Teebz

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  1. <img src="http://i135.photobucket.com/albums/q124/cdnuniguy/AHL/Moosesign.jpg" width="120" height="180" class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Well, Moose fans, the season is over. The Hamilton Bulldogs retired the Moose in overtime in Game Six of their series, and won the series by a 4-2 margin. Honestly, I'm a little disappointed because I would have liked to have seen the Moose advance to at least the second round of the AHL Calder Cup Playoffs, but it wasn't to be. That's the trouble with professional sports: there has to be a winner and a loser. Unfortunately, the Moose were the latter in that equation, and everyone might speak of how the Moose season ended because of Grant Stevenson's skate. I'm here to talk about the positives we saw this season, and what I want to see going forward with the AHL's best franchise. Sit back, relax, and let's take a look at a few of the highlights that stood out in my mind. <div style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-weight: bold;"><u>Best Of The Best</u></span></div> First off, Cory Schneider may just be the best goaltender on the planet who isn't playing in the NHL right now. Yes, he's been called up to the Canucks and is sitting in the press box right now, but what he did this season in leading the Moose to another 40-win season was simply outstanding. I'll even go on record right here in saying that he might be the best goaltender to have ever laced up the skates for a Winnipeg-based professional hockey team. Schneider was clearly the most valuable player on the Moose roster this year, and his statistics reflected how important he was to the Herd. His 35 wins were the second-most in the AHL. He played the most minutes between the pipes in the AHL this season. He saw more vulcanized rubber than a Goodyear factory this season, and still was near the top in almost every goaltending category. The only thing that bothers me about Cory Schneider this year is the fact that he may not be back next year. Schneider played out his contract this season after spending four seasons tending to the Manitoba nets, and he has gone on record that he is interested in competing for an NHL job. He didn't quite close the book on the Moose just yet, but it appears that he'll be willing to listen to offers once July 1 rolls around. Personally, I can't fault Schneider for looking to move up the food chain. Vancouver has a pretty good guy looking after their goaltending duties right now, so a starting job may not be in the cards for Schneider just yet. However, if Vancouver GM Mike Gillis offered Schneider a competitive contract to be Luongo's back-up, Vancouver would suddenly have two outstanding goaltenders at their disposal. And if, for some reason, Schneider needs a little seasoning, he would be welcomed back with open arms to the Moose. Don't get me wrong - Schneider has put his time in with the Moose in spades. He has done some exceptional things in Manitoba, played some of the most memorable hockey this city has ever seen, and deserves a shot at the bright lights of the NHL. If he leaves, I'll be happy for him. But I won't be very happy if he returns to Manitoba wearing a different uniform. <div style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-weight: bold;"><u>The Kids Are Alright</u></span></div> I'll be honest when I say that a youth movement for the Moose next season would certainly be welcomed if the kids play like they did over the last twenty games of this season. No less than four rookies were in the lineup at the end of the season for the Moose, and all brought intangibles that the Moose needed. We'll start with the season-long rookie campaign for Russian sniper Sergei Shirokov. Shirokov came in with high expectations, and he certainly lived up to his billing as he finished the campaign ninth in rookie scoring. While certainly a streaky scorer, Shirokov was always dangerous when on the ice thanks to his blazing speed and hockey sense. What impressed me the most was the evolution of his defensive game towards the end of the year. Full marks should be given to head coach Scott Arniel and his staff for making Shirokov into a solid two-way player rather than just a one-zone scoring threat. With the University of Minnesota's season at an end, the Canucks wasted no time in trying to get Jordan Schroeder signed to a pro contract. Schroeder inked his first contract and was assigned to the Moose for the stretch run where he looked the part of an NHL first-round pick. Schroeder had seven goals and eight assists in 17 total games this year with the Moose, including six points in six Calder Cup Playoff games. Schroeder found chemistry with Yan Stastny and Guillaume Desbiens to form a high-scoring, hard-working second line - something the Moose were desperately needing in the playoffs. I'm not sure how long Schroeder will be in Manitoba for, but get down to MTS Centre to see him play before he's with the Canucks. The Moose went out and signed another collegiate player in Kevin Clark. Clark played with the University of Alaska-Anchorage, and scored 51 goals and 57 assists in 141 games with UAA over four seasons. He was a rugged power forward who didn't shy away from high-traffic areas. The Moose put this to good use as Winnipeg-born Clark scored three goals and two assists in 13 games. More impressively, he showed some solid defensive play and excelled in his defensive role as a shutdown forward. Clark would be a welcome addition next season as the Moose searched for some sandpaper all season long after releasing Darryl Bootland. Perhaps my favorite signing came courtesy of Brown University as the Canucks inked senior Aaron Volpatti and assigned him to the Moose. Volpatti didn't set the world on fire with his scoring, but he was the grinding, agitating, sandpaperish player that the Moose desperately needed all season long. He came in as <a href="http://www.browndailyherald.com/volpatti-10-breaks-penalty-minutes-record-on-purpose-1.2197171" target="new">a player who didn't mind mixing it up</a>, so his hard-nosed approach won him over fans early as he was willing to drop the gloves if the situation called for it. In his 13 games with the Moose, Volpatti scored two goals and one assist, but his 38 PIMs showed he would stand and deliver when necessary. Ryan McGinnis, Matt Clark, Geoff Waugh, and Taylor Ellington were solid defensive additions when the Moose came calling as well. For a revolving door at the blueline with the amount of call-ups that the Canucks made this season, it's a surprise that these youngsters stepped in and played as well as they could with little to no AHL experience, but the kids proved they were alright. I'd offer up spots in training camp to all of them as they proved they could compete at the AHL level this season. We didn't get to see highly-touted pick <a href="http://i135.photobucket.com/albums/q124/cdnuniguy/AHL/hodgsonmoose.jpg" target="new">Cody Hodgson this season in a Moose uniform</a> due to injuries that kept him out of the lineup, but Hodgson's past performance with the Moose shows that his potential is limitless, and we should expect Hodgson in Manitoba next season for at least a few weeks. Needless to say, the young man would be a huge help down the middle for the Moose, and his solid two-way play have earned his rave reviews in the OHL. Hodgson should be another solid addition to the Moose next season providing that he doesn't crack the Canucks' lineup. <div style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-weight: bold;"><u>The Grizzled Veterans</u></span></div> I'm anxious to see who returns from the current corps of forwards that suited up for the Moose this season. Players who should find a locker next season, if I were in charge, would be Moose captain Mike Keane, Marco Rosa, Yan Stastny, Mario Bliznak, Guillaume Desbiens, Peter Olvecky, and, if he returns, Matt Pettinger. Their leadership, experience, and scoring are needed, and the Moose relied upon these men this season. If Michael Grabner is back, that would also be a solid scoring addition to the Moose lineup as well. On the blueline, I'd like to see Nolan Baumgartner, Evan Oberg, Tom Galvin, Travis Ramsey, and Lawrence Nycholat come together as a group again. Again, the revolving door that seemed to be spinning all season long for the Moose as players were shuffled between Winnipeg and Vancouver was ridiculous, but necessary for the NHL club. The problem, though, is that the Moose suffered due to the inconsistent lineup they iced night in and night out. While this is life in the AHL, the Canucks may want to look at bolstering their depth on the blueline so that the Moose aren't playing games with five defencemen as they did a couple of times this season. Of course, both Dan Sexton and Brian Salcido will most likely be playing for the Syracuse Crunch next season as the Anaheim Ducks have partnered with them as an AHL affiliate. Sexton was everything and more while he was here in terms of meeting the expectations placed upon him, and I truly think he'll have a spot with the Ducks next season. Salcido, for some of his defensive lapses, will probably play for Syracuse next season, and the offensive defenceman will be looking to improve upon his 18-point season with the Moose this past year. Daren Machesney would certainly be welcomed back, despite his numbers being nowhere near what was expected this season. Machesney, in his defence, played behind a potent offence in Hershey the last few years, so allowing three goals normally got him a win. With the Moose this season, three goals-against would be a difficult task to overcome for the scoring-challenged Moose, but Machesney played well enough to warrant another shot at tending the Moose nets. <div style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-weight: bold;"><u>The Man At The Top</u></span></div> Head coach Scott Arniel has put together some of the best seasons of hockey that this city has seen, and it appears he will be rewarded with multiple NHL interviews for head coaching vacancies. Atlanta and Columbus have been granted permission to speak with Arniel, and you'd have to think there's a good chance he'll get hired after stringing together four seasons of 40-win hockey, and an overall record of 181-106-33 over those four seasons. The Moose have seen Randy Carlyle and Alain Vigneault take the next step to the NHL level and show that the lessons they learned as a coach in the AHL readied them for the NHL bench job. Arniel certainly has a great shot at being the next man in line to earn an NHL job after spending time as the Moose's head man. <div style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-weight: bold;"><u>In Conclusion</u></span></div> I'm not going to lie. I wanted more Moose hockey this season. Another run at the Calder Cup would have been a perfect ending to the season, but the Herd came up a little short. However, full marks to the team for banding together, rallying to make the playoffs, and sending some pangs of fear through the Hamilton Bulldogs in their series. There were a lot of solid efforts this season, and I really liked the additions the Moose made at the end of the season with the kids they brought in. I'm already looking forward to next season, and I'm excited for more Hardcore Hockey! Antler Banter is calling it a season, but we'll be back soon to look at the Moose as they take on the AHL in the 2010-11 season! Have a great summer, and keep your sticks on the ice! If you're looking to follow my hockey chatter, head on over to Hockey Blog In Canada for more!
  2. <img src="http://i135.photobucket.com/albums/q124/cdnuniguy/AHL/antlerbanterham.jpg" width="200" height="188" class="imageFloatLeftFramed">We're one week into the AHL Calder Cup Playoffs, and <span style="font-style:italic;">Antler Banter</span> is still believing in green! The Hamilton Bulldogs and Manitoba Moose have battled through four games - two in each team's home arena - and we find ourselves staring down Game Five on Friday night. That means a sweep is out of the question for either team, but it also means that the heavily-favoured Bulldogs have been held at bay by the plucky Moose to a degree. We'll look at last week's "Keys To Victory", examine and expand on those this week, and look at the rest of the series. Your Manitoba Moose Calder Cup Playoff news and information can be found on <a href="http://www.moosehockey.com/" target="new">the Moose website</a>. If you're interested in attending a Manitoba Moose Calder Cup Playoff game, <a href="http://www.moosehockey.com/individualtickets" target="new">please click here</a> for seating information, ticket pricing, and availability. Keep believing in green as we check out this week's <span style="font-weight: bold;">Hardcore Hockey</span>! <div style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-weight: bold;"><u>Moose Keys To Victory</u></span></div> <ol><li><span style="font-weight: bold;">Special Teams.</span> If the Moose stay out of the penalty box, and can convert on a few powerplays of their own, Hamilton could find themselves in trouble. The Bulldogs don't take a lot of penalties, so the Moose have to make them pay when they do take a penalty. <span style="font-style:italic;"><span style="color: rgb(46,139,87);">The Moose have been pretty good with the man-advantage thus far. The Moose are 6-for-22 thus far in the series, clipping along at a 27.3% pace. The Moose haven't seen powerplay percentages like that since last season. However, The Dogs are scoring at a 22.2% pace as well, so the Moose need to tighten up on the penalty kill or need to stop taking penalties. Which leads me to...</span></span> </li><li><span style="font-weight: bold;">Discipline.</span> This goes without saying when playing an offensive juggernaut like Hamilton. The Moose can't take dumb penalties, and need to be faster, smarter, and more disciplined when playing the puck. Anything after the whistle should be avoided entirely. The Bulldogs can score, so there is no reason to allow them additional chances to capitalize. <span style="font-style:italic;"><span style="color: rgb(46,139,87);">Continuing on that point above, the Moose players have to stop taking lazy penalties. Of the minor penalties called, the Moose have taken six interference penalties, five slashing penalties, four hooking penalties, and two too-many-men penalties. Interference is a bit of a subjective call for a referee, but the stick fouls, including two tripping calls and a cross-checking penalty, make up twelve minor penalties already. And two too-many-men penalties is far too many in four games. The Moose <u>have</u> to play smarter, especially if they want to continue in this series.</span></span> </li><li><span style="font-weight: bold;">Need A Blanket.</span> If I were head coach Scott Arniel, Mike Keane would follow Brock Trotter around the ice like they were siamese twins. There's no secret that the majority of Hamilton's offence runs through Trotter, so I'd assign my best defensive forward to cover him. Keane has been in this role in his career many times, and the Moose captain may even be able to draw a few penalties if he can get Trotter off his game. <span style="font-style:italic;"><span style="color: rgb(46,139,87);">Trotter has three goals and one assist in four games, so the Moose have been keeping the most dangerous Bulldog in check. Where the Moose need to adjust is the pinching blueline. PK Subban has three goals and three assists, including the overtime game-winner in Game Four, so the Moose have to find a way to keep Subban in check. Mike Glumac's four goals have also been big, so a more focused defensive effort will certainly become paramount.</span></span> </li><li><span style="font-weight: bold;">Force Mistakes.</span> The Moose have to score the first goal to have the Bulldogs change their strategy. As stated above, the Bulldog blueliners love to jump into the play, so putting them behind the eight-ball would force those defencemen to start pressing a little earlier. Defensive breakdowns will happen, and the Moose can look to take advantage of those chances. <span style="font-style:italic;"><span style="color: rgb(46,139,87;">The Moose have caught the Bulldogs pinching on occasion, and their efforts have been rewarded. The Moose must remain aggressive in their forecheck in trying to force turnovers while the Bulldogs break out of their zone, and they have to remain vigilant in their transition game to catch the Dogs' blueliners flat-footed. Thus far, the Moose have done well, but they need to continue this approach.</span></span> </li><li><span style="font-weight: bold;">Sacrifice Everything.</span> The Bulldogs love to shoot the puck. The Moose play extremely defensively. The only answer is to block shots, block shots, and block more shots. There should be no shortage of bruises and contusions if the Moose put their bodies between the puck and Cory Schneider, but the Moose have to help their defencemen and Schneider by limiting shots and second chance opportunities. The best way to do that is to stop the puck from getting to the net. Sacrifice the body, Moose players. And get the ice packs ready. <span style="font-style:italic;"><span style="color: rgb(46,139,87);">There's not much else to say now. Being down 3-1 means that desperation hockey is a way of life, so the Herd had better be prepared to hurt, ache, and possibly bleed for their season. Throw the body with reckless abandon. Block shots like they are going out of style. Shoot like it's Game Seven of the Stanley Cup Finals. Hold nothing back, and play with no regrets. In other words, make the ultimate sacrifice for you and your teammates. Otherwise, the golf courses are expecting you.</span></span></li></ol> <div style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-weight: bold;"><u>Great Sections Available</u></span></div> One of the things I'm always impressed with are the crowds in Winnipeg. There is definitely an electricity in the building when the fans pack MTS Centre for a Moose game, and the two home games thus far have been nothing short of incredible. Through two home dates thus far, the Moose have seen 15047 fans make their way through the turnstiles, averaging just short of 7525 fans per game. Hamilton, on the other hand, has hosted two playoff games thus far, and has only seen 9314 fans make their way into Copps Coliseum. The majority of those fans - 5626 of them - came out to last Saturday's Game Two against the Moose. I'm not sure why fans in Hamilton aren't going to see the Bulldogs play, considering that Toronto didn't qualify for the NHL Playoffs. There could be some people going to Ottawa and/or Buffalo to see those teams play in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but 9300 fans in two games in one of the Canadian "NHL-ready" cities is, quite frankly, disappointing. Winnipeg had a first-place team last season, and they set an attendance record in the 2009 Calder Cup Playoffs. The Bulldogs play in a larger arena, but play to smaller crowds than the fourth-place Moose this season. Way to go, Moose fans! If there was any doubt as to which Canadian AHL franchise has the best fans, Moose fans certainly have put their stamp on AHL attendance figures over the last few seasons. This is why I love being a Manitoba Moose fan - big crowds, a great team, and excellent entertainment! <div style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-weight: bold;"><u>Down But Not Out</u></span></div> The Moose do have an uphill battle for the rest of this series. They are down 3-1 to the Bulldogs after four games, and will play at home on Friday before finishing the series' last two games in Hamilton. Certainly the battle will be long and hard, but all hope is not lost by this writer. Jordan Schroeder, Kevin Clark, and Guillaume Desbiens have really clicked in the last couple of games. If I were head coach Scott Arniel, these guys would be out whenever I could send them over the boards. For as reliable as Marco Rosa and Sergei Shirokov have been, they need to start clicking with Dan Sexton in order for the Moose to have two legitimate scoring lines. One scoring line will not get it done in the playoffs against any team, let alone the powerful Bulldogs. Cory Schneider has played well, but needs to come up with one of those outstanding games where it seems he's on another level. I realize that asking Schneider to pay the saviour for this team seems like the "same old, same old", but Schneider has to steal a game at least once in the next three outings. This would mean that the Moose have to start scoring again, but the last two games have yielded 11 goals against the Bulldogs - more than half of what they scored in eight games against the Dogs in the regular season. All in all, a tough test awaits the Moose. Game Five should be their only priority at this point, and anyone looking past their next shift should be glued to the bench. Every shift matters now as the room for error is nil. I believe in green, though, and I'm expecting the Moose to head back to Hamilton for Game Six. DO IT! Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!
  3. <img src="http://i135.photobucket.com/albums/q124/cdnuniguy/AHL/antlerbanterham.jpg" width="200" height="188" class="imageFloatLeftFramed"> <span style="font-style: italic;">Antler Banter</span> returns on a Thursday as it's game day for the Moose. The AHL's Calder Cup Playoffs start this evening, and the Moose will be in Hamilton, Ontario to battle the North Division Champion Hamilton Bulldogs. These two teams battled to even 4-3-1 records this season, proving that there wasn't a lot of difference between the teams in the North Division. The familiarity also breeds contempt as the Bulldogs and Moose had moments of hand-to-hand combat this past season. We'll take a look at how these two teams match-up in this series, and what will be the keys to victory for the Moose. Any Manitoba Moose news and information can be found on <a href="http://www.moosehockey.com/" target="new">the Moose website</a>. If you're interested in attending a Manitoba Moose Calder Cup Playoff game, <a href="http://www.moosehockey.com/individualtickets" target="new">please click here</a> for seating information, ticket pricing, and availability. "Believe In Green" as we look at some playoff <span style="font-weight: bold;">Hardcore Hockey</span>! <div style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-weight: bold;"><u>The Devil Is In The Details</u></span></div> The season series went as follows: - October 19 in Hamilton: Manitoba wins 2-1 in overtime. - October 20 in Hamilton: Hamilton wins 4-1. - November 20 in Winnipeg: Manitoba wins 5-3. - November 21 in Winnipeg: Hamilton wins 5-4 in overtime. - March 23 in Winnipeg: Manitoba wins 3-2. - March 24 in Winnipeg: Hamilton wins 7-1. - April 4 in Hamilton: Hamilton wins 6-2. - April 6 in Hamilton: Manitoba wins 2-1. <span style="font-weight: bold;"><u>Series Stats</u></span> - Manitoba scored 20 goals, while Hamilton scored 29 goals. - Manitoba recorded 170 shots on net, while Hamilton recorded 250. - Manitoba scored on 11.8% of their shots, while Hamilton scored on 11.6% of their shots. - Manitoba never had more than 27 shots in a game against Hamilton this season, but never less than 15. Hamilton, on the other hand, recorded 38 shots in a game, had over 30 shots in four games, and never recorded less than 26 shots in a game over the series. - The Moose powerplay went 5-for-39, scoring on 12.8% of their chances. Hamilton went 7-for-46, scoring on 15.2% of their man-advantage chances. - Manitoba's Cory Schneider played in seven games, going 4-2-1 while Daren Machesney was 0-1-0. - Hamilton's Cedric Desjardins was 3-2-0 in his five appearances, while Curtis Sanford went 1-1-1. - Sergei Shirokov was Manitoba's most dangerous scorer against Hamilton, recording three goals and four assists. Evan Oberg and Marco Rosa recorded two goals and four assists each. A total of 22 Moose players recorded one point in the eight games against Hamilton. - Brock Trotter was Hamilton's most dangerous scorer against the Herd, recording four goals and seven assists. David Desharnais had two goals and seven assists, and Andrew Conboy had three goals and three assists. 25 Bulldogs recorded at least one point in the season series. </li></ul><div style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-weight: bold;"><u>Team Comparison</u></span></div> <span style="font-weight: bold;"><u>Offence:</u></span> There is no doubt that the Bulldogs have a potent offensive attack. Brock Trotter lit the lamp 36 times this season on his 77-point season, and linemate David Desharnais put up another 27 goals with 51 helpers. Including those two players, the Bulldogs had ten players with double-digits in goals. They get great support from their blueline, as PK Subban had a team-high 18 goals from the back end. The Bulldogs ended the season with 271 goals-for, and were +89 in the goal differential. The Dogs play a very structured offensive system that begins in their own zone. They control the puck very well, and they make tape-to-tape passes if not challenged. Hamilton doesn't have a problem scoring, and this is helped by their overall team speed. Manitoba, as has been documented all season, has struggled in the offence department. Marco Rosa and Sergei Shirokov shared the team lead in goals with 22 markers apiece, and Rosa led the team in scoring with 55 points. Shirokov had 45 points in his rookie campaign, and Peter Olvecky, who arrived from Milwaukee, had 38 points. Evan Oberg led all defencemen in points with 26, while Brian Salcido had the lead in goals from the blueliners with eight. The Moose ended the season with 204 goals-for, but their goal differential was a -28. The Herd is a defence-oriented team due to the fact that they have no offensive superstars. They don't score a lot, but they do forecheck well to cause turnovers that can result in goals. However, goals mainly come from one line, and that won't carry you very far in the playoffs. <div style="text-align: right;"><span style="font-weight: bold;">Advantage: Hamilton</span></div> <span style="font-weight: bold;"><u>Defence:</u></span> The Bulldogs showed that they were one of the better teams in their own zone this season by allowing a league-low 182 goals-against. Part of this is due to how well they ran their offensive system, and part of it is due to their penchant for blocking shots. They pressure very well in the offensive zone on the forecheck, and seem to enjoy chasing the puck carrier in search of a turnover. They occasionally get caught when their defencemen pinch and press for goals, so this may be a concern for the Hamilton coaching staff if it can be exploited. Their speed is excellent on the back end, though, and they normally angle players off the puck before they can get shots off. The Moose gave up a ton of shots this season as their goaltenders faced 2276 shots - 245 more than the Bulldogs' goalies faced. They were regularly outshot by their opposition, but it speaks volumes to their blueline's "bend but don't break" policy. You don't normally end up 40-33-5-2 by allowing teams to outshoot and outscore you during the season, but the Moose weathered a lot of storms in their own zones. This experience may prove to be valuable in this post-season. The Moose have excellent, smart defencemen when they are focused and determined, but mental lapses occur. When they do, the Moose seem to get burned. Badly. The overall speed of the team is a little slower than what I'd like to see, but the Moose defencemen battle hard in front of their net, and there are no free passes given to the opposition. The forwards do a great job in backchecking, and work hard to keep players to the outside. <div style="text-align: right;"><span style="font-weight: bold;">Advantage: Hamilton</span></div> <span style="font-weight: bold;"><u>Goaltending:</u></span> There's no doubt that Cedric Desjardins has been spectacular this season for the Hamilton Bulldogs. He went 29-9-4 with a 2.00 GAA and a 91.9% save percentage. He also recorded six shutouts, showing that he is a very capable stopper in his own right. Desjardins was entirely the reason that the Bulldogs charged up the standings in December, resulting in their North Division title. Veteran Curtis Sanford backed up the talented youngster, and showed what two solid goaltenders can do as he went 23-11-3 with a 2.13 GAA, four shutouts, and a 91.6% save percentage. It's hard to argue with numbers like that, but Desjardins and Sanford rarely had to steal a game for their team. The Moose were led by last year's top goaltender in the AHL in Cory Schneider. Schneider went 35-23-2 this season with a 2.51 GAA, four shutouts, and a 91.9% save percentage. Some nights, Schneider stood on his head in securing a win for the Moose, and, in my opinion, is the reason why the Moose are playing in this year's Calder Cup Playoffs. Back-up Daren Machesney was 5-14-0 with a 3.34 GAA and an 89.4% save percentage. It always seemed that Machesney never got any scoring when he was in the net, and his record is indicative of that. Machesney is a capable goaltender, but there's no doubt that the Moose will ride Schneider. As surprising as this may be, I believe that if Schneider plays as his usual outstanding self, the Moose have a very legitimate shot at defeating the Bulldogs in this series. <div style="text-align: right;"><span style="font-weight: bold;">Advantage: Manitoba</span></div> <div style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-weight: bold;"><u>Moose Keys To Victory</u></span></div> <ol><li><span style="font-weight: bold;">Special Teams.</span> If the Moose stay out of the penalty box, and can convert on a few powerplays of their own, Hamilton could find themselves in trouble. The Bulldogs don't take a lot of penalties, so the Moose have to make them pay when they do take a penalty.</li><li><span style="font-weight: bold;">Discipline.</span> This goes without saying when playing an offensive juggernaut like Hamilton. The Moose can't take dumb penalties, and need to be faster, smarter, and more disciplined when playing the puck. Anything after the whistle should be avoided entirely. The Bulldogs can score, so there is no reason to allow them additional chances to capitalize.</li><li><span style="font-weight: bold;">Need A Blanket.</span> If I were head coach Scott Arniel, Mike Keane would follow Brock Trotter around the ice like they were siamese twins. There's no secret that the majority of Hamilton's offence runs through Trotter, so I'd assign my best defensive forward to cover him. Keane has been in this role in his career many times, and the Moose captain may even be able to draw a few penalties if he can get Trotter off his game.</li><li><span style="font-weight: bold;">Force Mistakes.</span> The Moose have to score the first goal to have the Bulldogs change their strategy. As stated above, the Bulldog blueliners love to jump into the play, so putting them behind the eight-ball would force those defencemen to start pressing a little earlier. Defensive breakdowns will happen, and the Moose can look to take advantage of those chances.</li><li><span style="font-weight: bold;">Sacrifice Everything.</span> The Bulldogs love to shoot the puck. The Moose play extremely defensively. The only answer is to block shots, block shots, and block more shots. There should be no shortage of bruises and contusions if the Moose put their bodies between the puck and Cory Schneider, but the Moose have to help their defencemen and Schneider by limiting shots and second chance opportunities. The best way to do that is to stop the puck from getting to the net. Sacrifice the body, Moose players. And get the ice packs ready.</li></ol> Hamilton and Winnipeg kick off in about an hour's time, so it's time to get ready for the AHL Calder Cup Playoffs! This series should be a good one as there's nothing these two teams don't know about one another, and I expect a lot of close games and hard-fought battles. It's time for the Moose to bear down and help their MVP goaltender earn a few well-deserved wins. <span style="font-weight: bold;">DO IT!</span> Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!
