves on 37 shots. The Moose fall to 23-40-4-5 on the campaign.

After Milwaukee moved on, the Moose welcomed another Central Division foe to MTS Centre as the Rockford IceHogs made their way to Winnipeg on Saturday. Rockford was looking to jump as high as second-place in the Central Division with a couple of key wins, so the Moose had a chance to ruin the fun for the IceHogs. Scott Kosmachuk started things off with his 18th goal of the season at 7:20 of the opening period, and the IceHogs answered back in the second period to send this game into the final frame tied at 1-1. And then the Moose exploded. Austen Brassard scored his 14th of the season at 1:21, Brendan Lemieux notched his first AHL goal on the power-play at 2:25, and Sean Escobedo scored his first goal of the season at 3:58 to put the Moose up 4-1 as Mac Carruth got shelled. Brassard would toss in another goal into the empty net while on the power-play late in the game, and the Moose skated to the 5-1 win! Eric Comrie was good on 32 of 33 shots for the win while Carruth took the loss. The Moose improve their record to 24-40-4-5 with the win!

Sunday saw the IceHogs and Moose tangle again. This one was a little more offensive. Rockford jumped out to the 2-0 lead just 4:16 into the game before the Moose woke up. Brenden Kichton scored his 11th goal of the season at 9:39 to make it 2-1, and Chase De Leo added his 18th goal at 14:45 to tie things up. The IceHogs, however, would put two more goals in before the horn sounded as they took a 4-2 lead into the first intermission. The Moose would make it 4-3 when Brendan Lemieux scored his second goal in as many games as he found the back of the net on the power-play at 6:26. We jump ahead to the third period where Chase De Leo would put his 19th of the season in the back of the net just 52 seconds into the period on a power-play for the 4-4 deadlock. It looked like this game might go to overtime as the clock counted down, but Dan DeSalvo would have none of that as he picked up his fourth goal of the season with 2:42 to play to give the Moose a 5-4 come-from-behind win! Connor Hellebuyck made 39 stops for the victory while Drew MacIntyre took the loss in this one. With the win, the Moose improve to 25-40-4-5!

That's It?

We've seen the Moose and Jets make a ton of moves over the last few weeks, so you'd expect that to continue as both teams look at new players and work some of the exceptional AHL players into the NHL for an unofficial audition for next season. But that didn't happen this week as the only move made was the Jets returning Brenden Kichton to the Moose. Kichton still hasn't appeared in an NHL game, but I expect that note to end next season.

As a side note, if you're looking to get a jump on your Moose jerseys for next season, Brendan Lemieux was wearing #48 in his two games against the Rockford IceHogs. I don't know how long he'll be in the AHL, but he's already paying dividends in his two games thus far!

Two Left

The Moose will finish the season on the road as they travel to Texas for a game against the San Antonio Rampage on Friday and the Texas Stars on Saturday. Manitoba sits one point ahead of the Iowa Wild and Springfield Falcons as the cellar dwellers in the AHL, so they'll need to finish strong on the road.

San Antonio has 74 points, but is seventh in the Pacific Division and will not participate in the Calder Cup Playoffs. Manitoba is 3-0 on the season against the Rampage, including a 3-0 win in San Antonio, and look to sweep the season series. The Moose have played exceptionally well against the Rampage, outscoring them 11-3 in the three games thus far.

Texas has made the cut for the Calder Cup Playoffs as they have 89 points and currently sit in third-place in the Pacific Division. Manitoba is 0-2-1 against the Stars this season, and have been outscored 16-9 in the three games that included the February 7 game won by Texas in a 7-6 shootout! Texas is obviously gearing up for a playoff run, so the Moose will want to play spoiler in this one to disrupt the Stars' quest.

Two games left this season. Let's go out on a high note!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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