  4. <img src="http://i135.photobucket.com/albums/q124/cdnuniguy/AHL/antlerbanter.jpg" width="200" height="188" class="imageFloatLeftFramed">This will be the last regular season edition of <span style="font-style: italic;">Antler Banter</span> as the Manitoba Moose only have two games remaining on their schedule. We'll take a look at whether the Moose were able to gain a berth in the Calder Cup Playoffs, and some player movement that could potentially cripple the team in their last two regular season games, and further if the team has made the playoffs. All in all, this is the "make or break" edition of <span style="font-style: italic;">Antler Banter</span>, so let's get to it! All of your current Manitoba Moose news and information is avaliable on <a href="http://www.moosehockey.com/" target="new">the Moose website</a>. If you're interested in attending a Manitoba Moose game, <a href="http://www.moosehockey.com/individualtickets" target="new">please click here</a> for seating information, ticket pricing, and availability. Here is the last regular season edition of <span style="font-weight: bold;">Hardcore Hockey</span>! The Marlies And The Playoffs With the Marlies breathing down the Herd's necks, the Moose had to put together a solid series against Toronto if they wanted to make the playoffs and continue their pursuit of Abbotsford. Friday night saw Cory Schneider in the Moose nets while Toronto countered with James Reimer. Kevin Clark continued his impressive debut with the Moose when he gave the visitors the early lead. Clark notched his second goal of the season when he wired home a wrist shot over a sprawled Reimer, and the Moose had the 1-0 lead at 17:16 of the first period. Another rookie made an impact just a few minutes before the opening goal. Aaron Volpatti dropped the mitts with Phil Oreskovic, and showed why he led Brown University in penalty minutes during his career. After Oreskovic landed one solid punch, the larger <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y0NuB6PCWKQ" target="new">Oreskovic essentially threw Volpatti to the ice</a> before the fight even started, so we'll call this one a draw. Volpatti, however, showed that size doesn't matter when it comes to a good, old-fashioned brouhaha. After one period of play, the Moose had the 1-0 lead, and led in shots with a 12-9 advantage. Mario Bliznak added to the Moose lead 9:31 into the second period. Bliznak fired a quick shot on net that was stopped by Reimer, but the plucky centerman picked up the rebound and fired it past Reimer to make it 2-0. Bliznak's tenth goal of the season was the only goal of the period, and the Moose went into the second intermission with a two-goal lead. Bliznak, playing on the fourth line, really added a big goal in that second period, and we'd hear from him again shortly. 2:24 into the third period, "Super" Mario notched his second goal of the game. With Bliznak standing on the doorstep, he found the puck and popped the puck into the back of the net. Bliznak had his 11th goal of the season, and the Moose had the 3-0 lead. With six minutes to play, Toronto head coach Dallas Eakins yanked Reimer for an extra attacker. With the man-advantage, Ben Ondrus ended Cory Schneider's shutout bid with a goal 4:05 to play. Ondrus' seventh of the season made it 3-1 in favour of the Moose. With the net empty, the Moose couldn't muster another goal, but it didn't matter as they held the fort. At the final horn, Manitoba had secured the 3-1 victory. Manitoba improved to 37-32-5-1 on the season with the win. <div style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-weight: bold;"><u>On The Brink</u></span></div> Toronto's playoff lives rested on this game as Manitoba had opened up a sizable lead on the Marlies in the race for the final playoff spot in the North Division. Toronto basically had to win out and hope that Manitoba recorded no points in their remaining games. Cory Schneider went back to the nets for Manitoba, and Toronto went with James Reimer once again. Manitoba struck first again in this game. Yan Stastny fed Jordan Schroeder in the slot, but his wrist shot was blocked by Toronto's Alex Foster. The puck flipped over top of Foster and landed in the slot area where Guillaume Desbiens swooped in. His backhander found its way through Reimer, and Manitoba was out to the 1-0 lead 11:39 into the game on Desbiens' 18th goal of the season. There was no scoring through the second period, so we move to third period where a brutal defensive gaffe put Toronto on the board. A puck cleared from the Toronto zone ended up rolling past Brian Salcido as he backed up to center ice. I'm not sure if he was tired or if he simply assumed that Tim Brent wouldn't challenge as quickly as he did, but Salcido's lackluster defensive effort resulted in a Tim Brent breakaway on Schenider. Brent slid a low shot between Schneider's pads, and the Marlies tied the game at 1-1 on Brent's 11th goal of the season at 11:23. Both Reimer and Schneider were unbeatable for the remainder of the third period and through overtime, so a shootout would decide this game. Tim Brent would outduel Schneider, and Reimer solved Rosa's deke, so Toronto led 1-0 in the shootout after one round. Josh Engel scored for Toronto, while Jordan Schroeder put the puck high and wide on Reimer's glove side, and Toronto was out to a 2-0 lead. Greg Scott couldn't put the puck past Schneider, while Mike Keane ripped a wrist shot just under the crossbar for Manitoba, cutting Toronto's lead to 2-1. However, Josh Hamilton scored the winner in the fourth-round as his deke beat Schneider on the glove side, and Guillaume Desbiens couldn't solve Reimer. Toronto captures the extra point in the 2-1 shootout win, but loses the battle for the playoffs. With the point, the Moose officially clinch a playoff spot. However, the shootout loss sends the team back to a 37-32-5-2 record. <div style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-weight: bold;"><u>Those Angry, Vicious Dogs</u></span></div> The Moose rolled down the highway to Hamilton for two games against the North Division-leading Bulldogs. This game would end the three-games-in-three-days run that the Moose were on, so it goes without saying that they were ripe for the picking. And they got picked off in a bad way. Daren Machesney took to the nets for Manitoba while Hamilton responded with Cedric Desjardins. This could be a potential first-round matchup in the Calder Cup Playoffs, so there was a lot of posturing to be done. Andrew Conboy put the home team up by a goal midway through the first period. Conboy let a strong wrist shot go as he weaved through two Moose defenders at the left circle, and his shot found the far post past Machesney's glove, and the Bulldogs were out to the 1-0 lead 10:50 into the first period on Conboy's eighth goal of the season. Both goalies held strong after that, and Hamilton went into the break up by one goal. Manitoba and Hamilton tied in shots at nine apiece, and it was good reflection of how evenly-matched these two teams were through the opening twenty minutes. The second period? Oi vay. Blake Trotter added to Hamilton's lead in the second period. His 36th goal of the season at 5:33 made it 2-0 for Hamilton. Tommy Maxwell got one back for Manitoba. Peter Olvecky raced in from the right point with the puck, and shoveled it across the crease where Maxwell met the puck. His quick shot beat Desjardins as he slid across the crease. Maxwell's second goal of the season cut the deficit to 2-1 at 6:32. Once again, I'm not sure what Brian Salcido was thinking, but his play cost Manitoba another goal. Mike Glumac went outside on Salcido with the puck, and all Salcido had to do was angle Glumac towards the corner to break up the scoring chance. Instead, it appears that he tried to hip-check Glumac off the puck, and Glumac avoided the hit easily as Salcido put little effort into it. That mistake opened up a lane, and Glumac's backhanded pass was chipped past Machesney by David Desharnais who was standing on the doorstep. Desharnais' 27th goal of the season put Hamilton up 3-1 at 11:02. Hamilton would add another goal at 15:40. The puck bounced behind the Moose net following a mad scramble in front of Machesney, and Dany Masse fed Desharnais along the right wing boards. Desharnais spotted Yannick Weber in the high slot, and hit him with a good pass that Weber one-timed to the back of the net. Weber's sixth of the season put Hamilton up 4-1. 46 seconds after that saw the Bulldogs add another goal. Shawn Belle raced down the right wing and got away a wrist shot that Machesney bobbled. The puck landed in front of him, and Hunter Bishop whacked the loose puck by the Moose goaltender for his first goal of the season. Hamilton had a 5-1 lead with 3:34 to play in the second. Mercifully, the period ended, but Manitoba had been hurt in that period by some sloppy play. I'm not one to criticize players for their work, but can someone tell me why Brian Salcido is on the ice in critical situations? He carries a -13 rating. Sure, he brings a ton of offensive talent, but he needs to step up the defensive side of his game. Especially if Hamilton and Manitoba meet in the first round of the Calder Cup Playoffs. Just 1:36 into the third, and we had ourselves some rough stuff. Aaron Volpatti absolutely destroyed Yannick Weber with a monsterous hit along the end boards, and Weber appeared to be hurt as he laid on the ice. Mike Vernace jumped Volpatti from behind and began raining blows on the surprised Moose scrapper. However, Volpatti got himself together quickly, and threw a pile of punches that landed squarely in Vernace's mush. Vernace went down faster than a cold beer on a hot day from the barrage of rights that Volpatti landed, and the scrappy Volpatti earned a solid victory in this tilt. The Moose notched another goal midway through the third period. With Trotter off for tripping, Yan Stastny raced down the right wing and got off a backhander that Desjardins handled. However, the rebound landed out in the slot where Guillaume Desbiens was standing, and the Moose forward chipped home a backhander that found the twine. Desbiens' powerplay marker made the game 5-2 at 10:40, and was his 19th goal of the season. However, 22 seconds later saw the Bulldogs erase that goal. Trotter fed a streaking Yannick Weber down the right side. Weber looked to be in too deep to get away a good shot, but his high wrist shot from below the face-off dot found enough room on the short side over Machesney's shoulder, and the Bulldogs increased their lead to 6-2. Weber's seventh goal of the season came at 11:02. The horn at the end of regulation had the Bulldogs up by that same 6-2 score. Again, it was the Moose's third game in three days, so fatigue could have been a factor in their effort, but every game counts against potential playoff opponents. The Moose would have to lick their wounds and get ready for a rematch on Tuesday. With the Sunday loss, the Moose dropped to 37-33-5-2 on the season. <div style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-weight: bold;"><u>A Win Is A Win Is A Win</u></span></div> The Moose needed two points to win the season points total against the Bulldogs. Again, this could be a first-round matchup, so there was everything to play for in this game for both teams. Cory Schneider took his usual spot on the ice for the Moose, while Hamilton sent out their star goalie in Cedric Desjardins. Hamilton opened the scoring in the first period. Ryan White picked up the puck just inside the Moose blueline on the right wing, and three Moose players converged as the Bulldogs entered the zone. Mario Bliznak and Tommy Maxwell had White covered fairly well, so I'm not sure why Brian Salcido felt he had to close on White as well when two Bulldogs were skating through the slot area. White fed the puck across to Maxime Lacroix who had a ton of room thanks to Evan Oberg having to watch Andrew Conboy due to Salcido's play on White. Oberg closed on Lacroix as he got away a laser of a shot, but couldn't block it. Lacroix's shot eluded Schneider, and Hamilton had the 1-0 lead on Lacroix's first goal of the season at 5:32. It took nearly forty minutes for another goal to be scored, but the visitors were able to tie the game up early in the third period. Grant Stevenson was sent to the penalty box for holding, and the Moose powerplay took to the ice. Sergei Shirokov and Evan Oberg played catch before Shirokov fed Oberg in the high slot, and Oberg's one-timer beat Desjardins. Oberg's powerplay goal tied the game at 1-1, and his third goal of the season came at 3:13 of the third period. The Moose struck again at the 7:00 mark. Tom Galvin threw a great stretch pass up to Kevin Clark as he cross the blue line on the left wing. As the Bulldogs converged on him, Clark threw a backhanded pass across the ice that a sprawling Shirokov couldn't corral, but Marco Rosa did on the right wing. Rosa's shot, however, was blocked by Frederic St. Denis. Shirokov was in the right place at the right time thanks to his earlier sprawl, and the puck landed on the blade of his stick. He tucked the puck underneath Desjardins, and the Russian sniper put the Moose ahead 2-1 with his 22nd goal of the season. With Desjardins on the bench late in the game, there were a couple of mad scrambles in and around the Moose net, but the puck never made it past the goal line. The Moose survived the onslaught as the final buzzer sounded, and earned the 2-1 victory. With the win, the Moose improve to 38-33-5-2 on the season with two games remaining. <div style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-weight: bold;"><u>Losing Some Heart And Soul</u></span></div> With Ryan Johnson injured in Vancouver, you knew that the NHL club would come calling for some help. Johnson is out for approximately one month with a broken foot, and the Canucks need someone to fill the hole in their lineup. Yesterday, the Canucks recalled Moose assistant captain and sixth-leading scorer in Matt Pettinger. Pettinger was a major part of the Moose line-up this season, providing scoring for an offensively-anemic club, and providing solid leadership. Pettinger will probably not be returned with the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs on the horizon, meaning the Moose will lose another major player on their team for at least one round. Pettinger is the third call-up from the Moose, and joins Nolan Baumgartner and Michael Grabner on the Canucks' roster. None are expected back unless the Canucks are eliminated in a first-round upset. The Moose may get some help, however. It is expected that Luca Sbisa may join the club once his WHL season is over. Currently, Sbisa is playing with the Portland Winter Hawks in the second round of the WHL Playoffs against the Vancouver Giants. The Giants lead that series by a 2-0 lead, and reports suggest that the Ducks will assign the big defenceman to Manitoba once Portland has been eliminated. Sbisa would be a nice fit in Manitoba, and his big shot would be a huge upgrade for the Moose powerplay. Dan Sexton is expected to return to the Moose once the Anaheim Ducks finish their season. The Ducks are officially eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs, so Sexton will play out the remaining games before returning to the Moose for their Calder Cup Playoff run. Sexton will be a huge help for the Moose after losing Pettinger for at least one month. According to Moose GM Craig Heisinger, it sounds as if Cody Hodgson will not join the Moose this season. The Brampton Battalions' centerman saw his team fall to the Barrie Colts tonight to lose the series in a four-game sweep, meaning his OHL season is over. It was expected that Hodgson would be assigned to the Moose, but Heisinger stated this week on a radio sport show that he expects Hodgson to focus on recovering from his myriad of injuries this season rather than pushing for more hockey. As much as I'd like to see Hodgson suit up for the Moose again, I'm quite certain that Vancouver will want to protect their investment. Don't expect to see Hodgson playing in the Calder Cup Playoffs unless he has a sudden turn of heart. <div style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-weight: bold;"><u>Playoff Scheduling</u></span></div> MTS Centre will play host to at least two AHL Calder Cup games this spring. The Moose will face either the Hamilton Bulldogs (very likely) or the Rochester Americans (highly unlikely) in the first round, so it's time to plan your springtime hockey watching. <div style="text-align: center;">Game 1 - Thursday, April 15 Manitoba Moose at TBD Game 2 - Saturday, April 17 Manitoba Moose at TBD <span style="font-weight: bold;">Game 3 - Monday, April 19: TBD at Manitoba Moose</span> <span style="font-weight: bold;">Game 4 - Wednesday, April 21: TBD at Manitoba Moose</span> <span style="font-weight: bold;">Game 5 - Friday, April 23*: TBD at Manitoba Moose</span> Game 6 - Sunday, April 25* Manitoba Moose at TBD Game 7 - Tuesday, April 27* Manitoba Moose at TBD</div> All games in Manitoba will begin at 7:30 CDT, so plan accordingly. Tickets are not yet on sale as seedings are still being determined, but once Manitoba's opponent is known, playoff tickets will most likely go on sale. Two games remain this weekend as the Peoria Rivermen visit MTS Centre. If the Moose can win both, they'll post a respectable 40-win season, and that's pretty darn good considering the trouble they had all season scoring goals. The games against Peoria will see Pierre-Cedric Labrie return to Manitoba, and Yan Stastny will square off against his old team. Two wins would go a long way in putting pressure on Abbotsford. DO IT! Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!
  5. <img src="http://i135.photobucket.com/albums/q124/cdnuniguy/AHL/antlerbanter.jpg" width="200" height="188" class="imageFloatLeftFramed"> There are only six games remaining in the Herd's regular season, and we could possibly have two or more weeks of playoff hockey. Antler Banter is back on Wednesday, and the Moose had two big games this week on Monday and Tuesday. We'll look at those two battles against division-rival Abbotsford, and we'll update the standings and what the Moose have to do to ensure a playoff berth. For all of your breaking and current Manitoba Moose news and information, head over to <a href="http://www.moosehockey.com/" target="new">the Moose website</a>. If you're interested in attending a Manitoba Moose game, <a href="http://www.moosehockey.com/individualtickets" target="new">please click here</a> for seating information, ticket pricing, and availability. Let's get down to business with some <span style="font-weight: bold;">Hardcore Hockey</span>! <div style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-weight: bold;"><u>Points Make The Difference</u></span></div> Manitoba rolled into Abbotsford, BC for a couple of road games against a team ahead of them in the standings in the Heat. Manitoba trailed the Heat by a mere three points with an opportunity for four points in the two-game set, so you know these were big games for both teams. The Monday night tilt saw Cory Schneider start for Manitoba in net, and the Heat responded by sending Leland Irving to their blue paint. Manitoba found themselves down two men after a penalty to Dusty Collins for slashing at 3:37, followed by a delay-of-game call on Travis Ramsey at 3:57, put the Moose behind the eight-ball early. The Moose were just about to kill off Collins' penalty, but the Heat made them pay for their indiscretions. The Heat worked the perimeter of the powerplay, passing between Latendresse and Delmore before Staffan Kronwall fired a puck from the top of the triangle just over Schneider's left pad at the 4:35 mark to put the home team up early. Kronwall's powerplay goal was his fifth of the season, and the Heat led 1-0. The two teams battled for the rest of the period, but neither team was able to dent the twine. Newcomer Aaron Volpatti, wearing #11, made his impact felt as he rumbled with Logan MacMillan at 18:23, so the kids were looking to light the fire for the Moose again tonight. Abbotsford led in shots with a 7-5 lead, and had the 1-0 lead on the scoreboard after twenty minutes. The second period, however, seemed like the Moose were playing at home. The largely pro-Manitoba crowd, thanks to their affiliation with the NHL's Vancouver Canucks, had a lot to cheer about after this period. Taylor Ellington, who has been playing with the ECHL's Victoria Salmon Kings this season, scored an early goal when he ripped a slapshot past Irving off a great Mario Bliznak flip-pass across the point. Ellington's first of the season came just 1:28 into the second period, and the two teams were tied up again at 1-1. 3:12 later, the visitors took the lead. Mario Bliznak won a battle in front of the net against Mark Mitera, and chipped home a backhanded, cross-crease feed from Guillaume Desbiens at 4:40. The plucky Moose forward has his ninth of the season. More importantly, the Moose led 2-1, and that assist by Desbiens will be important later on in the game. Moose rookie Jordan Schroeder made it a 3-1 game at 13:22. Tom Galvin fed Yan Stastny at the top of the right face-off circle, and his wrist shot was stopped by Irivng, but the goaltender couldn't control the rebound. The puck landed to his left where Schroeder was standing, and Schroeder stuffed home a backhanded shot for his third of the season. After forty minutes of play, the Moose had taken a 3-1 lead. More importantly, the Moose won the period in goals and shots, outshooting the Heat 13-6 for an 18-13 lead in the game. There were still twenty minutes to go, and, as seen in some games this season, no lead is safe if you sit back. The Moose continued to pressure the Heat, and it paid off at 4:59 of the third period. Schroeder carried the puck into the Heat zone on the right wing before finding Matt Pettinger in the high slot. Pettinger made one move before dishing a backhanded pass to the trailing Guillaume Desbiens at the top of the left face-off circle, and the Moose forward made no mistake on the one-timer as he ripped it past Irving. Desbiens' 17th goal of the season made it a 4-1 Moose lead. The Moose kept the heat on the Heat. Matt Pettinger was sent in on a partial breakaway two minutes later, and his low shot was stopped by Irving's right pad. Again, though, the Heat goalie couldn't control the rebound, and it popped out to his right as Aaron Volpatti crashed the crease with Carter Bancks checking him. The puck bounced off Volpatti and landed in the back of the net, marking the rookie's first professional hockey goal. Volpatti's first career goal at 6:59 gave the Moose a 5-1 lead. Two seconds after that goal, JD Watt and Guillaume Desbiens dropped their mitts at center ice, and the dance was on. Desbiens assumed the role of politician as he handed out right after right to Watt. Judges score the fight 10-8 in favour of Desbiens, and the Gordie Howe hat trick was complete! More on this below. The only other goal in this game came at 16:12. Andy Delmore brought the puck in over the Moose line on the right wing. With no one to pass to, the Heat defenceman let a bullet of a wrist shot go to the far post on Schneider. The Moose goalie couldn't get a blocker on it, and the Heat saved a little face on Delmore's sixth goal of the season. The Moose shut down the Heat the rest of the way, and the 5-2 score was indicative of the Moose's play: aggressive, up-tempo, and lots of shots. Manitoba ended up outshooting the Heat by a 25-19 margin, and their victory pushed their record to 36-31-5-1 on the season. More importantly, the Moose trailed the Heat for third-place in the North Division by only one point! It was nice to see Desbiens named as the first star in Monday's game. He played a big game all night, and was all over the ice causing problems for the Heat. His Gordie Howe hat trick - a goal, an assist, and a fight in the same game - was highly appropriate as well. <a href="http://i135.photobucket.com/albums/q124/cdnuniguy/Red%20Wings/howe17.jpg" target="new">Mr. Hockey turned 82</a> on Wednesday, so it was fitting that a scrappy player like Desbiens would register the Gordie Howe hat trick. <div style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-weight: bold;"><u>One Step Forward, One Step Back</u></span></div> The Moose were looking to move into third place on Tuesday night in their second game against the Abbotsford Heat. Another big effort would be needed from the Moose if they wanted to move up the North Division. Cory Schneider was back in net for the Moose, but the Heat went to David Shantz for their goaltending duties after Leland Irving suffered the loss the night before. The two teams alternated in their trips to the penalty box until Taylor Ellington's penalty at 16:27 for holding. Kronwall quarterbacked the powerplay from the point, and found John Rheault along the left wing half-boards. Rheault didn't have a lot of options for passes, so he fired a slapshot from the circle that found its way through the maze of legs in front of Schneider and went past the Moose goalie on the glove side. Rheault's powerplay goal was his fourth of the season, and the Heat had the 1-0 lead at 17:29 of the first period. I'm pretty sure that Abbotsford head coach Jim Playfair read his team the riot act after rolling over the night before, and it showed through their shot totals. The Heat outshot the Moose 14-6 in the first period, and led 1-0 on the scoreboard because of it. While I'm sure <a href=" target="new">Playfair didn't snap like he did late last week</a>, I'm quite certain he demanded a lot more out of his team after the weak and uninspired 19-shot effort one night earlier. Powerplays continued to control this game. The Heat bench was whistled for too many men on the ice at 5:31, and the Moose powerplay unit took to the ice. Sergei Shirokov cut through the slot and took a pass from Evan Oberg that he fired on net, but Shantz was there for the save, and the puck ended up off to the left of the net. Shantz, however, had overplayed Shirokov badly, and Shirokov circled behind the net. Marco Rosa, seizing opportunity, called for the puck as he was wide-open at the right side of the net, and Shirokov obliged. Less than a second later, the puck was in the back of the net before Shantz could recover. Rosa's 22nd of the season on the powerplay tied the game at 1-1 at 7:06 of the second period. The tight checking continued through the rest of the deadlocked period, and the game rolled into the second intermission tied at 1-1. However, Abbotsford continued their onslaught of shots, outshooting the Moose 16-11 in the middle frame for a 30-17 advantage through forty minutes. Could Schneider continue his magic through the third period? At 13:17, both Guillaume Desbiens and Colin Stuart were sent off. Desbiens was whistled for holding while Stuart earned an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for the dive on the play. During the four-on-four situation, a stretch pass by Keith Seabrook found David Van Der Gulik behind the Moose defencemen at the blueline. Both Evan Oberg and Tom Galvin couldn't catch the speedy Heat forward, and Van Der Gulik slipped a shot between Schneider's pads to put the Heat up 2-1. Van Der Gulik's 14th of the season was a tough goal as the Moose appeared to be running on fumes in the third period. Unfortunately, the Moose couldn't muster any more offence, and the Heat earned the 2-1 win at the end of regulation time. Cory Schneider put in a magnificent performance, stopping 41 of 43 shots, but the Moose couldn't muster any more offence than one goal on 20 shots. With the loss, the Moose drop to 36-32-5-1, and fall three points behind Abbotsford again. Honestly, the split wasn't much help as the Moose lost two games to make up points by only winning one of the two games. With six games remaining, the Moose will want to shoot for a 5-1 record to try and salvage third-place, and possibly second-place, in the North Division. <div style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-weight: bold;"><u>Down The Stretch</u></span></div> The Moose didn't do any favours for themselves by not beating Abbotsford twice, but there is still a chance that they can pull off the impossible and end up in second-place in the North Division. Get out your calculators, kids, because here's today's math assignment. For Manitoba to end up in second-place in the North Division, they need a pile of help. Rochester has five games remaining and sit with 85 points. Abbotsford has 81 points and has five games remaining. Manitoba has 78 points, but has six games remaining. Rochester plays the AHL-leading Hershey Bears on Friday, the North Division-leading Hamilton Bulldogs on Saturday, and finish off the season with games against Grand Rapids, the Toronto Marlies, and the Syracuse Crunch. If they go 3-2-0 in those games, they will officially prevent Manitoba from getting into second-place. It's entirely possible that the Amerks could defeat the Griffins, Marlies, and Crunch in the last week of the season, so the Moose will need some help there. Abbotsford has games remaining against Grand Rapids on Friday and Saturday, before finishing the season with two games in Lake Erie against the Monsters and one game in Toronto against the Marlies. Wins in all five games will assure that the Moose will not move into second-place, and that is entirely possible. Again, the Moose will need help, but if the Heat can go 3-2-0, there's a good chance they should hold on for third-place in the North Division. Manitoba has two games against the Toronto Marlies this weekend, two against the Hamilton Bulldogs next week, and close out the season at home with a two-game set against the Peoria Rivermen. The Moose have struggled against the Marlies and Rivermen this season, so they'll need to play playoff hockey for the next two weeks if they want to climb the standings. Otherwise, those two games against the Bulldogs will be a first-round playoff preview. I'm guessing that the Moose have to go 4-1-1 at worst to have a shot at third-place. For a team that has played win-one, lose-one for the second-half of the season, that 4-1-1 record might be a tall order at this point in the season. But I still believe it can be done! DO IT, MOOSE! Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!
  6. <img src="http://i135.photobucket.com/albums/q124/cdnuniguy/AHL/antlerbanter.jpg" width="200" height="188" class="imageFloatLeftFramed">It's Thursday, and you don't usually find <span style="font-style: italic;">Antler Banter</span> on your doorstep on this day, but here we are thanks to a couple of midweek games this week. Manitoba tangled with the Grand Rapids Griffins on the weekend before welcoming the Hamilton Bulldogs to Winnipeg for a couple of games. The Moose got some help courtesy of Mike Gillis' signings this week, and released a couple of players to get these new bodies into the lineup. We'll look at all of these developments coming up, as well as the push to the Calder Cup Playoffs! For all of your current Manitoba Moose news and information, hit up <a href="http://www.moosehockey.com/" target="new">the Moose website</a>. If you're interested in attending a Manitoba Moose game, <a href="http://www.moosehockey.com/individualtickets" target="new">please click here</a> for seating information, ticket pricing, and availability. Let's look at Thursday's recap of <span style="font-weight: bold;">Hardcore Hockey</span>! <div style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-weight: bold;"><u>Familiarity Breeds Contempt</u></span></div> The Moose met up with the Grand Rapids Griffins for the second time in two weeks, and there was a definite feeling of two teams battling for their playoff lives. The Moose and Griffins had split their two-game set earlier this month in Michigan, so the Moose were looking for a season series win at home. Cory Schneider started for Manitoba while Daniel Larsson got the call for Grand Rapids. The visitors opened the scoring when Brad May notched his fourth of the season. Nathan McIver won a battle behind the net for the puck, and the Moose defenceman kicked the puck towards the left corner. Brad May grabbed the puck near the bottom of the circle and fired it on net. The puck went high blocker side and found some room between Schneider and the crossbar. Certainly not a highlight reel goal, but they all count, and Grand Rapids had the 1-0 lead at 4:14. Less than two minutes later, Riley Armstrong centered the puck from behind the net past two Moose defenders, and Francis Paré was standing on the doorstep all alone. He fired the puck past Schneider, and the Griffins went up 2-0 on Paré's 14th goal of the season at 6:01. The Moose powerplay got a chance to stretch their legs when Logan Pyett was sent off for holding at 13:57. A face-off win in the offensive zone by Peter Olvecky sent the puck back to Evan Oberg on the right point. He centered the puck to Brian Salcido who ripped a one-timer high on the glove side that Larsson couldn't grab. Slacido's eighth goal of the season came at 15:36 on the powerplay, and the Moose were on the board, trailing 2-1. The real story in the first period was Daniel Larsson. The Moose came out guns a-blazing in this game, outshooting the Griffins by a 19-6 advantage! Larsson was incredible in denying the Moose again and again, and he was the entire reason the Griffins were leading after 20 minutes. Some rough stuff occurred in this period as Tommy Maxwell and Paul Crosty rumbled at 9:18. The scrum was eventually broken up, but there would be more to come. Sergei Shirokov evened the game up after he found himself on a breakaway. The speedy Russian went backhand-forehand, opening up Larsson as he pushed from right to left in his crease. That movement gave Shirokov just enough room through the five-hole for his 21st goal of the season, and the game was tied at 2-2 at 14:59. However, the Griffins jumped back in front just 21 seconds later. Jeremy Williams snapped a high wrist shot from the right face-off dot over Schneider's glove as Schneider went down, and the Griffins' sniper had his 24th of the year. More importantly, the Griffins led 3-2 at 15:20. 3:10 later, and all hell broke loose. Daniel Larsson earned a ten-minute misconduct under Rule 75.4. I didn't quite catch what he did, but it appeared he threw a punch with his blocker, earning him the misconduct. Nathan McIver and Jamie Tardif squared off in an old-fashioned bout of fisticuffs, and they sat for five minutes each. Tommy Maxwell and Ole-Kristian Tollefsen took double-minors for roughing, and each were given a ten-minute misconduct for their battle. The teams saw these penalties roll into the third period, but none of them resulted in a powerplay. Nathan McIver did come off worse for wear, however, and I'll discuss him a little more below. Evan Oberg, coming down the right wing, made a nice move to get past Crosty as he chipped the puck deep into the Griffins zone. Oberg won the race for the puck, and centered it as he crossed behind the net. His centering pass found Mario Bliznak in the slot, and Bliznak whacked the puck underneath Larsson and into the net. Bliznak's eighth goal of the season at 9:00 tied the game at 3-3. The Griffins came back, though. The Moose looked to clear the puck down the ice as they went for a change, but they turned the puck over at their blueline, and Francis Paré brought the puck back into the zone. Mike Keane couldn't check Paré, and he fed a backhander across the slot to an open John Vigilante who one-timed the puck past Schneider's outstretched glove. Vigilante's 11th goal of the season made it 4-3 for the Griffins with just 4:08 remaining. The Moose battled hard, but couldn't get another puck past Larsson. At the final horn, Grand Rapids had secured the 4-3 victory, dropping the Moose's record to 33-30-5-1 on the season. Perhaps a bigger loss was the loss of defenceman Nathan McIver. McIver broke his hand in the fight against Jamie Tardif, and is scheduled to be gone for approximately eight weeks. For a team already light on blueline help, this kind of news stings. <div style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-weight: bold;"><u>Schneider Stands Tall</u></span></div> If the weaker goal that Brad May scored on Schneider on Friday night sparked the Moose goaltender, it showed nicely in the only afternoon home game this season. The Moose and Griffins met for the fourth and final time on Sunday afternoon, and the Moose were looking for the win. Cory Schneider started for the Moose while the Griffins responded with Daniel Larsson in net. Grand Rapids' Justin Abdelkader took a foolish goaltender interference penalty just 37 seconds into the game, and the new-look Moose powerplay took to the ice. Jordan Schroeder, playing his first pro game for the Moose, was sent out on the man-advantage. Matt Pettinger's pass from the right half-boards to Lawrence Nycholat at the point opened up a shooting lane. Nycholat teed up the puck, and Schroeder, <a href="http://i135.photobucket.com/albums/q124/cdnuniguy/AHL/jordanschroeder.jpg" target="new">wearing #23</a>, scored his first professional goal by tipping the puck on its way to the net, and it got past Larsson. Schroeder's first goal of his career put Manitoba up 1-0 just 1:52 into the game. Another newcomer from the collegiate ranks gave Manitoba a bigger lead. Dusty Collins threw the puck at the net, and Larsson made the save. Tommy Maxwell picked up the puck as he circled out from behind the net, but Larsson didn't give him any space to shoot. As the Griffins crowded the crease, <a href="http://i135.photobucket.com/albums/q124/cdnuniguy/AHL/kevinclark.jpg" target="new">Kevin Clark joined the crowd</a> in the blue paint. Maxwell finally shot after skating across the crease to the right side, and the puck hit a defender in front. Clark whacked at the loose puck, and his shot knocked the puck into the net. Clark's first career goal at 6:25 gave the Moose a 2-0 lead. Penalties rounded out the first period, including a scrap between Tommy Maxwell and Paul Crosty, but the Moose held their two-goal lead. Schneider was excellent in the first period, turning away all ten shots he faced. This will be a common theme in today's game. The second period had no scoring, but the vacations in the sin bin continued. Guillaume Desbiens and Brad May spent the most time there in the middle frame after their scrap got them five minutes each. Lawrence Nycholat added to the Moose lead midway through the third period on the powerplay. His slapshot from just above the right face-off circle beat Larsson on the glove side with Yan Stastny providing an excellent screen. Nycholat's fourth of the season at 11:23 put Manitoba up 3-0. With 32 seconds left, Jordan Schroeder capped off a great day. Schroeder was battling with Sergei Kolosov in front of Larsson, and managed to create a little room for himself. Matt Pettinger fed the puck from the right face-off circle to where Schroeder was standing, and that space he created allow him to chip the puck past Larsson for his second powerplay goal of the game, his season, and his career. Manitoba took a 4-0 lead. Grand Rapids would mount no more offence in the game, and Cory Schneider recorded his fourth shutout of the season as Manitoba skated to the 4-0 win. With the victory, Manitoba improves to 34-30-5-1 on the season. It was a spectacular debut for the two youngsters as Clark and Schroeder combine for three goals including two powerplay markers, six shots on net, and a +1 rating. <div style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-weight: bold;"><u>Don't Wake A Sleeping Dog</u></span></div> Hamilton entered the Tuesday contest against the Moose with nothing on the line. They had secured a playoff spot, and had a large lead over the rest of the North Division, so there was little for which they had to compete. However, the games still have to be played. Cory Schneider got the call for the Moose against former teammate Curtis Sanford. The first period was relatively quiet. No goals, only three minor penalties, and not a lot of scoring chances at either end. Schneider stopped all eight shots while Sanford kept the nine shots he saw out of the Bulldogs' net. The first goal was scored by the visitors. Alex Henry's point shot through traffic ricocheted off the crossbar behind Schneider and ended up in the slot. Schneider couldn't find the puck, and Mike Glumac had no problem chipping the puck into the net. Glumac's 18th of the season made it 1-0 for the Bulldogs just 5:39 into the second period. Less than a minute later with Alex Henry in the penalty box for roughing, the Moose responded. Brian Salcido made a nice move around a sprawling JT Wyman at the blueline, and fed a cross-ice pass to Marco Rosa at the top of the right face-off circle. Rosa took one step and fired a high wrist shot to the near corner past Sanford's glove. The powerplay marker was Rosa's 21st goal of the season, and the Moose evened the game at 1-1 at 6:27. The fast and furious scoring continued. Mike Glumac and David Desharnais broke in on Tom Galvin on a two-on-one. Glumac pass the puck from the middle of the ice to Desharnais, forcing Galvin to cut off Desharnais as Lawrence Nycholat back-checked hard. However, Desharnais feathered a pass back to Glumac to went forehand-backhand on Schneider before roofing it behind the Moose goalie. Glumac's 19th goal of the season came at 7:03, and the Bulldogs were back on top by a 2-1 score. It took ten minutes for the next goal to be scored. Nycholat broke out of his zone with a pass to Marco Rosa who was gaining speed at the Moose blueline. With Glumac pestering him from behind, Rosa brought the puck in across the Bulldogs' blueline. Rosa sidestepped a check from Brock Trotter and fed a pass across to Guillaume Desbiens at the top of the face-off circle. Desbiens wasted no time in getting a wrist shot on net, and Sanford made the save. Or so it was thought. The puck squirted under his arm and slid into the net. Desbiens' 16th goal of the season came at 17:28, and the Moose pulled even again at 2-2. After two periods, the Moose and Bulldogs were all even at 2-2, and they had both registered 17 shots. Both teams appeared to be sitting back, waiting for the other team to make a mistake, but the game was square after 40 minutes. 10:27 into the third period saw the home team finally grab the lead. Jordan Schroeder didn't have much room to work with after Yan Stastny had centered a pass from the corner, so the Moose rookie dropped the puck back to Evan Oberg in the high slot. Oberg's low shot found a seam through Sanford's five-hole, and the Moose were out to a 3-2 lead on Oberg's fourth goal of the campaign. While both teams continued their sit-back-and-wait approach, the Bulldogs did pressure with time winding down. The Moose held strong, though, and picked up the victory against their potential opening round opponent in the upcoming Calder Cup Playoffs. With the 3-2 victory, the Moose move to 35-30-5-1 on the season. <div style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-weight: bold;"><u>Bloodthirsty Killing Machine</u></span></div> Wednesday night's game featured the back end of the two-game set against the Bulldogs, and all I'll say is that this one was ugly. Hamilton didn't just beat the Moose, they thrashed, trounced, and destroyed them. This one will be short simply because there's no need to re-open a nasty wound. Cory Schneider started for the Moose, and Cedric Desjardins got the call for the Bulldogs. Brock Trotter scored his 32nd goal of the season just 56 seconds in. Lawrence Nycholat tied the game with his fifth goal of the season after he cashed in a Jordan Schroeder rebound at 3:49. Trotter added his second of the game at 7:32 for 33 goals on the season, and Hamilton was up 2-1. They made it 3-1 on Aaron Palushaj's seventh goal of the season. 12:44 into the second, Yannick Weber ripped a slapshot through Schneider for his fifth of the season, and Hamilton had the 4-1 lead. Ryan Russell made it 5-1 on his 18th goal of the season at 17:07 of the second. Hamilton led 5-1 after two periods, and head coach Scott Arniel decided to give Cory Schneider the rest of the night off. With Daren Machesney in net, things didn't get any better for the Moose. Dany Masse added a powerplay goal at 13:43 for his second goal of the season, and Hamilton was up 6-1. Andrew Conboy notched his seventh of the season at 17:11 on the powerplay, and the Bulldogs skated to a 7-1 victory. An ugly loss for sure for the Moose, but it was much worse than what the boxscore read. Geoff Waugh and Andrew Conboy got into a scrap at 17:15 of the second period, and it looked as though the two were evenly matched. However, Conboy decided to tackle Waugh into the ice, slamming the Moose defenceman's head into the ice. Waugh was escorted off the ice and didn't return, and it was almost obvious that he had suffered a concussion. Don't get me wrong: I appreciate a good tussle when they develop. But what Conboy did was not only cowardly, but it was extremely dangerous. I'm not sure if the Moose will be sending tape to the AHL Offices, but you can bet that if these two teams meet in the Calder Cup Playoffs, that move on Waugh won't be forgotten. <div style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-weight: bold;"><u>Scoring Youngsters In, Others Out</u></span></div> The Moose are benefiting from Mike Gillis' signings in Vancouver. Clearly, as seen in the Sunday game against the Griffins, the new kids are bringing some scoring ability to the Moose, and that will help tremendously. Here are the latest moves. - <span style="font-weight: bold;">Jordan Schroeder</span> - assigned by Vancouver. Schroeder jumped from the University of Minnesota to the Canucks by signing his first pro contract, and was assigned to the Moose for some training in the professional game. In three AHL games, Schroeder has two goals, two assists, and seven shots. - <span style="font-weight: bold;">Kevin Clark</span> - signed by Manitoba. The Winnipeg native was plying his trade at the University of Alaska-Anchorage when he decided to make the jump to the pro ranks. The Moose signed Clark to an amateur tryout contract, and the former Winnipeg South Blues star responded with one goal in three games with a +1 ranking. - <span style="font-weight: bold;">Andy Brandt</span> - released from PTO. Brandt was officially released from his professional tryout contract. The numbers game saw him sitting, and the Moose simply had too many hands on the farm. - <span style="font-weight: bold;">Nikita Kashirsky</span> - released from PTO. Kashirsky was in the same boat as Brandt, so the Moose had to release him as they brought in the youngsters. - <span style="font-weight: bold;">Aaron Volpatti</span> - signed by Manitoba. Volpatti was Brown University's captain, and leaves the school as the career leader in PIMs. Volpatti played with the Vernon Vipers of the BCHL before making the jump to the NCAA. He can score and likes to hit, so the Moose can definitely use his tenacity. <div style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-weight: bold;"><u>Coming Up</u></span></div> The Moose head out on a six-game roadtrip where they'll face North Division opponents in every game. They'll battle the Abbotsford Heat on Monday and Tuesday, and the Moose currently trail the Heat by four points in the standings. They need to win both games to cause a major pile-up in the middle of the North Division standings. Following those games, the Moose battle the Toronto Marlies and the Hamilton Bulldogs, two teams that the Moose have to beat at least once. If the Moose can win four of six games, they'll certainly guarantee themselves a playoff spot. They may also achieve their goal of hosting a playoff series as second place in the North Division is still quite attainable. However, it starts with winning. The Moose have eight games remaining, and I'm going out on a branch in saying they have to go 6-2-0 to secure second place. It starts on Monday and Tuesday, though. Wins over Abbotsford are paramount if they want second place. DO IT! Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!
  7. <img src="http://i135.photobucket.com/albums/q124/cdnuniguy/AHL/antlerbanterstp.jpg" width="200" height="188" class="imageFloatLeftFramed">I hope everyone is enjoying St. Patrick's Day today whether you're Irish or simply looking for the luck of the Irish! Speaking of looking for luck, <span style="font-style: italic;">Antler Banter</span> is back today with the win-lose Moose. Manitoba welcomed the Rockford IceHogs to MTS Centre for a couple of games this past weekend before getting themselves ready for a big week as the stretch run begins in the march towards the Calder Cup Playoffs. As always, you can get all of your Manitoba Moose news and information on <a href="http://www.moosehockey.com/" target="new">the Moose website</a>. If you're interested in attending a Manitoba Moose game, <a href="http://www.moosehockey.com/individualtickets" target="new">please click here</a> for seating information, ticket pricing, and availability. Let's look at Rockford versus Manitoba's <span style="font-weight: bold;">Hardcore Hockey</span>! <div style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-weight: bold;"><u>Pope And Schenider Rock Rockford</u></span></div> I had suggested that the Moose might want to start grabbing points from where ever they could to help them catch both Abbotsford and Rochester as they look to avoid Hamilton in the first round of the Calder Cup Playoffs. While Rockford was no pushover, the Moose would need at least a split against this tough opponent on Friday night. Cory Schneider got the start for the Moose while Hannu Toivonen earned the start for Rockford. Rockford came out of the gates strong, peppering Schneider with shots through the first six minutes before the Moose got a shot on Toivonen. Sitting in my seat, it just felt like this might be one of those games where the Moose's opposition puts on a clinic. However, the Moose earned a turnover just past the 13:00 mark, and turned it into a goal. Hannu Toivonen coughed up the puck behind the net to Marco Rosa in the right corner, and Rosa gained possession against Brian Connelly. He eventually shoveled the puck out to Pope on the left side of the net, and Pope's shot somehow got underneath Toivonen and into the net. A relatively harmeless shot by Pope turns into a goal - a clear sign that Manitoba can generate goals if they shoot the puck. With Pope's second goal of the season, the Moose had the 1-0 lead at 13:16 of the first period. 10 seconds later, Rockford's Jake Dowell was sent off for tripping, and the Moose sent out their powerplay unit. It took almost the full two minutes, but the transition game for Manitoba netted them another goal. Marco Rosa picked up a loose puck at the blueline and made an outstanding move, undressing former Moose defenceman Nick Boynton to create some space. From just inside the blueline, Rosa fed a streaking Matt Pope in the slot, and Pope went upstairs glove-side as Toivonen went down. With the powerplay goal, Pope had three on the season, and the Moose were out to a 2-0 lead at the 15:23 mark. This game could have been much different at the first intermission if not for Cory Schneider and Matt Pope. Rockford outshot Manitoba 12-6, but Pope scored two goals on two shots, and the Moose had the advantage at the first break. Early into the second period, Nathan McIver was given two minutes to think about the high-sticking infraction for which he was whistled, but the Moose were the team to capitalize. Matt Pettinger was able to get around David Phillips before going outside and gaining a step on Brian Connelly. From the left face-off dot, Pettinger ripped a wrist shot to the far post that Toivonen couldn't stop, giving Pettinger his 14th goal of the season, shorthanded. With just 3:56 gone in the period, the Moose were out to a 3-0 lead. That spelled the end of Toivonen's night as he only stopped six of nine shots. Corey Crawford took over in net for the IceHogs. 2:02 later, Crawford was victimized by the Moose. Newcomer Peter Olvecky skated the puck into the left face-off circle before dropping a pass back. Marco Rosa teed up the drop pass which was stopped, but he followed up on his own rebound and deposited the puck into the net as Crawford couldn't recover from the first shot. With no chance to stop the shot, the Moose jumped out to a 4-0 lead on Rosa's 20th goal of the season. At the 13:37 mark, the Moose struck again. Some good cycle work on the half-boards and in the corner by Lawrence Nycholat and Guillaume Desbiens resulted in Desbiens feeding the puck out to Yan Stastny in the high slot area. Stastny's low wrist shot found its way through Crawford's five-hole on a goal that Crawford appeared to want a do-over on. However, the goal was good, and Stastny had his 11th of the season, and first as member of the Herd, to give the Moose a 5-0 lead. Rockford got one back before the end of the period, though. Matt Keith was pokechecked by Travis Ramsey at the top of the crease, but the puck went straight to Pete MacArthur on the left side. Apparently, everyone forgot about Keith, who had just cut across the top of the crease, as three Moose defenders got caught watching MacArthur. MacArthur made a slick pass past the Moose defenders to the wide-open Keith, and he buried an easy goal. Keith's 19th goal of the season at 19:06 made it 5-1 in favour of the Moose. Credit Manitoba for peppering Rockford in that period as they outshot the IceHogs 15-7 to take a 21-19 lead in the game. Schneider did make a number of incredible stops in that period, though, including one on Jack Skille from point-blank range that had "goal" written all over it. Again, Schneider was stellar, and the Moose led with confidence going into the third period. There wasn't a lot of action in the third, but Schneider kept the goaltender highlights rolling with several additional key saves. The Moose added one more when newcomer Peter Olvecky picked David Phillips' pocket as Phillips was rounding his own net, and Olvecky had an easy wrap-around goal. Olvecky's 12th goal of the season, and first with the Moose, made it a 6-1 game at 14:13 of the third period. Schneider was outstanding in this game, and really made it easier on his team with his play. Of course, it's nice to get one of your scoring lines going, and Pope, Rosa, and Olvecky combined for four goals and eight points in this game. Better yet, the Moose and IceHogs tied in shots with 29 apiece, showing that the Moose can win if they hold their opponents to a reasonable amount of shots while getting pucks of their own on net. With the win, Manitoba pushes its record to 33-28-5-1. <div style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-weight: bold;"><u>I Sense A Pattern Here</u></span></div> Manitoba held their Military Tribute Night on Saturday, and wore special jerseys to mark the occasion. Honestly, these jerseys might be their best promotional jersey in their history, and <a href="http://i135.photobucket.com/albums/q124/cdnuniguy/AHL/keanemilitary2010.jpg" target="new">they looked fantastic on the ice</a>. I really like the <a href="http://i135.photobucket.com/albums/q124/cdnuniguy/Blog%20Stuff/triservices.jpg" target="new">Canadian Military crest</a> in place of the logo as a tribute to the men and women of the Armed Forces. The <a href="http://i135.photobucket.com/albums/q124/cdnuniguy/AHL/moosemilitary2010back.jpg" target="new">back of the jerseys</a> featured the <a href="http://i135.photobucket.com/albums/q124/cdnuniguy/Blog%20Stuff/cannavy100yrs.jpg" target="new">Canadian Navy's 100th Anniversary patch</a> and the yellow ribbon for all of the troops serving abroad right now. A very classy uniform, and one that all Moose fans should take pride in. Back to the game as Cory Schneider started for the Moose while Corey Crawford got the start for Rockford. Just past the halfway point of the first period, we had our first goal. With Manitoba's Evan Oberg sitting in the box for holding, the IceHogs' powerplay went to work. Bryan Bickell's fanned on his shot from the slot, but got enough of it to slide it forward. Matt Keith redirected it to the left side of the crease where a pinching Richard Petiot wasn't picked up by a defender, and he buried it behind Schneider. Petiot's seventh goal of the season came on the powerplay at 10:05, giving Rockford the 1-0 lead. The Moose were handed a powerplay at 11:53 when Danny Bois was sent off for interference. Jassen Cullimore couldn't clear the puck past Matt Pettinger in the slot, and the puck bounced to Michael Grabner at the right side of the net. Grabner couldn't put the puck under a sprawled Crawford, but the puck squirted loose to Guillaume Desbiens at the top of the crease. Desbiens had a couple of whacks at the puck before it wound up in the back of the net. Desbiens' 14th of the season came on the powerplay at 12:16, and the Moose pulled even at 1-1. The Moose jumped out in front with 2:48 to go. After a Mike Keane face-off win in the offensive zone, Nathan McIver's point shot appeared to have been deflected by Desbiens with his skate across the crease to Mario Bliznak. Bliznak looked like he swept the puck into the yawning cage, but it was Desbiens who was credited with the goal. Either way, the Moose has the 2-1 lead going into the locker room, but it was Desbiens with his 15th of the season. The second period saw Rockford start the period with a flurry of shots on Schneider. Mike Keane took an interference penalty at 2:52 as Rockford was buzzing the Moose zone, so it was back to the powerplay for the IceHogs. It became a two-man advantage when Guillaume Desbiens was sent off slashing, so the Moose were in tough. The IceHogs showed some great passing as Kyle Greentree fed Bryan Bickell in the corner. Bickell one-timed the pass to Bracken Kearns in the slot, who one-timed a shot on Schneider. Schneider got enough of it to keep it out, but the rebound landed right in front of Kyle Greentree who has nothing but net to shoot at. Count it, and give Greentree 23 goals on the season. Rockford was even at 2-2 with that powerplay goal. At 6:50, the IceHogs caught the Moose in a line change, and made them pay. Evan Brophy and Matt Keith broke in on Nathan McIver on a two-on-one. Brophy fed the pass across to Keith who immediately returned it to Brophy as McIver keyed in on Keith. Brophy made no mistake as he ripped a low wrist shot from the left hash marks just over Schneider's pad to dent to the twine. Brophy's 13th of the season gave the IceHogs a 3-2 lead. Mike Brennan and Dusty Collins went toe-to-toe at 7:35 after Collins stuck out a knee. Brennan got the instigator, so he was done for the game, but Collins received two for kneeing and a ten-minute misconduct for his actions. Honestly, the fight wasn't very good, and both players received exactly what they should have received. Collins made a dumb play on the kneeing call, and Brennan deserved the instigator. The IceHogs absolutely dominated the second period, outshooting Manitoba by a 14-3 advantage to lead 24-16 overall. Again, had it not been for Cory Schneider, this game could have been a blowout. Another two-man advantage cost the Moose early in the third period. With Keane off for high-sticking at 2:31 and McIver off for holding at 3:15, the IceHogs increased their lead. With the extra room, Bickell fed Jack Skille along the goal line on the left side of the net. No one approached Skille, so he stepped out in front of Schneider and went up under the crossbar in a hurry on Schenider's stick side. Skille's 21st of the season came on the powerplay, and the IceHogs had a 4-2 lead at 4:08 of the third period. Late in the period with the IceHogs on a delayed penalty, the Moose got one back. Tom Galvin's point shot deflected to the half-boards on the left wing. Lawrence Nycholat picked up the puck and fired it on net. The puck came to rest on the right side of the crease where Michael Grabner was standing, and he tapped in an easy goal. Grabner's 15th of the season at 18:18 made it 4-3 for Rockford. However, the Moose were victimized by Rockford twice with the empty net. Kyle Greentree scored his 24th of the season at 19:14 and Danny Bois scored his ninth of the season at 19:54 to seal the deal as a 6-3 win for the IceHogs. The score isn't truly indicative of the play of the Moose as they really played well when they weren't sitting in the penalty box. However, three powerplay goals-against plus two empty net goals were five of the six goals that Rockford scored, including two goals in five-on-three situations. With the loss, Manitoba drops to 33-29-5-1. <div style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-weight: bold;"><u>In And Out Despite Roster Freezes</u></span></div> The Moose should see a dynamic young player arrive in Winnipeg for the weekend, they release a youngster, and they see a veteran head out to the west coast. Will this roster ever remain the same for two weekends? - Andy Brandt - released from PTO. Brandt really didn't make an impact in terms of scoring, but the youngster got some experience that he should be able to use with the Victoria Salmon Kings in the ECHL. - Michael Grabner - recalled by Vancouver. Mikael Samuelsson's shoulder injury opened a spot up for the Austrian with the Canucks. He says that this time around, there will be no soccer before games to warm-up. As you recall, Grabner missed significant time after injuring himself in a pre-game soccer mishap. - Jordan Schroeder - signed by Vancouver. Schroeder, who had starred for the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers, signed his first pro contract with the Canucks. It is expected the first-round pick of the Canucks will be assigned to Manitoba, and may even see action against the Grand Rapids Griffins this weekend with Grabner heading to Vancouver. <div style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-weight: bold;"><u>Schedule And Standings</u></span></div> The Moose welcome the Grand Rapids Griffins to MTS Centre this weekend for games on Friday and Sunday. Grand Rapidsis behind Manitoba in the North Division standings, so the Moose have to be gunning for two victories. A split does nothing, especially with Hamilton looming on the horizon. The Moose trail the Abbostford Heat and Rochester Americans by six points in the North Division. The Moose do have a game in-hand over the Heat, but that will mean nothing if the Moose cannot defeat the Griffins twice. As much as you don't need the extra pressure, these two games are "must-win" games. There's no other way to look at this. Next week, the Moose welcome division-leading Hamilton to MTS Centre for a two-game set on Tuesday and Wednesday. Cedric Desjardins, Hamilton's goaltender, has been playing outstanding hockey as of late, so the Bulldogs will be a test as fans in Manitoba may get to see a potential first-round matchup in this year's Calder Cup Playoffs. Task at hand? Beat the Griffins twice. Nothing else will do. Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!
  8. <img src="http://i135.photobucket.com/albums/q124/cdnuniguy/AHL/antlerbanter.jpg" width="200" height="188" class="imageFloatLeftFramed"><span style="font-style: italic;">Antler Banter</span> returns to its usual Wednesday spot this week, and there are some personnel changes to highlight thanks to the NHL trade deadline occurring just one week before the AHL roster deadline was set. Three games highlighted the schedule from last week as Worcester Sharks and Grand Rapids Griffins were the Moose's opponents. We'll also look forward to this week's games as the Moose start the stretch run to the Calder Cup Playoffs. Don't forget to get all of your Manitoba Moose news and information on <a href="http://www.moosehockey.com/" target="new">the Moose website</a>. If you're interested in attending a Manitoba Moose game, <a href="http://www.moosehockey.com/individualtickets" target="new">please click here</a> for seating information, ticket pricing, and availability. Here is this week's edition of <span style="font-weight: bold;">Hardcore Hockey</span>! <div style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-weight: bold;"><u>We're Gonna Need A Bigger Boat</u></span></div> After handing the Sharks a 3-1 loss on Tuesday night at MTS Centre, the Moose and Sharks hooked up again for Game Two of the two-game set in Winnipeg on Wednesday. Honestly, the Tuesday night game was one of the best games that I've seen this season by the Moose, so there was hope for another solid 60 minutes on Wednesday. Alex Stalock was back in the water for the Sharks, while Daren Machesney was sent out to the nets for the Moose. Before the ice was dry, the Moose were on the board. Just 29 seconds into the first period, Matt Pettinger fired a low shot from the left half-boards that Stalock kicked out into the slot area. The problem with Stalock's rebound is that it found the stick of Marty Murray. Murray snapped the puck into the open side of the net, and the Moose were out to the 1-0 lead on Murray's tenth goal of the season. The rest of the first period was a collection of penalties on both teams, highlighted by a scrap between Worcester's Brett Westgarth and Manitoba's Dusty Collins. The Moose finished the period trailing in shots by an 11-9 margin, but they held the lead on the scoreboard with a 1-0 advantage. Mario Bliznak took a goaltender interference penalty at the 4:25 mark of the second period, and that sent the Sharks to the man-advantage. 29 seconds after Bliznak sat down in the box, he was released. Steven Zalewski carried the puck down the left wing, and found the trailer, Dwight Helminen, in the slot. Helminen made no mistake as he buried his 11th goal of the season high over Machesney's glove, and the powerplay marker even the game at 1-1 just 5:14 into the middle frame. Just 2:20 later, the Sharks struck again. Winnipegger Frazer McLaren's initial shot was stopped by Machesney, but defenceman Nathan McIver fell over top of Machesney as the rebound went out to Machesney's left side. With the interference, Machesney didn't have time to recover as McLaren jumped on the rebound. McLaren slid the puck along the ice into the crease, and Matt Jones banged home the loose puck. Jones' fifth goal of the season at 7:34 put the Sharks ahead by a 2-1 score. To say the Moose didn't play well in the second period would be a huge understatement. The Sharks outshot Manitoba 22-6 in the period to lead 31-17 after two periods! Had it not been for Daren Machesney, the game could have been out-of-hand with the amount of shots that Manitoba saw in that period. The Sharks added to their lead just 1:30 into the third period. With Logan Couture standing squarely in front of Machesney, TJ Trevelyan fired a puck under Machesney's glove that found the back of the net. Machesney had little chance of making the save with Couture being a perfect screen, and the Sharks had the 3-1 lead on Trevelyan's 18th goal of the season. 4:16 later, a two-on-one developed as Worcester's Ryan Vesce and Trevelyan broke in against Nathan McIver. With McIver giving Vesce the shot, Vesce broke on in the left side and fired a low wrist shot towards the right post and into the back of the net. Machesney should have had that shot from Vesce, but it dented the twine. Vesce's 11th goal of the season put the Sharks up 4-1 at 5:46. 2:12 after that goal, the Sharks had another. Evan Oberg turned the puck over in the right corner after falling, and Dan DaSilva picked up the loose puck. Manitoba's Jeff Waugh and Worcester's John McCarthy were all over the blue paint around Machesney as DaSilva pulled the puck out front to his backhand, and DaSilva buried the backhander past both Waugh and Machesney. Again, another goal that Machesney had little to no chance of saving, and Manitoba's bad game continued. DaSilva's 14th of the season gave the Sharks a 5-1 lead at the 7:58 mark. It took almost seven minutes for the Moose to respond, but they did add to their total. Travis Ramsey's slapshot from the right point found a seam through Alex Stalock, and Ramsey's second goal of the season made it a 5-2 Sharks lead. However, time was the enemy, and there wasn't enough time for the Moose to get any closer. The final total in shots was a ridiculous 43-29 for Worcester - a perfect example of why this game went poorly for the Moose. I can't fault Machesney as he did all he could in stopping 38 shots, but the Moose still take the loss. Their record falls to 31-27-5-1. <div style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-weight: bold;"><u>Griffins Are Mythical Creatures, After All</u></span></div> It has taken a long time for the Moose to meet up with their former IHL rivals, but the Moose and Griffins battled for the first time this season on Friday night. It's hard to believe that divisional teams haven't faced each other by this point in the season, but such is the case in the AHL. Daniel Larsson got the start for the Griffins against Manitoba's Cory Schneider at Van Andel Arena. Hard-working teams can't take penalties when they struggle to score, and the Moose displayed perfect examples of this in the first period. Manitoba opened the game with five minor penalties, and the Griffins capitalized. Newcomer Yan Stastny was sent off for hooking at 3:12, and the Griffins opened the scoring 49 seconds later. Doug Janik fed Jeremy Williams with a pass, and Williams roofed a wrist shot over Schneider on the left side. Just 4:01 in, and Williams had his 22nd goal of the season with the powerplay marker, and the Griffins had a 1-0 lead. Geoff Waugh earned two minor penalties at 7:18, and the extra unsportmanlike conduct penalty he earned after the hugging match against Justin Abdelkader put the Griffins back on the powerplay. At 8:26, Jeremy Williams struck again after Patrick Rissmiller made a gorgeous cross-ice pass to the sniper. Williams had no trouble finding the back of the net as Schneider couldn't get across, and Grand Rapids had a 2-0 lead on Williams' 23rd goal and second powerplay marker on the night. The second period looked much like how the first ended: tighter checking and more disciplined play. However, the stalemate in the second would be broken at the 18:18 mark. Manitoba's Lawrence Nycholat fired a shot from the point that found its way through a maze of players in front of Larsson, and the puck found the twine past Larsson's glove. Nycholat's third goal of the season cut the Griffins' lead to 2-1. However, just 45 seconds later, the Griffins restored the two-goal lead. Logan Pyatt was in the right place at the right time as Schneider made the stop on Justin Abdelkader, but couldn't hold on to the rebound. Pyatt poked the puck across the line for his ninth goal of the season, and the Griffins led 3-1 with just 56.1 seconds left in the second period. In what seems like a recurring theme this season, the Moose trailed 25-15 in shots by the second intermission. Honestly, Schneider and Machesney have seen more vulcanized rubber this year than Goodyear and Bridgestone combined. If there's any wonder why this team continues to struggle to put together strings of wins, it might have something to do with being outshot in every game. And, in most cases, by large margins. The third period seemed to be fairly uneventful outside of a Guillaume Desbiens-Jamie Tardif scrap. Desbiens picked up the victory in the bout of fisticuffs, but the Moose couldn't manage any other offence against the Griffins. With Schneider on the bench for the extra attacker, Patrick Rissmiller scored his 17th goal into the empty net, and the Griffins secured the 4-1 win. Full credit to the Griffins for playing a very balanced and thorough game in earning the win. With the loss, the Moose drop to 31-28-5-1, and really need to pick up two points against the Griffins in Saturday's game. <div style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-weight: bold;"><u>Slaying The Beast</u></span></div> Saturday night saw the Moose and Griffins battle again at Van Andel Arena. The Moose need to get back on-track against a lower-ranked team, and start winning games they are supposed to win. A sellout of 10,834 fans were on-hand for the game as Daniel Larsson and Cory Schneider took to the nets for the second night in a row. Both teams limited chances early on as each team seemed a little more defensive than the night before. However, the Moose got on the board just past the halfway point of the first period. Sergei Shirokov ripped a shot past Larsson from the right circle at the 10:55 mark for his 20th goal of the season, and the Moose were out in front by a 1-0 score. Neither team dented the twine before the horn sounded, giving Manitoba the 1-0 lead as the intermission began. Grand Rapids had a modest 9-8 lead on the shot clock, but the Moose seemed to be matching their opponents shot for shot for the first time in a long time. But then the second period started. Cory Schneider, proving that he is Manitoba's MVP this season, stopped all 15 shots that he faced in the second period. Grand Rapids' Daniel Larsson, on the other hand, stopped all five shots he faced. After two periods, Grand Rapids had the 24-13 lead on the shot clock, but still trailed 1-0 due to Schneider's incredible goaltending. However, the 25th shot of the game for Grand Rapids found its way past Schneider. Justin Abdelkader streaked down the left wing and found a hole with his wrist shot between Schneider's pad and the left post. Abdelkader's seventh goal of the season came just 20 seconds into the third frame. The Moose didn't fold after Abdelkader's goal. The stingy defensive play by both teams continued despite Grand Rapids' growing shot total. Larsson and Schneider stood tall, and neither team could solve the tie in 60 minutes. Off to overtime! Both teams had chances, but it was Manitoba's third shot of the extra period that ended the game. Logan Pyatt had the puck take a bad bounce in front of him in the high slot, and the puck found its way behind the Griffins' defender. Mario Bliznak picked up the loose puck, and he stuffed it through Larsson's five-hole for the game-winning goal. Bliznak's seventh goal of the season gave Manitoba the 2-1 overtime victory, and a great celebration for Bliznak as he scored on his birthday! Despite Manitoba's win, they were badly outshot again. Grand Rapids ended the game with a 43-26 lead in shots. However, I'm not looking in the mouths of any horses. A win is a win is a win. With the victory, Manitoba improves to 32-28-5-1. <div style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-weight: bold;"><u>Controlling Your Own Destiny</u></span></div> It's safe to say that Manitoba would like to avoid a first-round series with division-leading Hamilton, so it's time for Manitoba to buckle down and start grinding out some wins. As it stands, Manitoba is fourth-place in the North Division. They trail third-place Abbotsford by four points and second-place Rochester by six points. The good news is that the Moose have a game in-hand on the Heat, but the Americans have a game in-hand on Manitoba. With two more games against last-place Grand Rapids, two against the Heat, two against the Marlies, and four against the Hamilton Bulldogs before the end of the season, the divisional games become paramount in terms of their importance. Each one of those games essentially can be a four-point swing, so winning the divisional games is the only option for the Moose at this point. If they want to avoid Hamilton in the opening round of the Calder Cup Playoffs, the Moose need to beat teams within their own division. It's that simple. <div style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-weight: bold;"><u>Taking Attendance Is Mandatory</u></span></div> After the NHL trade deadline and the AHL roster freeze deadlines passed, the roster of the Manitoba Moose looks significantly different. I'll run down these moves on a per-player basis. <ul><li><span style="font-weight: bold;">Mathieu Schneider</span> - traded by Vancouver to Phoenix. It was a well-known fact that Schneider's stay with the Moose would be temporary. And it was. </li><li><span style="font-weight: bold;">Nick Boynton</span> - traded by Anaheim to Chicago. Boynton adds depth for Chicago's playoff run in the NHL, but he'll be back in Manitoba this week. Boynton was assigned to the Rockford IceHogs by the Blackhawks.</li><li><span style="font-weight: bold;">Pierre-Cedric Labrie</span> - traded by Vancouver to St. Louis. Labrie was a rugged competitor who performed fairly well before the trade in a checking role. However, his choppy skating style may have limited his development, and it appears that Vancouver wanted a change. </li><li><span style="font-weight: bold;">Marty Murray</span> - loaned by Manitoba to Milwaukee. Murray was disappointed about leaving his home province, but he'll be a good veteran presence on a young Milwaukee team.</li><li><span style="font-weight: bold;">Brad Lukowich</span> - re-assigned by Vancouver. Lukowich, who had been playing with the Texas Stars for most of the season in order to be closer to his family, was scheduled to be in Manitoba for this weekend's games against the IceHogs. However, the veteran defenceman opted for shoulder surgery to cure a wonky shoulder, and will not play again this season.</li><li><span style="font-weight: bold;">Nolan Baumgartner</span> - recalled by Vancouver. Baumgartner is back up with the big club, but the impending return of Kevin Bieksa should mean that Baumgartner will return soon.</li><li><span style="font-weight: bold;">Peter Olvecky</span> - loaned by Milwaukee to Manitoba. Olvecky, a Slovakian, is a big body who isn't afraid to get dirty in the corners. He has a great shot, and will most likely play on a line with former teammate Marco Rosa and Matt Pettinger this weekend against the IceHogs.</li><li><span style="font-weight: bold;">Yan Stastny</span> - traded by St. Louis to Vancouver. Stastny is a decent scoring forward who should help the Moose with his speed and hands. He was a scoring threat in Peoria, and has NHL experience. Stastny will be relied on to generate offence in Manitoba.</li><li><span style="font-weight: bold;">Andy Brandt</span> - signed to PTO. Brandt, a 22 year-old forward, had been playing with the ECHL's Victoria Salmon Kings before the Moose came calling. Brandt had a few good shifts in his debut against the Griffins, and is looking to continue his strong play as he works to earn a spot with the Moose. </li></ul> <div style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-weight: bold;"><u>Coming Up Next</u></span></div> The Moose have a weekend set against the Rockford IceHogs on Friday and Saturday. Rockford currently sits in second-place in the West Division with a 38-24-3-3 record for 82 points, so the Moose will need to play well in both games to have a chance at earning some points. Bracken Kearns leads the team with 47 points, two better than Mark Cullen. Kyle Greentree leads the team in goal-scoring with 22 goals on the season. Jack Skille is the next highest goal-scorer with 20 markers. The IceHogs upgraded their goaltending at the NHL trade deadline when they acquired Hannu Toivonen. Along with Corey Crawford, the IceHogs boast a fairly good tandem in the nets. With both goaltenders have fairly unimpressive records, Crawford's 2.79 GAA and Toivonen's 2.72 GAA indicate that Rockford's goaltending has been steady all season long. The Moose will need to score more often than they have in their recent games if they hope to down the IceHogs. <div style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-weight: bold;"><u>Antler Branches</u></span></div> There have been a few interesting notes from the Herd that need to be brought to light. (1) Sergei Shirokov will miss the Friday game of the Rockford series after he was suspended by the AHL after kneeing Ole-Kristian Tollefsen of Grand Rapids. The AHL announced the suspension today. (2) Head coach Scott Arniel confirmed today that he has asked the Anaheim Ducks about Luca Sbisa. Sbisa is currently playing for the WHL's Portland Winter Hawks. When the season ends for Portland, Arniel is hoping that Anaheim will assign the big defenceman to Manitoba for the Moose's playoff run. Getting a player like Sbisa would be huge for the Moose. Sbisa, as you may know, suited up for Switzerland at the 2010 Winter Olympics, and he would bring a big shot to Manitoba's blueline. (3) Both Dan Sexton and Nolan Baumgartner were placed on "paper waivers" today by the Ducks and Canucks, respectively. This allows Manitoba to include the two players on their 22-man roster for the Calder Cup Playoffs. Both men will be vital in Manitoba's quest for the Calder Cup this season. (4) Cody Hodgson, who played for the Moose in last season's Calder Cup Playoffs, suffered a hairline fracture when he blocked a shot last week for the Brampton Battalion. It is expected that Hodgson will be out until the OHL Playoffs start, but the Moose have expressed an interest in bringing Hodgson back when Brampton's season comes to an end. Honestly, his offensive abilities will be more than welcomed in the Moose dressing room. (5) Saturday night's game against the Rockford IceHogs will be a special night. The Manitoba Moose are honouring the three divisions of the Canadian military on Military Salute night. The Moose will wear <a href="http://i135.photobucket.com/albums/q124/cdnuniguy/AHL/moosemilitary.jpg" target="new">these beautiful uniforms</a> in honour of the men and women who bravely put their lives on the line for all Canadians. This should be a great evening of hockey for the bravest men and women in the world! There's your Moose update for this week. With all the changes that happened last week, there's hope that everything will settle for the Moose, especially with their roster. As it stands, 50 players have worn the Moose uniform this season, and the opening night roster hasn't been together since opening night. Rockford invades MTS Centre this weekend, so get your tickets and get downtown to cheer on the Moose as they begin the stretch run to the Calder Cup Playoffs! Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!
  9. <img src="http://i135.photobucket.com/albums/q124/cdnuniguy/AHL/antlerbantercan.jpg" width="200" height="188" class="imageFloatLeftFramed"><span style="font-style: italic;">Antler Banter</span> makes a rare Tuesday appearance thanks to the NHL trade deadline tomorrow. The Herd traveled through Texas with stops in Houston and San Antonio before returning home for a Tuesday night game with the Worcester Sharks. With the NHL trade deadline less than 14 hours from completion, some players are already on their way out, so we'll look at the player moves that affected the Moose. Check all of your Manitoba Moose news and information regarding Moose player moves on <a href="http://www.moosehockey.com/" target="new">the Moose website</a>. If you're interested in attending a Manitoba Moose game, <a href="http://www.moosehockey.com/individualtickets" target="new">please click here</a> for seating information, ticket pricing, and availability. Let's look back at this past week's <span style="font-weight: bold;">Hardcore Hockey</span>! <div style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-weight: bold;"><u>Kick It Off In Houston</u></span></div> The Moose rolled into Toyota Center in Houston, Texas for one game against the Houston Aeros. The Moose were 1-2-0 against the Aeros this season, so they were looking to even up that mark. Cory Schneider got the start for Manitoba while Barry Brust got the call for the Aeros. The first period saw the two teams trade minor penalties, but nothing more. It really looked like both teams were playing a little on their heels rather than being aggressive, but the good news is that the score at the intermission was still zeroes. Manitoba opened the scoring on the powerplay while Aeros' defenceman Justin Falk served time for holding. Barry Brust got caught behind his net as the puck was fired in, and Guillaume Desbiens came up with the puck as the goaltender had his pocket picked. Desbiens attempted to wrap the puck around the left post, but J.P. Testwuide got back in time to breka up that play. However, the puck rolled to the top of the crease where Sergei Shirokov had all the time in the world to bury it. Give Shirokov 18 goals on the season with the powerplay marker, and give the Moose the 1-0 lead at 10:16 of the second period. Houston stormed back. Defenceman Jamie Fraser received a cross-ice pass at the blueline, and had daylight in front of him. He took three steps before Brian Salcido cut off his path, causing Fraser to fire a wrist shot at the net. The shot caught Salcido, however, and bounced into the slot on to Duncan Milroy's stick. Milroy snapped a quick shot past Schneider for his eighth of the season, and the game was tied 1-1 at the 13:35 mark. It didn't take the Moose long to respond, though. 36 seconds later, Marco Rosa won a puck battle along the left wing half-boards against Colton Gillies, and fired a centering pass to Michael Grabner in the high slot. Grabner wasted no time in one-timing the puck past Brust on the short side, and the Moose were back on top by a 2-1 score. Manitoba recorded an amazing 17 shots in the second period, and led 23-18 on the shot clock after two periods. Of course, they also had the lead going into the third period, so you had to know that the Aeros weren't just going to roll over. Matt Pope found himself in the penalty box for high-sticking at the 14:21 mark of the third, and the Aeros went on the powerplay. Houston had a few chances, but they finally broke through. Maxim Noreau loaded up the cannon from the blueline and let a blast go. The puck got by a screened Schneider who, for it was worth, had no chance. Noreau's rocket past Schneider's glove was his 16th goal of the season, and the powerplay marker tied the game 2-2 with 4:33 remaining. However, 1:10 later, the Herd regained the lead. Mario Bliznak fed a gorgeous pass through to Mike Keane on the right hash marks, and his wrist shot got through the Pierre-Cedric Labrie screen, but not Brust. The rebound wasn't covered, though, and Labrie jammed the puck under Brust's right pad and into the net. Labrie recorded his fourth goal of the season, and the Moose had the 3-2 lead with 3:23 remaining. Schneider shut down the Aeros the rest of the way, and the Moose picked up two important points in Houston with the 3-2 win. With that victory, the Moose pushed their record to 29-25-5-1. <div style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-weight: bold;"><u>Losing At The Alamo</u></span></div> Game two of the Texas road swing happened on Friday night as the Moose set up shop at the AT&amp;T Center in San Antonio. The Rampage are trying to fight their way back into a playoff spot, so the Moose had to be on their toes. Cory Schneider was back in the Moose net while Justin Pogge was sent out to the Rampage net. You knew things were not going well from the drop of the puck. The Rampage had already fired six pucks at Schneider before Pogge made his first stop. And it didn't get any easier from that point on. David Spina fed a gorgeous tape-to-tape, cross-ice pass from the right wing to pinching defenceman Shaun Heshka across the faceoff circles on the left wing that had the Moose moving the wrong way. Heshka quickly changed directions again by feeding Kevin Porter in the slot, and Porter had no trouble finding the back of the net, going high blocker on Schneider. With the beautiful tic-tac-toe passing, Porter picked up his 15th goal of the season at the 3:49 mark, and the Rampage were out in front by a 1-0 score. A turnover at the offensive blueline led to the next Rampage goal. Mikkel Boedker poke-checked Matt Pettinger at the line from behind, and the puck came to David Spina. Spina saw Boedker turn on the jets, and he fed the youngster with a perfect pass. Pettinger hustled to catch Boedker, but Boedker protected the puck with his body extremely well as he went forehand to backhand in roofing the puck behind Schneider on the breakaway. Mikkel Boedker's ninth goal of the season was a beauty, and the Rampage had the 2-0 lead with 5:29 left in the first period. After the first intermission, the teams seemed to play a little more defensively. However, a holding penalty to Sergei Shirokov at 11:17 gave the Rampage the man-advantage for two minutes or less. And less it was. Justin Pogge, showing his puck-handling skills, caught the Moose making a change and fired the puck down to Kyle Turris at the Moose blueline. As the two-on-one developed, Turris kept and fired a wicked wrist shot from just inside the right circle that went over Schneider's right shoulder and ended up under the bar. Turris' 15th goal of the season popped the water bottle off the net, and gave the Rampage a 3-0 lead with his powerplay goal at 13:15. The Moose trailed 20-16 in shots, and were down 3-0 on the scoreboard. They would need a big effort in the third period to try to secure a point. Would they be able to stop the bleeding? Unfortunately, no. I'm not sure what Nick Boynton was thinking, but his weak backhander up the middle of the ice was intercepted at the blueline by Andrew Orpik. Orpik made no mistake in feeding a wide-open Gavin Morgan in front of Schneider. Morgan made no mistake as his shot got under Schneider's pads and found the twine. Morgan picked up his fifth goal of the season, and the Rampage were out to a 4-0 advantage just 2:51 into the third. I'm sure Morgan's goal is one that Schneider would like to have back, but what was Boynton thinking? His pass was nowhere near any Moose player, and was far too soft to be a legitimate clearing attempt. That may have been the worst play on a night of many bad plays. In any case, the Moose couldn't get one past Pogge as he pitched the 4-0 shutout of the Moose. With the loss, the Moose dropped to 29-26-5-1 on the season. <div style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-weight: bold;"><u>Second Chances Are All About Redemption</u></span></div> With little time to reflect on their effort from a night before, Saturday night featured the Moose and Rampage again at the AT&amp;T Center. The Moose changed it up by sending Daren Machesney to the cage. The Rampage turned to Josh Tordjman to tend to the twine. The Rampage struck first in this game. Sasha Pokulok's blast from the point was stopped by Machesney, but he couldn't corral the rebound. Kyle Turris did, however, and he swept the puck past the sprawling Moose netminder. Turris' 16th of the season put the Rampage up 1-0 at the 8:22 mark. Honestly, the Moose needed to play a little more disciplined in that first period. They had five minor penalties assigned to them, and spent a good portion of the period chasing the puck rather than controlling it. As the 15-9 shot totals indicate, the Moose needed to step up if they wanted to escape San Antonio with at least a point. The second period saw both teams buckle down as neither team had many scoring chances. Both goaltenders were solid on the penalty kill, and the Moose responded by outshooting the Rampage 11-9 in that period. The third period saw the Moose break out of their mini-scoring slump. Gavin Morgan was sent off at 4:51 for hooking, and the Herd's powerplay took to the ice. The Russian kids, Sergei Shirokov and Nikita Kashirsky, had a couple of chances on Tordjman, but it took Nolan Baumgartner's shot off a rebound to break the Moose's goose egg. Baumgartner's fifth goal of the season came on the powerplay, and the Moose were even at 1-1 just 5:57 into the third. Nearly six minutes later, the Moose struck again. Off a Shirokov feed, Matt Pettinger streaked down the left wing and fired a laser past Tordjman on the short side that appeared to have handcuffed the Rampage goaltender. Pettinger's 13th goal of the season put the Moose out in front by a 2-1 score with 8:09 remaining. The Rampage battled hard, pulling their goaltender late for the extra attacker. However, Gullaume Desbiens was sprung by Mike Keane, and he slid the puck into the yawning cage with 17 seconds to play. Desbiens' 13th of the season guaranteed the Manitoba 3-1 victory over the Rampage. Honestly, this was an excellent rebound game for the Moose. They looked lacklustre and sloppy on Friday night, but it appears that Scott Arniel and his staff got the Moose back on track. With the win, the Moose finish the roadtrip 4-3-0-0, and push their record to 30-26-5-1 with the win. <div style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-weight: bold;"><u>"Come on Chief, This Isn't No Boy Scout Picnic!"</u></span></div> The Moose returned home on Tuesday night for a midweek battle against the Worcester Sharks. The Sharks won both previous encounters in Worcester with the Moose, so the Moose were looking to return the favour on MTS Centre ice. Cory Schneider led the Moose on to the ice, while Alex Stalock drew the assignment for the Sharks. These two teams came out throwing big hits. Lawrence Nycholat threw an ill-advised hit that resulted in an interference call, sending the Sharks to the powerplay just 5:09 into the game. And 10 seconds later, the Sharks opened the scoring. Logan Couture's shot from the left side was blocked by the leg of Jeff Waugh, but the puck ricocheted right to T.J. Trevelyan's stick at the top of the crease. Trevelyan wasted no time in putting the puck past a helpless Schneider, and the Sharks had the 1-0 lead off the powerplay goal. Trevelyan's marker came just 5:19 into the first period. If it weren't for the efforts of both goalies, this game could have been a 6-5 affair after one period. Both Schneider and Stalock were outstanding in the first period, and it appeared that this game may be decided by a defensive mistake somewhere along the line. Throught the first period, you could tell that the Moose and Sharks were feeling a little feisty. Every time a Shark bumped into Cory Schneider, the Moose were all over the offending player. While cooler heads prevailed in the first 20 minutes, you just had that feeling that something was going to happen. The Moose opened the scoring in the second period. Matt Pettinger won a puck battle along the right board, and fed the puck back to Tom Galvin at the point. Galvin's low shot was tipped by Sergei Shirokov as he skated through the slot, and the redirection fooled Stalock as the puck found the back of the net. Shirokov's 19th goal of the season came just 4:21 into the second period, and the game was knotted at 1-1. With Marty Murray already in the penalty box for tripping, the sin bins got a little more crowded. Cory Schneider made a routine save at 10:05 as Matt Moore was running a little interference on the Moose goaltender. Jeff Waugh didn't take kindly to Moore's treatment of Schneider, and pushed Moore behind the net as the two were jawing at one another. This drew a scrum where the chirping really began, and it resulted in punches being thrown between Moore and Guillaume Desbiens, followed by more facewashing and punching done by Matt Pettinger and Brandon Mashinter. After all of the parties were separated, each team received six minutes in roughing penalties, and that was that. However, the dancing seemed to fire up the Moose. As Murray came out of the penalty box, he jumped up ice as a stretch pass was fed to him. The Sharks recovered as Murray crossed the blueline, and his drop pass found Marco Rosa as Sharks' defenceman Benn Ferriero rubbed out Murray along the boards. Rosa appeared to be one-on-one with Danny Groulx, but everyone forgot about Pierre-Cedric Labrie on the right side. Everyone, that is, except Rosa. As Rosa drew Groulx towards him, he flipped a beautiful pass over to PeeCee, and Labrie buried the one-timer past Stalock from the right face-off dot. Labrie's fifth of the season came at the 11:23 mark, and the Moose took the 2-1 lead into the intermission. Highlight of the period? Tom Galvin's glove save along the goal line. Galvin pushed a puck outside of the crease that had found its way behind Schneider, but had not crossed the line. A huge effort by Galvin shows just how important the veteran defenceman is to the Moose blueline. The third period featured some amazing goaltending at both ends of the ice again. However, the Moose struck again late in the period off what appeared to be a goaltending miscue. Michael Grabner raced down the right wing to catch up to a rolling puck. With the puck still rolling and a defender bearing down on him, Grabner fired a hard wrist shot that caught Stalock square in the mask. I'm not sure if the shot dazed Stalock, but he didn't move after the puck hit him. The rebound fell to his left which, coincidentally, was in the slot. Matt Pope raced in and whacked the loose puck into the unguarded cage, giving the Moose a 3-1 lead. The goal was Pope's first of the season, and it came with just 4:06 to play. Talk about getting your proverbial gorilla off your back! With the net empty late in the game, there were a few good chances for the Sharks. However, the Moose stood tall and didn't give up the fight in reeling in the Sharks on this night by the 3-1 score. An interesting development occurred at the 20:00 mark of the third period when Guillaume Desbiens and Matt Moore participated in a round of fisticuffs. Guillaume scored the win in the scrap, but it appeared that the Sharks wanted more of the Moose. They'll have to wait until tomorrow night! With the win, the Moose up their record to 31-26-5-1. For the record, I just want to point out a young man who sat in Section 202 tonight. During a stoppage in play while a pane of glass was being repaired, this young man put on a display of dance moves like never seen before. It was perhaps the finest combination of dance moves I've ever seen at a Moose game. It wasn't long before both he and Dancin' Gabe were having a dance-off in his corner of the rink, and it was some of the best entertainment seen off the ice at a Moose game this season. Thank you to the gentleman who showed off the amazing dance prowess in Section 202. You, sir, are an all-star! If anyone knows who this man is, <a href="mailto:cdnuniguy@gmail.com">please contact me</a>. He deserves a little recognition for his phenomenal arsenal of Moose-related dance moves. <div style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-weight: bold;"><u>Changing Nameplates On Lockers</u></span></div> The Moose saw a couple of players leave town to join NHL teams, while another was shipped out of town via a trade. <ul><li>Nolan Baumgartner - recalled by Vancouver. Baumgartner was up with the Canucks before the Olympic break, and it appears they still need him.</li><li>Dan Sexton - recalled by Anaheim. The scoring sensation is back in California after helping the Moose for a second time this season. Honestly, it's no surprise that he went back. He had a great run in his first audition for the Ducks.</li><li>Nick Boynton - traded by Anaheim. Boynton was on his way to Rockford, Illinois during Tuesday night's game to join the IceHogs as the Anaheim Ducks traded him to the Chicago Blackhawks for future considerations.</li></ul><div style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-weight: bold;"><u>The Week Ahead</u></span></div> Wednesday night sees a rematch with the Worcester Sharks. Worcester will want to try to come away with a win and split the series in Winnipeg, so I expect them to come out fired up, especially after the fight at the final horn on Tuesday night. I would expect the same from the Moose as they're defending home ice, so here's hoping that they can take two from Worcester. Friday and Saturday sees the Moose in Grand Rapids, Michigan to battle the Griffins. The Griffins are toiling at the bottom of the North Division with 54 points and a 25-33-2-2 record. These are two "must-win" games for the Moose if they hope to keep pace with Abbotsford and Rochester. Jeremy Williams leads the team with 44 points. Williams is tied for the goal-scoring lead with Jan Mursak. Both players have 20 goals apiece. With Jimmy Howard in Detroit, the Moose no longer have to worry about Howard stealing a game or two from them. However, Daniel Larsson is still a capable goaltender. His 17-20-1-1 record doesn't do him any justice, but his 2.95 GAA and .902 save percentage shows that he can make the necessary stops. If the Moose can grab all six points this week, that would be a huge help in their battle for second-place in the North Division. If nothing else, the two games against Grand Rapids have to wins. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: divisional games are "must-win" games. Here's hoping Manitoba can bring home all six points, and end the week on a five-game winning streak! Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!
  10. <img src="http://i135.photobucket.com/albums/q124/cdnuniguy/AHL/antlerbantercan.jpg" width="200" height="188" class="imageFloatLeftFramed">With the second week of the Olympics underway, and a lot of good hockey still to be played in Vancouver, we pause to check out what's been happening with the Manitoba Moose on <span style="font-style:italic;">Antler Banter</span>. The Moose had a Toronto-Rochester-Toronto swing to end their eastern portion of the roadtrip before getting ready for a trip to Texas to end the roadtrip this week. We'll review those games, and talk a little about the Syracuse-Binghamton outdoor game from last Saturday. You can always find all of your Manitoba Moose news and information on <a href="http://www.moosehockey.com/" target="new">the Moose website</a>. If you're interested in attending a Manitoba Moose game, <a href="http://www.moosehockey.com/individualtickets" target="new">please click here</a> for seating information, ticket pricing, and availability. Let's get cracking with the <span style="font-weight: bold;">Hardcore Hockey</span>! <div style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-weight: bold;"><u>Moose Blinded By Big City Lights</u></span></div> The Moose rolled into Toronto on Wednesday night after having dispatched the Rochester Americans the night before. Having split with the Marlies the weekend before, there was some urgency to pick up at least a point on the road against Toronto. Cory Schenider and Joey MacDonald took to the blue paint at either ends of the ice for this game. The opening faceoff led to an odd-man rush for the Moose as Dan Sexton cruised into the Toronto zone after taking a pass from Travis Ramsey. On the two-on-one, Sexton fed a lovely pass across to Michael Grabner, and the Austrian-born sniper buried the puck behind MacDonald. Just 11 seconds in, the Moose were up 1-0 on Grabner's 12th goal of the season. Manitoba increased their lead on the powerplay just before the midway point of the period. Nikita Kashirsky had taken a hooking call at 6:03, but Brett Festerling was sent to the Toronto sin bin 16 seconds later for roughing. Kashirsky spent the two minutes in the box, and emerged as Manitoba stormed up the ice. With their mere 16 seconds of powerplay time, the Moose capitalized when Marco Rosa ripped a shot from inside the faceoff circle past MacDonald. Rosa's 19th goal of the season at 8:14 was a powerplay marker, and gave Manitoba the 2-0 lead. Brian Salcido took a tripping penalty 27 seconds after the goal, sending Toronto to the powerplay. After a fairly uneventful start to the powerplay, the Marlies began to move the puck well. A point shot by Brendan Mikkelson was tipped in front by Kyle Calder, and the puck found its way past Schneider. Calder's powerplay goal at 10:25 was his fifth of the season, and Toronto was on the board, trailing by a 2-1 score. The rest of the period was played out without any goals, but the two teams were knotted at 14 shots apiece. While I wouldn't say the Moose were firmly in control, the first period looked like a good road effort. However, the second period proved me wrong. As the period wore on, you could tell that Toronto was building some momentum by carrying the play. MacDonald played well in the Toronto net, stopping the Moose chances, but Toronto was getting more quality chances, and it showed when the Marlies capitalized. A delayed penalty call allowed the Marlies to send on the extra attacker, but it didn't take long for them to score. Tim Brent converted a Greg Scott pass into a goal when he left the two Moose defencemen looking like pylons before sliding a puck under Schneider. I'm not sure what Nick Boynton and Nolan Baumgartner were thinking, but someone should have laid Brent out before he got to Schneider. In any case, the Marlies tied the game at 2-2 on Brent's fifth goal of the season with 3:01 remaining in the period. Jonas Frogren took a selfish kneeing penalty at 18:13, and the Moose were headed back to the powerplay. However, another miscue between Boynton and Baumgartner allowed a shorthanded two-on-one for Phil Oreskovic and Ben Simon. Simon found Oreskovic wide-open at the backdoor, and he buried his first of the season while shorthanded at 18:37 of the second. The period would close with the Marlies up 3-2 on Oreskovic's shorthanded tally, and the Marlies leading 25-20 on the shot clock. Honestly, Boynton and Baumgartner were truly killer B's out there as their mistakes cost Manitoba the lead in that period. Tim Brent added his second goal of the evening by squeaking a wraparound past Schneider. Schneider just couldn't get to the post before Brent slid home the puck, and Brent's sixth of the season at 4:23 gave the hometown Marlies the 4-2 lead. The Moose didn't quit, however. Sergei Shirokov found the back of the net when his shot got underneath MacDonald's glove at 12:23 of the third. Shirokov has been missing from the scoresheet lately, so it's nice to see the Russian rookie doing what he does best again. Shirokov's 17th of the season made it 4-3 for the Marlies. Joey MacDonald didn't allow another puck past him, despite a furious flurry of shots in the late going, and the Marlies skated to the 4-3 victory. Toronto outshot the Moose by a 33-25 margin in the game - yet another sign that Manitoba really didn't deserve to win. With the loss, the Moose fall to 27-24-5-1 on the season. <div style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-weight: bold;"><u>A Rochester State Of Mind</u></span></div> Manitoba regrouped and headed to Rochester for a Friday night game with the Americans at Blue Cross Arena. Manitoba's 6-3 victory on Tuesday was still fresh in the minds of both teams, so there was some hope that Manitoba could continue their winning ways against the Amerks while the Amerks wanted some revenge. Cory Schneider got the call yet again for the Moose, while Rochester sent out Alexander Salak to the cage. Rochester opened the scoring 8:01 into the game. Jeff Taffe gained a head of steam as he tore down the right wing on a two-on-one. His backhander went upstairs in a hurry over Schneider's glove to the top shelf. Taffe showed why he has 19 goals on the season with that effort, and Rochester had the 1-0 lead. However, I would like to point out what appears to be one of the worst non-calls on the season. Referee Terry Koharski stood idly by while a Rochester forward laid out Brian Salcido at the Moose blueline, causing the two-on-one to develop. It had to be one of the most obvious interference calls to make, but no call was made on the play. The result was Taffe's goal as Travis Ramsey was the only defender back during the rush. The Moose made up for the non-call 1:24 later. Pierre-Cedric Labrie caught a break as he came down the left wing. His centering pass intended for Tom Maxwell in front of the net was deflected by Stefan Meyer's stick. The deflection, though, went up and over Salak's right shoulder and landed behind the surprised goaltender inside the net. Labrie's unconventional third goal of the season tied the game at 1-1. Late in the period, the Herd went ahead. Rochester's Victor Oreskovich was in the box for his high-sticking infraction, and the Moose powerplay took control. A shot on net from the slot by the streaking Nick Boynton was stopped by Salak. However, the rebound landed into the feet of Boynton and three Americans, and Salak couldn't cover it. The puck squirted loose to the left hash marks where sniper Dan Sexton was waiting. With Salak down and out, Sexton tickled the twine as he sent the puck high. Manitoba took a 2-1 lead into the break after Sexton scored the powerplay marker, his fifth goal of the season, with 1:11 left. 7:26 into the second period, the Moose added to their total. On a three-on-one, Guillaume Desbiens carried the puck down the right wing as Mike Keane hustled to catch the play. The trailer, defenceman Travis Ramsey, stayed put in the middle as Keane filled the left wing lane. A nice saucer pass from Desbiens to Keane settled on Keane's stick, and Salak slid across to play Keane's shot. Keane caught Ramsey in the slot and dropped the puck to him. Ramsey wasted no time in slapping the puck into the open part of the net, and Manitoba was up 3-1 on Ramsey's first goal of the season. Rochester opened the third period by inching closer on the scoreboard. At the 56-second mark, the Moose were whistled for too many men. The Amerks' powerplay made them pay. Jason Garrison's point shot looked like it caught teammate Michael Duco up high, and ricocheted to the left side of the crease. Mike York was standing wide-open at that spot, and he fired the puck home over Schneider's pad from the sharp angle. York's powerplay goal was his sixth of the season, and the Americans trailed 3-2 just 2:06 into the third frame. Both teams battled down the stretch, but Manitoba went up by two goals again. Marco Rosa caused a turnover in the Rochester zone, and fed a pass from the middle of the ice to Michael Grabner on the right side. The puck was slightly behind Grabner, but he corralled the puck and fired a high laser over Salak's shoulder to the far post. Grabner's 13th goal of the season gave the Moose a 4-2 lead with 4:14 to play. The Americans closed the gap 1:22 later. Evgeny Dadonov started a give-and-go with Michal Repik the resulted in a shot on net for Dadonov. Chris Taylor was battling in front of Cory Schneider with Nolan Baumgartner, and Taylor got his stick on the puck to shovel the Dadonov rebound between Schneider's pads to the back of the net. Taylor's 12th goal of the season made it a 4-3 game for Manitoba. The Americans could not get any closer as the Moose defencemen and Cory Schneider kept them off the scoresheet. With the win, Manitoba moves to 28-24-5-1 on the season. <div style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-weight: bold;"><u>Returning To The Scene Of The Crime</u></span></div> The Moose were back in Toronto for a Saturday afternoon game against the Marlies. The Moose had dropped the last two games to the Marlies, so they needed to get back on track against a team trailing them in the standings. The Marlies wanted to continue their recent success against the Moose, and sent James Reimer to the net to continue his winning ways against the Herd. The Moose went to Daren Machesney for this game after Cory Schneider had dropped his last two games against Toronto. Just 4:50 in, Toronto grabbed a lead. Tim Brent's backhander was stopped by Machesney, but the rebound popped out front into the scrum. Greg Scott banged away at it, but the Moose goalie held his ground. Unfortunately, the puck bounced to Machesney's right where Viktor Stalberg was standing at the edge of the crease, and Stalberg buried the puck past a helpless Machesney. Stalberg's 12th goal of the season gave Toronto the 1-0 edge. The play went back and forth for the majority of the period with both goalies matching each other save for save, but a Toronto powerplay proved fruitful for the home squad. Juraj Mikus teed up a point blast that hit Machesney, but the rebound found its way back into the crowd of people on the doorstep. Kyle Calder picked up the puck with Michael Grabner on his back, and slid the puck past the outstretched glove of Machesney into the open net. Calder's sixth goal of the season put Toronto up 2-0 at 17:46. Aside from a round of fisticuffs between a few competitors later in the game, that was it, folks. James Reimer made 31 saves for his first AHL shutout, but not many were of the spectacular variety. Toronto hands the Moose another loss, this one by a 2-0 score, and sends Manitoba home with a 28-25-5-1 record on the season. <div style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-weight: bold;"><u>Taking It Outside</u></span></div> Saturday was a special day for the AHL as the Syracuse Crunch hosted the first outdoor game in AHL history. The <a href="http://i135.photobucket.com/albums/q124/cdnuniguy/AHL/syracuseoutside.jpg" target="new">Mirabito Outdoor Classic was played at the New York State Fairgrounds</a>, setting the scene for a game between the Syracuse Crunch and Binghamton Senators. If anyone asks, the <a href="http://i135.photobucket.com/albums/q124/cdnuniguy/AHL/syracusescores.jpg" target="new">first goal scored outdoors</a> by an AHL player was scored by Syracuse forward Alexander Picard. The game also set an AHL attendance record as 21,508 fans turned out to see the Syracuse Crunch defeat the Binghamton Senators by a 2-1 score. In one of the cooler moments, skydiver Ray Maynard arrived on the ice from the air above to deliver the first puck used in outdoor game to New York Governor David Paterson and Senator Chuck Schumer. That puck was originally used on September 27, 1991 when the Los Angeles Kings hosted the New York Rangers in Las Vegas in the first professional outdoor game in modern history. As stated above, Picard gave the Crunch the lead 6:47 in. Binghamton's Josh Hennessy tied the game up early in the second period. David Liffiton's goal late in the second period restored the one-goal lead for Syracuse, and ended up being the game-winner. It was all about goaltending in the third period as neither team could put the puck past the opposing goalie. Kevin Lalande recorded the victory for Syracuse while Binghamton's Mike Brodeur took the loss. So why I am talking about this game? The Moose had their own outdoor game on Monday! Bob Hobson of Winnipeg won the Home Depot Backyard Rink contest for his awesome backyard rink, and his prize was a game of shinny against the Moose players! <a href="http://i135.photobucket.com/albums/q124/cdnuniguy/AHL/machesneyyard.jpg" target="new">Daren Machesney</a>, Matt Pettinger, Evan Oberg, <a href="http://i135.photobucket.com/albums/q124/cdnuniguy/AHL/grabneryard.jpg" target="new">Michael Grabner</a>, Nathan McIver and <a href="http://i135.photobucket.com/albums/q124/cdnuniguy/AHL/desbiensyard.jpg" target="new">Guillaume Desbiens</a> showed up for the fun, and the neighbourhood kids played the Moose! Mick E. Moose was there to stir up some fun as well. All in all, a very cool promotion run by Home Depot and the Manitoba Moose. Congratulations to Bob Hobson! Make sure you check out the <a href="http://www.moosehockey.com/backyardrink" target="new">Moose's Build A Rink page</a> so you can get some tips on how to build your own rink, and maybe the Moose will be in your backyard next season! <div style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-weight: bold;"><u>Heading South</u></span></div> The Moose have a three-game affair to take care of in Texas this week. The Houston Aeros are up first on Thursday, and then its off to San Antonio for dates with the Rampage on Friday and Saturday. The Aeros have a nearly identical record to Manitoba, so this should be a close game. Houston enters the game with a 28-24-6-1 record, and currently sit fifth in the tightly-contested West Division. Maxim Noreau leads the team with 43 points, and Jon DiSalvatore leads the team in goal-scoring with 18 goals. Both Barry Brust and Wade Dubielewicz don't have very impressive records, but their 2.43 and 2.51 GAAs, respectively, show that they are effective puck-stoppers. Manitoba will need to find its scoring touch to win this game. San Antonio sit seventh in the West Division with a 24-24-3-6 record. This is another team that doesn't score a lot, so Manitoba will need to have its scoring production on hand. San Antonio is led by forwards Kevin Porter, Kyle Turris, and Sean Sullivan. All three men have 37 points this season. Chad Kolarik is the leading goal-scorer on the Rampage with 17 tallies to his name. Josh Tordjman is still a very capable goaltender, but Justin Pogge has come on strong since being assigned to the Rampage. I'd expect to see both men in the two-game set. Looking at the three-games-in-three-nights set, I'd be happy if Manitoba returned with four of six points. Personally, all six point would really help as the Moose sit in fourth spot in the AHL's North Division, two points back of third-place Abbotsford with a game in hand. Here's hoping the Moose can go guns-a-blazing through Texas, and come home with six points in their pockets. Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!
  11. <img src="http://i135.photobucket.com/albums/q124/cdnuniguy/AHL/antlerbantercan.jpg" width="200" height="188" class="imageFloatLeftFramed"><span style="font-style:italic;">Antler Banter</span> would like to interrupt your regularly-scheduled Olympic coverage to bring you the latest news on the AHL and the Manitoba Moose. While the 2010 Winter Olympics are being played in Vancouver, the Canucks, along with the rest of the NHL, is off on break. The AHL, however, remains full steam ahead, so we'll look back on the three games that the Moose played, and look ahead to the upcoming games. As always, player moves are mandatory if you're associated with the Moose, so we'll cover those as well. Don't forget that you can always find all of your Manitoba Moose news and information on <a href="http://www.moosehockey.com/" target="new">the Moose website</a>. If you're interested in attending a Manitoba Moose game, <a href="http://www.moosehockey.com/individualtickets" target="new">please click here</a> for seating information, ticket pricing, and availability. It's time for some <b>Hardcore Hockey</b>! Just What The Doctor Ordered: The Toronto Marlies rolled into MTS Centre this past weekend to face the Moose. The Moose were 2-0 against the Marlies this season, so there was hope that the Herd could continue down that path. Cory Schneider got the call for the Moose while Joey MacDonald was sent to the nets for the Marlies. The first goal was scored just past the midway point in the first period. Tom Galvin kept a puck in at the point during some five-on-five hockey, and fired a shot towards the slot. Marco Rosa was cruising through the slot, and picked up the loose puck. Rosa, on his backhand, found just enough room along the ice between MacDonald's left leg and the left post, tucking it past the sprawling goaltender's glove to give the Moose a 1-0 lead. Rosa's 15th goal of the season at 12:39 wouldn't be the last time he was heard from on the night. At the end of one period, Manitoba was outshooting the Marlies by a 15-14 margin. Normally, it takes Manitoba the better part of two periods to reach that total, so it appeared that the Moose were out to shoot the lights out. One noticeable thing about the Marlies was the number of times they ran goaltender Cory Schneider. While I'm sure they wanted to rattle Schneider's cage, it seemed to happen early and often, and the Moose began to take exception to the Marlies' frequent abuses of their netminder. Early into the second period, the Moose struck again. On a two-on-one, Michael Grabner streaked down the right wing and into the Marlies' zone. Brendan Mikkelson attempted to cut off the pass across the ice as he crowded Grabner, but Grabner threaded a pass across to Lawrence Nycholat on the left side who had nothing but net to shoot at with MacDonald overplaying Grabner's shot. Nycholat buried his second goal of the season at 2:55 off the gorgeous feed from Grabner, and the Moose a 2-0 lead. Just 28 seconds later, and the Moose found themselves up 3-0. Dan Sexton crossed from left to right along the high slot, bringing two Marlies defenders with him. That left Michael Grabner wide-open on the backdoor, and Sexton spotted him. Showing his NHL-calibre hands, Sexton delivered an amazing pass to Grabner's tape, and Grabner buried his gift. With eighth goal of the season at 3:23, Grabner put the Moose up 3-0. Sexton's pass, however, was certainly deserving if anyone was needing highlight reel fodder on Friday night. He went tape-to-tape through both Phil Oreskovic and newcomer Keith Aulie to Grabner for the goal. Sexton is showing why the Anaheim Ducks are so high on his abilities, and why he may only spend this season in the AHL. Sexton was also in on the next Moose goal, again showing some fabulous hands in the process. Grabner caught up to a puck in the left wing corner, and shoveled a pass back to Dan Sexton at the hash marks. Sexton made a nice deke, going forehand to backhand to draw Brendan Mikkelson away from the slot and the wide-open Marco Rosa. Sexton spotted Rosa as both Mikkelson and MacDonald committed to him, and Rosa fired the puck past the outstretched glove of MacDonald to the back of the net. Rosa's 16th of the season at 7:11 not only gave the Moose a 4-0 lead, but Rosa officially took over the goal-scoring lead on the Moose as he pulled one ahead of Sergei Shirokov. Kyle Calder and Alex Berry cut the deficit for the Marlies a short time later. Calder and Berry broke in on a two-on-one with Calder carrying the puck towards Schneider. Travis Ramsey tried to play the pass, but the puck got between his legs, giving Alex Berry a clear shot as Schneider tried to slide across. Berry found the back of the net with his third goal of the season at 18:08, and the Marlies trailed 4-1. Remember how I was talking about the Marlies running Cory Schneider? Well, things turned ugly in the third period. 85 minutes in penalties were handed out for a variety of infractions, but there were two fights that highlighted the card. Pierre-Cedric Labrie served a buffet of knuckle sandwiches to Richard Greenop after Greenop had been jawing and poking at Labrie for about a minute straight. Give the decisive win to Labrie in this battle. Shortly after the fisticuffs died down, Michael Grabner picked up his second goal of the game. Marco Rosa made a couple of nice moves around Justin Hodgman and Brennan Evans, making them look like pylons in the process. Rosa found himself on a two-on-one with Grabner, and defenceman Juraj Mikus did nothing to help MacDonald. Rosa slid the puck under a sprawling Mikus to the open Grabner, who flipped the puck over MacDonald's pad and into the yawning cage. Grabner's ninth goal of the season at 17:37 rounded out the scoring as the Moose went on to a 5-1 victory. I'm surprised there weren't more goaltender interference calls made in this game with the number of times that Schneider found himself on the ice with a Marlie all over him. Sometimes, I wonder how these AHL referees are adjudicated when it comes to reviewing their work. In any case, the Moose improve to 26-22-5-1 with the victory. <div style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-weight: bold;"><u>From Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde</u></span></div> Saturday night saw the Moose and Marlies conclude their two-game series at MTS Centre. The Moose looked to build on their win from the night before, but they would be in tougher as Winnipeg-born James Reimer would take the nets for the Marlies. Cory Schneider was back between the pipes for the Moose. The Moose wore the jerseys of the <a href="http://i135.photobucket.com/albums/q124/cdnuniguy/AHL/MurrayESPAces.jpg" target="new">East St. Paul Aces</a>, a minor hockey team in Winnipeg, as part of the Moose's commitment to community and their celebration of hockey and community spirit. Honestly, though, with the Moose in the Aces' jerseys, this game <a href="http://i135.photobucket.com/albums/q124/cdnuniguy/AHL/tormbmottawa.jpg" target="new">resembled a Toronto-Ottawa battle</a> from the mid-1990s. There was no scoring in the first period, and the bad blood from the previous night had apparently subsided. The shots were 14-14 after one period, similar to the night before, so the goaltenders were busy. 7:45 into the second period saw the Marlies crack their goose egg. Justin Hodgman dropped a pass to Tim Brent at the top of the right face-off circle. Brent's shot on net was partially screened by Kyle Calder, but Schneider made the save, kicking out to the left side. Travis Ramsey, who was checking Calder, ended up on top of Schneider as Justin Hodgman picked up the loose puck. With no one standing between him and the net, Hodgman fired home his fourth of the season, and the Marlies took the 1-0 lead. A couple of penalties later, and the Marlies were in the dressing room with the 1-0 advantage. It was clear in this second period that the Marlies were the far superior team in terms of puck control. The Marlies closed out the period with a 20-8 margin on the shot clock, and the Moose should have considered themselves lucky that the score wasn't worse than what it was. 4:17 into the third period, and we had ourselves another goal. Off a face-off in the defensive zone, Michael Grabner picked up a loose puck and turned on the jets. It appeared that there was some confusion between Brendan Mikkelson and Jonas Frogren as to who was going to take Grabner, and Grabner exploited that mistake. He split the defence to go in alone on Reimer. It appeared that Reimer squeezed the puck as Grabner went to his left on the forehand, but the puck squirted loose and snuck across the goal line. Grabner's tenth of the season evened the score at 1-1. The Marlies fought back. Tim Brent cut in towards the slot and attempted a wrist shot, but the puck rolled off his stick. Both Brian Salcido and Cory Schneider went down on the whiff, but Brent corralled the puck, stepped around Nick Boynton, and flipped a backhander at the right post. Kyle Calder had crashed the net, and the puck ricocheted in off his body. Calder's fourth of the season with 8:47 to play put the Marlies up 2-1. While the Moose valiantly tried to tie the game up, James Reimer stood tall, turning aside 33 of 34 shots to keep the 2-1 victory intact. With the loss, the Moose fall to 26-23-5-1 on the season. <div style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-weight: bold;"><u>Everyone Loves A Roadtrip</u></span></div> The Moose traveled to Rochester, New York for a Tuesday night game against another division rival in the Rochester Americans. Rochester sat six points ahead of the Moose, so the Herd needed a big game against their New York opponents. Cory Schneider got the nod from head coach Scott Arniel, while Rochester sent out impressive rookie Alexander Salak for the game at Blue Cross Arena. Rochester got on the board first in this game. Chris Taylor's fantastic pass to Jeff Taffe was wired by Taffe past Schneider on the left side for his 18th goal of the season. With the goal at the 11:39, the Amerks took the 1-0 lead. It's hard to say anyone was a stand-out in the first period except for Cory Schneider. The Americans outshot the Moose 11-4, and carried the play for the majority of the period. Without Schneider in the nets, it could have 2-0 or 3-0 easily. Manitoba's leading goal-scorer evened the score in the second. Travis Ramsey's point shot was stopped by Salak, and the rebound came out to his right. The loose puck sat idly just outside the crease, and Marco Rosa pounced on the opportunity. Rosa dove across the slot on his stomach, and swept the loose puck into the unprotected Amerks' net. With Rosa's effort, he recorded his team-leading 17th goal of the season, and the two teams were square at 1-1 at 9:37. Shawn Matthias didn't let that tied score last long. Just 2:07 later, Matthias crossed into the Moose zone, and he wristed a laser on net that got under Schneider's pad. Matthias' fifth goal of the season was a little unexpected, but it gave Rochester the 2-1 lead. 1:09 after Matthias' goal, the Moose drew even again. Lawrence Nycholat set up a gift for Dan Sexton to tap in with his cross-crease pass. Sexton's fourth goal of the season at 12:53 made it 2-2, but credit has to be given to Nycholat. His cross-crease pass was superb, and even I could have scored with that much time. Ok, maybe not. But I digress. 48 seconds after the Moose tied the game, they went on the offensive. Nolan Baumgartner moved into the high slot and crushed a slapshot past Salak after taking a feed from Guillaume Desbiens. Baumgartner's second goal of the season for the Moose put the Herd ahead 3-2. Chris Taylor was sent off for a slash at 14:31, and that sent the Moose powerplay onto the ice. It took a little time for the Herd to get the powerplay going, but the Moose did capitalize. Nick Boynton fed Marco Rosa on the backdoor, and the Moose sniper roofed a shot past Salak. Rosa's 18th goal of the season ended Salak's night at 15:57 as the Moose pulled ahead 4-2. With Salak on the bench, the Amerks went to former Brandon Wheat King Tyler Plante to see if he could change their fortunes. Just to note: Boynton's pass was something you'd see in the NHL. It was crisp and hard, and Rosa made no mistake when it arrived on his tape. There are a few reasons why Boynton has played nearly 500 games in the NHL. That's one of them. After two periods, Manitoba had stormed ahead on the scoreboard, and made a serious dent on the shot clock. Manitoba outshot the Americans 17-8 in the second, and led 21-19 overall. I don't want to sound any alarms, but why don't the Moose shoot more often?!? Matt Pettinger didn't take his foot off the gas pedal in the third period. Just 3:09 in, Pettinger's quick shot beat Plante on the blocker side, and the Moose jumped out to a 5-2 lead. Pettinger's 12th of the season wasn't the prettiest goal, but it certainly does the job. Michael Duco of Rochester tried to narrow the gap with his goal at 14:10. Duco took a cross-ice pass from Jamie Johnson and slapped the puck home before Schneider could get across to block the shot. Duco's seventh of the season made it 5-3. However, Manitoba iced the game less than two minutes later. Michael Grabner added his 11th of the season when he went upstairs past Plante to make it 6-3 for Manitoba with only 3:59 to play. Grabner extended his three-game scoring streak with the goal as well. When it was all said and done, Manitoba had secured the 6-3 win. Maintoba improves to 27-23-5-1, and found themselves tied with the Abbotsford Heat in third-place in the North Division. The Moose sit four points behind the Americans, and four up on the Lake Erie Monsters. <div style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-weight: bold;"><u>Back To The Farm</u></span></div> Nolan Baumgartner was re-assigned to the Moose by the Vancouver Canucks with the Olympic break underway in the NHL. Because Baumgartner was back with the Herd, the Moose faced a veteran problem again. To solve this issue, it appears the Moose will sit a veteran player on a rotating basis until the Olympics are over. Captain Mike Keane took the seat in Rochester, allowing Baumgartner to be inserted into the lineup. <div style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-weight: bold;"><u>Didn't We Just Play You?</u></span></div> The Moose are in Toronto tonight for a date with the Marlies. On Friday, they return to Rochester for another game with the Americans. And Saturday sees the Moose back in Toronto again. Nice scheduling, right? Manitoba won't see Toronto's Andre Deveaux on Wednesday night after the AHL handed him a three-game time-out for <a href="http://hockey-blog-in-canada.blogspot.com/2010/02/keep-your-mouth-shut.html" target="new">his actions on Friday night</a> in Winnipeg. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: divisional games must be won. The Moose need to take points off the Marlies to keep pace with the other teams in the division, and need to win against the Americans in order to close the gap. They already gained two points from Rochester of the possible eight divisional points this week, so they have to keep that momentum rolling. Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!
  12. <img src="http://i135.photobucket.com/albums/q124/cdnuniguy/AHL/antlerbanter.jpg" width="200" height="188" class="imageFloatLeftFramed"><span style="font-style: italic;">Antler Banter</span> returns today with a look back on this past week's events with the Manitoba Moose. The Moose welcomed the San Antonio Rampage to MTS Centre for a pair of games last weekend with the Moose needing to get back on some sort of winning streak after limping through Massachusetts and Pennsylvania. There have been a few player moves that have affected the Moose as well, so we'll look at who went where and who is new in town. Lastly, we'll look ahead as the Moose welcome a North Division rival to MTS Centre this upcoming weekend. Of course, you can always find all of your Manitoba Moose news and information, don't forget to <a href="http://www.moosehockey.com/" target="new">check out the Moose website</a>. If you're interested in attending a Manitoba Moose game, <a href="http://www.moosehockey.com/individualtickets" target="new">please click here</a> for seating information, ticket pricing, and availability. It's time for some <span style="font-weight: bold;">Hardcore Hockey</span>! <div style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-weight: bold;"><u>Next Goal Wins!</u></span></div> The San Antonio Rampage rolled into Winnipeg for a two-game set on Friday and Saturday night last weekend. The Rampage are sitting in last place in the tightly-contested West Division, so the Moose were looking to stop the Rampage in their tracks. Cory Schneider got the call for the Moose in the crease while the Rampage sent Josh Tordjman out to their net. Just 2:44 in saw the game's first goal. San Antonio's Gavin Morgan put a shot into traffic in front of Schneider that just squeaked through his pads to sit behind the Moose goalie. However, Francis Lessard was there to poke the loose puck in on the right side of the net for his first of the season, and San Antonio was out to the 1-0 lead. The Moose evened the game up after controlling the play midway through the period. With Kyle Turris sent off for interference at the 10:04 mark, the Herd's powerplay went to work. Brian Salcido's blast from just above the high slot area went into traffic where Dan Sexton tipped the puck past Tordjman from the right side of the crease. Sexton's second goal of the season came on a powerplay at 10:49, and the Moose were squared up at 1-1. The first period - and an entertaining period at that - drew to a close with the teams tied at 1-1, while San Antonio had the slight edge in shots at 10-9. The second period saw chances on both sides, but only San Antonio capitalized. Matt Watkins broke hard down the left wing and gained a step on Brian Salcido, but Salcido forced him deep enough that Watkins had to head behind the net. Thanks to the speed he had built up, he was able to circle the net quickly and slide home a wraparound goal before Schneider could go post-to-post to make the save. With Watkins' sixth goal of the year, the Rampage took a 2-1 lead at the 11:57 mark of the middle frame. Honestly, Watkins' goal is not going to make Cory Schneider's highlight reel. It was a weaker goal than what I've seen Schneider normally allow, but the Moose netminder is human. Mistakes happen, and the Moose needed to rally yet again. However, there were no more goals in the second period, and San Antonio led on the shot clock by a 21-15 margin. The third period saw the Moose pull even. Michael Grabner broke down the right wing into the Rampage zone, and put on the brakes as the Moose flooded the zone. Grabner threaded a pass through to Marco Rosa cutting down the slot, but Tordjman got enough of it to keep the puck out. However, his rebound hit the hash marks where Dan Sexton was lurking, and Sexton wristed home his third goal of the year. Just 5:06 in, and the Moose tied the game at 2-2. Three minutes later, and the Rampage claimed the lead for the third time over the course of the evening. Mikkel Boedker took a pass just over the red line and cruised into the Moose zone on the right side. Boedker teed up the puck from just above the face-off dot, and hammered the puck inside the left post just above Schneider's right leg. With Boedker's fifth of the season, the Rampage were back on top at 3-2. Back came the Herd as the back-and-forth scoring continued. Matt Pettinger nearly replicated Boedker's goal as he took a pass in flight from Salcido as he crossed the Rampage blueline on the right side. Pettinger made a cut towards the middle, put the brakes on, and wired a wrist shot from the face-off dot over Tordjman's blocker just inside the left post. Pettinger's 11th of the season put the Moose back on even terms at 3-3 with 4:11 to play. And the pattern continued. The Rampage went back to the powerplay at 17:34 of the third period when Lawrence Nycholat was sent to sin bin for delay of game. Off the draw, Sean Sullivan's centering attempt deflected off Chad Kolarik's skate into the slot. San Antonio's Kevin Porter ripped a low shot that deflected off Jeff Hoggan's shin, and found its way to the back of the Manitoba net. Hoggan's powerplay goal, his eighth of the season, made it 4-3 for the Rampage with 2:26 to play. The Moose didn't go away. With the extra attacker on the ice, Evan Oberg's pass from the right face-off dot found Marty Murray in the slot. Murray deflected the pass up high towards the net where a number of players were battling, and the puck found its way over Tordjman, who had dropped to the ice, and into the net. At 19:39, Murray's ninth goal of the season drew the Moose even at 4-4, and overtime looked inevitable. The extra frame didn't last long, however. Mikkel Boedker took a pass down the right wing from Shaun Heshka, and carried the puck into the Moose zone. His pass from the top of the face-off circle was intended for Kevin Porter who was streaking into the slot, but the puck deflected off Evan Oberg who had good position on Porter. Unfortunately, the deflected puck went straight back and into the Moose net. Boedker's sixth goal of the season sealed the win for the Rampage just 45 seconds into overtime. With the 5-4 overtime loss, the Moose's record drops to 24-22-5-1 on the season. The Moose really picked up the pace in the third period as they outshot the Rampage 15-9, but the Rampage still won the battle on the shot clock by a 32-30 margin. It seems like it has been weeks since the Moose outshot anyone. <div style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-weight: bold;"><u>Staring Down A Moose</u></span></div> With the Moose having lost after rallying four times to tie the game the night before, you know head coach Scott Arniel wanted more from his players. Like the first goal. And a lead. Either way, the Moose and Rampage tangled again on Saturday night with both teams looking for the two points. Cory Schneider got the call for the Moose again, but the Rampage responded with Justin Pogge in between the pipes. The action was fat and furious in the early going. Both goalies had to be sharp as the teams were flying around the ice. Jannik Hansen nearly had his first goal of the season for the Moose, but the puck rattled off both posts as it danced along the goal line. However, one of the Moose newcomers got the home squad on the board. Russian speedster Nikita Kashirsky caught the Rampage defencemen flat-footed at the Moose blueline, and he broke away down the right side with the Rampage in pursuit. On the breakaway, Kashirsky went from right to left, and showed a nice deke from the backhand to the forehand before sliding the puck through Pogge's five-hole. Kashirsky's third goal of the season came unassisted at 10:56 of the first, and the Moose were out to a 1-0 lead. The Moose couldn't celebrate long, however. Mike Keane took a hooking penalty at 11:14, and the Rampage went to work on the powerplay. A turnover in front of the Moose net found its way into the back of the net. Rampage forward Chad Kolarik picked Brian Salcido's pocket in the slot, and fired a wrist shot high stick-side that Schneider couldn't stop. Kolarik's 16th of the season while on the powerplay tied the game at 1-1 at the 12:13 mark. The Moose should consider themselves lucky that they found themselves tied with the Rampage after being outshot 8-4 in the first period and, by my count, outchanced at least 5-2. However, a 1-1 score after one period of play was where the game stood. It appeared that the wake-up call was sounded in the Moose dressing room between the periods. 52 seconds in, Guillaume Desbiens tipped a Travis Ramsey shot from the point past Pogge, and the Moose regained the lead. Desbiens' 11th goal of the season put the Moose back on top at 2-1. 4:02 later, however, the Rampage pulled even again, and in a gorgeous way. Kyle Turris showed NHL talent as he walked around Michael Grabner like he wasn't even there. With Ryan Weston off for hooking, Kyle Turris broke down the left wing on Grabner. As Grabner attempted the poke-check on Turris, Turris pulled the puck between his legs from back to front, and avoided both the poke-check and the bodycheck from Grabner. As Turris brought the puck from left to right as he crossed the crease, Schneider went down, Turris slid the puck under his left leg, and Turris might have scored the prettiest goal at MTS Centre this season. With Turris' marvelous shorthanded effort and 11th of the season, the Rampage tied the game up at 2-2. Mario Bliznak was sent off for hooking at 17:39, and the Rampage powerplay was back on the scene. Mikkel Boedker started off the tic-tac-toe scoring play as he dished the puck to Matt Watkins along the right half-boards who one-timed a pass to Brett MacLean cruising into the slot. No one picked up Watkins as he headed to the net, and MacLean returned a pass to Watkins on the backdoor for the easy tap-in goal. Watkins' seventh goal on the powerplay gave the Rampage their first lead of the night at 3-2 with only 35 seconds remaining in the second period. The third period saw the two teams settle down defensively, but one lost check changed the fortunes for the Moose. Tom Galvin's point shot was deflected on net by Mike Keane, but Pogge was there for the save. However, Pogge's kick-out went right on to the stick of the unchecked Guillaume Desbiens on the left side of the crease, and Desbiens had no trouble sliding the puck behind Pogge. Desbiens' 12th of the season at 13:53 tied the game at 3-3. The third period drew to a close, and the Rampage only had a one-shot lead on the shot clock as overtime approached. With the 26-25 advantage, it seemed as though the Rampage had carried the play more often, but the Moose hung around long enough to salvage at least one point. Overtime saw the Moose put three more shots on Pogge, but the Rampage didn't manage a shot. However, nothing was decided, so a shootout would decide this game. Boedker was stopped, but Rosa scored in the first round. Kyle Turris put one past Schneider, but Dan Sexton responded to keep Manitoba ahead 2-1 in the shootout. Chad Kolarik was stopped by Schneider, while Michael Grabner beat Pogge to give Manitoba a 3-1 lead. With Schneider stopping David Schlemko on the fourth shot, no more shots were needed, and the Moose earned a 4-3 shootout victory. With the win, the Moose improve to 25-22-5-1, keeping them in third place in the North Division as of today. They are two points ahead of the Lake Erie Monsters and Abbotsford Heat, and trail the second-place Rochester Americans by six points. <div style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-weight: bold;"><u>This Isn't A Super Bowl Halftime Show</u></span></div> The Who sang <span style="font-style: italic;">"Who Are You"</span> during the Super Bowl halftime show this past weekend, and the Moose should look at buying rights to that song. The amount of turnover on their roster is bordering on ridiculous. - Nick Boynton - recalled by Anaheim. The Ducks didn't give Manitoba anytime to get acquainted with the defenceman. Just days after assigning Boynton to the Moose, they recalled him on re-entry waivers hours before Friday's game. However, after he cleared waivers again, the Ducks re-assigned him to the Moose, and he should be in uniform for this weekend's games. - Jannik Hansen - recalled by Vancouver. The reconditioning assignment for Hansen came to an end quickly as the Canucks recalled the speedy forward on Monday. - Evan Rankin - released from PTO. Rankin played well while in Manitoba, but simply didn't fit into Manitoba's long-term plans. Rankin scored one goal in four games before his release. - Taylor Ellington - re-assigned to Victoria. Ellington is caught in the numbers game again, but he showed he isn't out of place on the Moose blueline. Ellington will most likely be back sooner than later. <div style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-weight: bold;"><u>Coming Up: North Division Rivals</u></span></div> The Moose have a couple of games on Friday and Saturday against a division rival in the Toronto Marlies. As I have repeatedly stated on this blog, divisional games mean everything in the grand scheme of things, so the Moose should be gunning for four points over the weekend. Tough guy Andre Deveaux has proven his hands are more than just fists as he leads the Marlies in scoring with 14 goals and 32 points. With several of Toronto's better players currently playing for the Maple Leafs, the Moose need to capitalize. There's a good chance that Joey MacDonald will play one of the games against the Moose, and his stats are rather unspectacular. MacDonald enters the weekend with an 8-15-3 record and a 3.33 GAA. James Reimer has been much better in his limited action, posting a record of 6-1-1 with a 2.29 GAA. Reimer would be my choice, but it appears MacDonald has been shouldering the workload. Four points or bust this weekend for the Moose. The Marlies are 19-24-5-5 and sit eight points back of the Moose. The mantra of this writer remains the same: beat teams that are lower than you in the standings, and <span style="font-weight:bold;"><u>always</u></span> win divisional games. We'll see what happens when we reconvene next week. Until then, keep your sticks on the ice!
  13. <img src="http://i135.photobucket.com/albums/q124/cdnuniguy/AHL/antlerbanter.jpg" width="200" height="188" class="imageFloatLeftFramed">The Moose return home from an east coast roadtrip that saw them stop in Massachusetts and Pennsylvania with less than stellar results. However, with the number of players that have been shuffled through the Moose dressing room this season, it could almost pass as a hostel for hockey players as players travel between leagues and cities. There was more player movement this week as the Moose continue to piece together a semi-permanent lineup, so we'll take a look at the new arrivals and departures. For all of your Manitoba Moose news and information, don't forget to <a href="http://www.moosehockey.com/" target="new">check out the Moose website</a>. If you're interested in attending a Manitoba Moose game, <a href="http://www.moosehockey.com/individualtickets" target="new">please click here</a> for seating information, ticket pricing, and availability. Let's see if the Moose can get back to playing <span style="font-weight: bold;">Hardcore Hockey</span>! With four games to include on this week's Antler Banter, I'm going to run through each one quickly. I don't want to elaborate a lot, so I'll keep the recaps short and sweet. Well, maybe not so sweet. You'll see why. <div style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-weight: bold;"><u>Blood In The Water</u></span></div> The Moose came into their Wednesday night game against the Worcester Sharks having lost to the Hershey Bears in a rather ugly manner, running their losing streak to four games. There was some hope that the Moose could turn it around against one of the AHL's hottest teams. Cory Schneider got the start for Manitoba against Worcester's Alex Stalock in Manitoba's first-ever trip to Worcester. Brandon Mashinter of the Sharks opened the scoring at 17:05 of the first when he zipped a loose puck through Cory Schneider's legs. The Moose defencemen had collapsed on Dan DaSilva who had tried to split the defence, causing Dasilva to lose the puck, and Mashinter found paydirt in the slot with his 13th goal of the year to give Worcester the 1-0 lead. The Herd were overwhelmed as the Sharks mounted a furious offensive attack to start the second period. The Sharks were rewarded at the 1:45 mark when Benn Ferriero fired a laser of a wrist shot over Schneider's right shoulder for his 11th goal of the season, and the Sharks opened up a two-goal lead. The game was back-and-forth in the second period as both teams had chances, but neither team could solve the other's netminder. The Moose actually won the period in shots-on-goal with a 15-14 margin, but trailed 2-0 on the scoreboard and 23-21 in SOG. The Moose successfully killed off two early penalties in the third period, and it appeared the Hockey Gods were willing to reward their hard work. With a pile of players heading towards Desbiens who was standing in the left corner with the puck, Moose newcomer Nikita Kashirsky was left wide-open in front of the net. Desbiens found Kashirsky with the pass, and the Russian netted his second goal of the season. With 7:26 to play, the Moose trailed by a 2-1 score. The teams battled to the final minute where, in an attempt to even the score, head coach Scott Arniel opted to pull Schneider for an extra attacker. With three seconds to play in the game, a turnover in the Sharks' zone led to Steven Zalewski firing the puck the distance of the ice into the yawning cage. Worcester picked up the 3-1 victory, and pushed the Moose's record to 23-20-4-1. Despite losing, the Moose appeared to be a much better team than what they showed the previous weekend in Hershey. <div style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-weight: bold;"><u>Shark-Infested Waters</u></span></div> Game Two of the two-game set against Worcester went Friday night at the DCU Center. This game marked the first of a three-games-in-three-days set for the Moose, and Friday night at the DCU Center was "Guaranteed Win" night. The Moose wanted to ruin "Guaranteed Win" night for the Sharks while snapping their five-game losing streak. Schneider and Stalock got the starts in net for their respective teams again. The Moose got off on the right foot in this game as they opened the scoring. The Moose won a defensive zone face-off, and got the puck to Guillaume Desbiens who sped up the left wing. Across the rink, Mario Bliznak tore up the right wing, and the Moose had themselves a two-on-one. A saucer pass from Desbiens past the sliding defenceman gave Bliznak the open cage, and he buried. Bliznak's sixth goal of the season put the Moose up 1-0 just 53 seconds into the game. The Sharks tied up the game just past the midway point of the first period. A point shot was knocked down by Schneider as the Sharks crashed the net. Schneider couldn't control the rebound, and Lawrence Nycholat fanned on the clearing attempt. The puck found its way onto the stick of Brandon Mashinter who backhanded it past a screened Schneider for his 14th of the season. The Sharks drew even at 1-1 at the 13:21 mark. With a mere 25 seconds to play in the first, Manitoba grabbed the lead. Guillaume Desbiens cruised into the Sharks zone on the right wing before turning on the afterburners against defenceman Michael Wilson. Alex Stalock had wandered a bit too far out of his crease, and Desbiens wired home a wrist shot from a bad angle along the goal line that found enough room between Stalock and the post. With Desbiens' 10th goal of the season, the Moose took a 2-1 lead into the intermission. Early into the second period, Brandon Mashinter took a stretch pass as he crossed into the Moose zone. Mashinter patiently waited for an open man on the half-boards, and spotted Frasier McLaren cruising into the slot area. Mashinter fed McLaren nicely, and McLaren wired a puck past Schneider on his right side. McLaren's second goal of the season evened the game at 2-2 just 1:13 into the second. Guillaume Desbiens was sent off for roughing at 9:10, and the Sharks capitalized on the powerplay. Jamie McGinn took a pass at the point before dancing along the blueline and dishing the puck to Benn Ferriero. Ferriero sent a return pass to McGinn in the slot, and McGinn blasted home a one-timer past Schneider for his sixth goal of the season, and a 3-2 lead, at 10:42. The two teams couldn't find the net in the last ten minutes, meaning Worcester led 3-2 after two periods of play, and had a 23-21 advantage in shots. The third period didn't see any scoring until there was less than five minutes left. Worcester's Michael Wilson sent a low wrist shot in from the point that hit a fallen John McCarthy. McCarthy promptly got up off the ice and fired the puck past Schneider as he was searching for the puck. McCarthy's eighth goal of the season at 15:26 of the third period gave Worcester a 4-2 lead. The Moose didn't stop digging, however. 1:26 after McCarthy's goal, the Moose closed the gap. Brian Salcido's point shot eluded Stalock, finding the twine. Salcido's seventh of the season made it 4-3 in favour of the Sharks. Guillaume Desbiens had a glorious opportunity to tie the game up when he was awarded a penalty shot at the 17:22 mark when he was upended from behind. Desbiens deked to his right, but Stalock stayed right with him and stoned him on the free shot attempt. The Sharks iced the game with four seconds to play when Dwight Helminen scored into the empty net as Manitoba had six skaters on the ice. Helminen's eighth of the season made it 5-3 for Worcester. With the loss on Friday, Manitoba's losing streak was extended to six games, and pushed their record to 23-21-4-1 on the season. The Moose had little time off, though, as they were scheduled for a game against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon. <div style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-weight: bold;"><u>Moose Show Some Fight</u></span></div> The Moose were looking to snap what was becoming an ugly losing streak in Saturday's game. Cory Schneider started again for the Moose while Brad Theissen got the start for the Baby Penguins at Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza. The game's scoring opened on a powerplay after Manitoba's Matt Pettinger was sent off for interference. On a two-on-one, Luca Caputi feathered a gorgeous pass across to Dustin Jeffrey, leaving Cory Schneider with no chance as Jeffrey tapped in the gift from the left post. Jeffrey's 14th of the season at 4:13 gave WBS the 1-0 lead. Captain Mike Keane got the Moose on even terms a few minutes later. Lawrence Nycholat's initial pass to Keane on the right side was blocked, but the puck came right back to Nycholat who fired a low wrist shot on net. Thiessen was unable to corral the puck, and Keane headed straight for the net where he poked the loose puck past the goaltender. Mike Keane's ninth goal of the season evened the game at 1-1. Lawrence Nycholat wasn't done there. On the powerplay a few minutes later, Nycholat unleashed a rocket that hit the crossbar behind Thiessen, and landed behind the goaltender. Sergei Shirokov zeroed in on the loose puck and slid it home behind Thiessen to give Manitoba the 2-1 lead. Shirokov's 15th goal of the season came at the 12:23 mark. Shirokov liked the first one so much he went out and got another. Shirokov started the play off by chipping the puck in deep where Matt Pettinger went and got it. As Pettinger battled behind the net, he got the puck to Marty Murray in the left corner. Murray didn't have the puck long as he fired a pass into the slot where Shirokov was arriving. Shirokov beat Chris Connor to the puck and redirected the puck past Thiessen's left pad to give Manitoba a 3-1 lead. Shirokov's 16th of the year came with 3:13 to play in the period. The Penguins started off the second period with a goal. Just 49 seconds in, Luca Caputi deflected a Dustin Jeffrey shot past Cory Schneider to cut the Penguins' deficit to one goal. Caputi's 16th of the season made it a 3-2 game. The Moose didn't sit back, though. At 3:25, Marco Rosa backhanded a rebound from the top of the crease past Thiessen. Pettinger's shot from the high slot was stopped by Thiessen, but Rosa was on the doorstep and was able to whack it in past Thiessen and a defender. Rosa's 14th of the season made it a 4-2 game in favour of Manitoba. The Penguins rallied again a few minutes later. Off a scramble, Zach Sill teed up a loose puck that Schneider blocked, but the rebound fell beside him. It appeared that Travis Ramsey tried to shovel the puck towards the boards, but Eric Tangradi was standing at the bottom of the right face-off circle. Tangradi took the gift that Ramsey gave him and deposited it in the back of the Moose net over Schneider's glove. Tangradi's 10th goal of the season at 7:23 brought the Penguins within one goal at 4-3. The Moose rounded out the scoring in the second period when Dusty Collins got on the scoresheet. Taylor Ellington chipped the puck back into the Penguins' zone to keep the play alive, and Collins grabbed the loose puck. Collins skated the puck towards the left corner before firing a shot from a bad angle that found its way through Thiessen's pads. Collins' second goal of the season at 16:22 made the score 5-3 for the Moose. The Penguins closed the gap once again at the start of the third period. With Evan Oberg off for tripping at 3:33, Luca Caputi potted his second of the night. Some great work along the boards by the Penguins' powerplay unit resulted in a pass from Chris Connor to a wide-open Caputi at the top of the slot. Caputi one-timed the puck past Schneider, and the Penguins trailed 5-4. Caputi's 17th goal of the season came just 4:41 into the third. However, the Moose restored their two-goal lead off Matt Pettinger's empty net goal. With Thiessen on the bench for an extra attacker, Jannik Hansen stole the puck at the Moose blueline from defenceman Chris Lee. As Lee was hauling down Hansen, he shoveled the puck over to Pettinger who fired it into the unguarded net from just outside the Penguins' blueline. With Pettinger's ninth goal of the season, the Moose wrapped up a 6-4 win. The Moose improved their record to 24-21-4-1, but, more important, snapped their six-game losing streak. With one game to go, there was hope the Moose could start their own winning streak as the same teams clashed on Sunday afternoon. <div style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-weight: bold;"><u>No Afternoon Delight</u></span></div> The Moose looked to build on a positive, while the Penguins looked for the split against the Moose. Daren Machesney drew the assignment for the Moose while the Penguins responded by sending John Curry to the blue paint. The Moose got started early in this game. Before the majority of the crowd had even sat down, Sergei Shirokov picked up a loose puck and fired a low shot towards the net. The puck was picked up on the way to the net by Matt Pettinger who slid it backhand from the top of the crease under Curry's leg to give the Moose a 1-0 lead just 1:07 in. Pettinger's 10th goal of the season was pretty. At the 14:04 mark, Tom Galvin was given two minutes to think about what he did wrong in earning a delay-of-game penalty, and the Penguins capitalized. Robert Bortuzzo slid the puck across the blueline to defensive partner Ben Lovejoy, and Lovejoy wired home a slapshot past a screened Machesney. Lovejoy's fifth of the season came at 15:21, and the teams were tied at 1-1. The second period only saw one goal scored, and the home team earned the marker. A turnover cost the Moose dearly. Casey Pierro-Zabotel fired a pass into the slot from the left corner and found Tim Wallace with no one near him for miles. Wallace pulled the puck from his backhand to his forehand around Machesney, and tucked the puck into the cage. Wallace's pretty 13th goal of the season came at 12:26 to give the Penguins the 2-1 lead. The two teams appeared to be a little less energetic as the game wore on, and we didn't see another goal until the end of the game. For the fourth straight game, an empty net goal was scored. With Machesney on the bench for the extra attacker, Luca Caputi won a race for a rolling puck and swept it into the Manitoba net for his 18th goal of the season, and the 3-1 Penguins' victory. With the loss, the Moose drop to 24-22-4-1 on the season. The 1-for-6 roadtrip didn't help them at all in the North Division standings as the Moose still sit in third-place, only three points ahead of Lake Erie, and four ahead of Abbotsford. However, they trail second-place Rochester by seven points, and are a full 18 points back of first-place Hamilton. Ouch. <div style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-weight: bold;"><u>How Long Are You Here For?</u></span></div> Lots of player movement in Moose-land again. However, a couple of big names come to the Moose via the Anaheim Ducks, so there is some rejoicing in Moose-ville tonight. - Jannik Hansen - assigned by Vancouver. The Canucks sent Jannik Hansen to the Moose on a reconditioning assignment, so he's only wearing antlers for a couple of weeks at the most. However, head coach Scott Arniel wants to see offence out of the Danish skater. - Eric Walsky - assigned to Victoria. The plucky forward couldn't seem to put points on the board, so the Moose sent Walsky to the Victoria Salmon Kings of the ECHL in the hopes that he'll regain some confidence and his scoring touch. - Dan Sexton - assigned by Anaheim. The scoring forward was a welcomed addition the first time he was in town, and this time is no different. Sexton had a great run with the Anaheim Ducks in the NHL, but the addition of Jason Blake meant someone had to be demoted. Sexton is more than welcome on the Moose roster in this writer's eyes. - Chad Painchaud - released from PTO. With the addition of Sexton, there were too many Moose in the pasture. Painchaud was released from his contract and will return to the Victoria Salmon Kings of the ECHL. - Nick Boynton - assigned by Anaheim. This addition is gigantic. With the Moose missing five defencemen to injury or having been recalled by Vancouver, getting a veteran like Boynton is huge. Boynton brings the experience of over 500 NHL games to the Moose, and makes the Moose a much scarier team when guys like Mathieu Schneider, Nolan Baumgartner, and Nathan McIver return. <div style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-weight: bold;"><u>Where Do We Go From Here?</u></span></div> The Moose welcome the San Antonio Rampage to MTS Centre this weekend for a two-game set. The Rampage currently sit in last place in the West Division, and are 3-4-0-3 in their last ten games. The Moose need to capitalize on this matchup to start putting some space between themselves and Lake Erie and Abbotsford. It needs to be said that the Moose cannot take the Rampage lightly. The Rampage have a lot of young talent that can score, so any sort of disrespect that the Moose show could hurt them badly. Brett MacLean leads the Rampage in scoring with 20 goals and 25 points. Sean Sullivan is right behind him with 34 points. Josh Tjordman doesn't have the record that he'd like at 9-11-2-0, but his 2.74 GAA and .912 save percentage say that he's certainly capable of shutting down a team if given the chance. The Moose should aim for all four points this weekend. A split with an inferior team in the standings should be nothing less than a failure, and the Moose need to gain the maximum number of points that they can at this juncture. Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!
  14. <img src="http://i135.photobucket.com/albums/q124/cdnuniguy/AHL/antlerbanter.jpg" width="200" height="188" class="imageFloatLeftFramed">Antler Banter returns today with a severe case of triskaidekaphobia. The Manitoba Moose rolled into Hershey, Pennsylvania for a couple of games against the AHL-leading Hershey Bears, and there were some definite questions as to how the Moose would respond after a couple of blow-outs against the Milwaukee Admirals before the AHL All-Star break. Injury news returns today as the Moose see a few players return to the stretchers. For all of your Manitoba Moose news and information, don't forget to <a href="http://www.moosehockey.com/" target="new">check out the Moose website</a>. If you're interested in attending a Manitoba Moose game, <a href="http://www.moosehockey.com/individualtickets" target="new">please click here</a> for seating information, ticket pricing, and availability. <span style="font-weight: bold;">Hardcore Hockey</span> takes a bit of a beating today, so let's get through this. <div style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-weight: bold;"><u>Mauled By The Bears</u></span></div> This one was simply looming on the horizon. The Moose were playing downright brutal hockey, and the Bears were destroying unsuspecting teams like they had rabies and a thirst for blood. Yes, it was that bad. I can't even begin to describe the horror I witnessed, but let's just say that Manitoba was consistent in scoring one goal per period. Cory Schneider got little help in the Moose net Friday night, while Braden Holtby suited up for the Bears. Let me blunt here: I'm going to do this quickly. Like tearing off a band-aid. Quick and painless. Well, there's always a little pain. But it's fast so it doesn't last as long. That's better than long-term pain, right? Lots of pictures to try and make you smile through this horrific recap, so let's begin. Andrew Joudrey poked home a rebound off an Oskar Osala shot from the right side of the crease for his sixth goal of the season at 10:07 of the first. Hershey led 1-0. Mathieu Schneider pounded home a slaphot from the point on the powerplay to pull the Moose even 48 seconds later. Schneider's third goal of the season made it 1-1. Keith Aucoin found a seam between Moose defencemen Taylor Ellington and Brian Salcido to streak in alone on Cory Schneider. A quick shot to the glove side found the back of the net, and Aucoin's 23rd goal of the season gave the Bears a 2-1 lead at the 12:42 mark of the first period. That score would hold steady to the first intermission. Marco Rosa was sent to the box at 1:28 of the second period for charging, and the Bears went back to the powerplay. However, things got worse for the Moose when Mathieu Schneider was given two minutes of time in the box for hooking 1:02 later. With two Moose players in the box, Chris Bourque hammered a one-timer home from the slot to give the Bears a 3-1 lead on the powerplay at 3:07. Marco Rosa brought the Herd within one goal at 4:55 when he shoveled home a loose puck under Holtby while a conference of players stood in front of the goaltender. Rosa's 12th goal of the season had the Moose trailing by a 3-2 score. At the 6:26 mark, Steve Pinizzotto converted a Kyle Wilson pass from behind the net when he found a hole in the right corner. Pinizzotto's eighth of the season restored the Bears' two-goal lead at 4-2. Surprisingly, this was the last goal of the period despite there being 20 shots on net between the two teams. Hershey led in shots-on-net by a 20-16 margin. Marco Rosa's 13th goal of the season was set up by a gorgeous feed from Michael Grabner. Grabner ate up a turnover and fed Rosa who beat Holtby to make it 4-3 just 2:41 into the third period. Let's just say that the Moose had <a href="http://i135.photobucket.com/albums/q124/cdnuniguy/Blog%20Stuff/bearmauling.jpg" target="new">poked a sleeping bear for too long</a>. Nikita Kashirsky was sent off at 6:04 for slashing, and the Bears went back to the powerplay. Alexandre Giroux sent a rocket from the point towards the net, and Andrew Gordon got a piece of it to deflect it past Schneider at the 7:25 mark. Gordon's 20th goal of the season on the powerplay put the Bears up 5-3. 39 seconds later, Oskar Osala scored his 11th goal of the season, and Kyle Wilson added his 17th of the season 1:20 after Osala's marker. Before the Moose could breathe, they were down 7-3. Three minutes later, Jay Beagle scored a gorgeous shorthanded goal while teammate Patrick McNeill was off for hooking. Beagle skated down the middle of the ice after the Moose turned the puck over, allowing him to break in alone on Schneider. He deked around Schneider's left leg, and notched his eighth of the season past the sprawling Moose goaltender. Hershey led 8-3. Like any mauling, it mercifully came to an end after Beagle's goal, and the Bears claimed victory with their 8-3 thrashing of the Moose. The <a href="http://i135.photobucket.com/albums/q124/cdnuniguy/Blog%20Stuff/hersheyfans.jpg" target="new">Hershey fans went home happy</a> on Friday night, and the Hershey Bears left the Moose in a bloody mess. With the loss, the Moose dropped to 23-18-4-1, but there was no silver lining on this game. Instead, all the Moose had to look forward to was a Saturday night game against these same Bears. <div style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-weight: bold;"><u>Dead Moose Carcass</u></span></div> The Moose looked to rebound from a disappointing effort that saw the Bears hang a season-high eight goals on the Herd, but this was nothing more than <a href="http://i135.photobucket.com/albums/q124/cdnuniguy/Blog%20Stuff/angrybear.jpg" target="new">a repeat of the mauling</a> they took a night before. Daren Machesney was thrown to his former Bear teammates, but they took little mercy on their former friend and ally. Braden Holtby returned to the den for the Bears. Guillaume Desbiens solved Holtby just 1:19 as the Moose looked like they were going to reverse their fortunes early on. Mario Bliznak found Desbiens with a cross-ice pass that Desbien zipped past Holtby on the right side for his ninth goal of the season. The Moose jumped out to a 1-0 lead on the surprised Bears. However, you never surprise a bear. Ever. Because just when you think it's safe, <a href="http://i135.photobucket.com/albums/q124/cdnuniguy/Blog%20Stuff/beardeath.jpg" target="new">you're bear dinner</a>. Keith Aucoin rifled a slapshot past Machesney on the powerplay with Evan Oberg in the box. Aucoin's 24th of the season knotted the game at 1-1 at 7:14. Oskar Osala netted his 12th of the season at 11:50 after zipping the puck upstairs past Machesney. And 27 seconds later, Jay Beagle scored his ninth of the season with a low shot that eluded Machesney. For all the good that Manitoba had done in the first few minutes, it came undone in a hurry in the first period as the Bears closed out the first stanza with a 3-1 lead on the scoreboard, and a 22-9 advantage in shots. The Moose should have considered that a victory in itself as it could have been much, much worse. The second period didn't fare much better, however. The Bears were buzzing the Moose net like <a href="http://i135.photobucket.com/albums/q124/cdnuniguy/Blog%20Stuff/pandajet.jpg" target="new">jet fighters in an air raid</a>. Keith Aucoin scored his second of the night and 25th of season just 1:48 in as his wrist shot found the back of the net. This gave the Bears a 4-1 lead, and the rout was just starting. Defenceman John Carlson made the Moose pay during some four-on-four hockey when he broke in all alone on Machesney, and ripped a shot past Machesney's glove hand. Carlson's third of the season made it 5-1 at 8:07 mark of the second period. In what should also be considered a bright spot for the Moose, Evan Rankin scored his first career AHL goal at the 14:17 mark. Rankin had been signed by the Moose earlier that day on a professional tryout contract, and he showed management that he deserves a look with his marker. With 40 minutes in the book, Hershey led by a 5-2 score, and they had a huge advantage in the shot department with a 34-20 count. If there was a time to wave the white flag, this may have been it. However, professional hockey doesn't allow for teams to throw in the towel, so it was on to the third period. With Travis Ramsey off for an early tripping penalty, Andrew Gordon took full advantage on the powerplay. Off a beautiful backdoor feed from Keith Aucoin, Gordon scored his 21st goal of the season at 1:05, and the Bears took a 6-2 lead. The powerplay continued to kill the Moose. Guillaume Desbiens took a delay-of-game penalty, and Chris Bourque used the extra room to make it 7-2. Bourque's 13th goal of the season came at the 11:13 mark of the third period. Boyd Kane scored his 16th goal of the season with 1:39 to play in the game. Despite the score, you would have thought that the Moose's pride would have eventually prompted them to play with a little more passion, but it wasn't to be. After <a href="http://i135.photobucket.com/albums/q124/cdnuniguy/Blog%20Stuff/bearsrule.jpg" target="new">the slaughtering on Saturday night</a> that resulted in an 8-2 Hershey win, the Moose drop to a 23-19-4-1 record. <div style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-weight: bold;"><u>What Can I Say?</u></span></div> Honestly, when you're outshot 76-58 and outscored 16-5 in the last two games, there's probably going to be a whole lot of wind sprints at practice in the next few days. This weekend is one to be forgotten. Combine that effort with the weekend before, and the Moose have been outscored 29-9 in their last four games. This is not the team that played so confidently two weeks ago at MTS Centre against the Bears whatsoever. Whatever has changed since then hasn't helped one bit. <div style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-weight: bold;"><u>Moose Infirmary</u></span></div> There were a few key additions to sick bay this week, and they have a lasting impact on the team. For a fragile blueline as it is, losing a couple of key cogs isn't helping matters at all. - Mathieu Schneider - knee injury. Reports say he tweaked his knee during Monday's practice, and will likely be out for 7-14 days. - Nathan McIver - broken hand. It could be up to a month before McIver returns to the Moose lineup. - Geoff Waugh - broken hand. It's the same story for Waugh as his broken hand needs time to mend. Losing both McIver and Waugh is a huge blow for the team. - Alexandre Bolduc - shoulder surgery. Bolduc blew out his shoulder in a fight while with the Vancouver Canucks, and the gritty forward is most likely done for the season. This is a huge blow to the offensively-challenged Moose. <div style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-weight: bold;"><u>Bodies Everywhere</u></span></div> Players were recalled. Players were signed. Players were back from injury. All in all, it was a busy few days of paperwork for GM Craig Heisinger and head coach Scott Arniel. - Nolan Baumgartner - recalled by Vancouver. Baumgartner's play and recent AHL All-Star appearance prompted the Canucks to recall the veteran in place of injured Sami Salo. If you're counting, that's four Moose blueliners who are now missing. - Marty Murray - return from injury. Murray was out with a groin injury, but should be ready for action tonight in Worcester, Massachusetts. - Matt Pettinger - return from injury. Pettinger was also nursing a groin injury, but he's expected back tonight as well. - Nikita Kashirsky - signed to PTO. Kashirsky has been plying his trade with the South Carolina Sting Rays of the ECHL, and comes to the Moose having scored 17 goals and 14 assists in 36 games this season. The 24 year-old forward was an ECHL All-Star this season. - Chad Painchaud - signed to PTO. Painchaud has been with the Victoria Salmon Kings this season in the ECHL where the forward has scored 18 goals and 28 assists in 40 games this season. He does have 38 AHL games to his name with both Chicago and the Iowa Chops. - Evan Rankin - signed to PTO. Rankin has been playing with the Toledo Walleye this season. The 23 year-old forward has 20 goals and 14 assists in 41 games this season in the ECHL, and spent time in the Central Hockey League last year. - Tom Galvin - signed to PTO. Galvin comes to the Moose having played with Grand Rapids and Providence in previous years. The 30 year-old defenceman was on the blueline for Muskegon of the IHL this season before the Moose came calling. <div style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-weight: bold;"><u>Full Steam Ahead</u></span></div> After having been dismantled by the Hershey Bears, the Moose travel into Worcester, Massachusetts for a couple of games against the Sharks. They play the Baby Sharks on Wednesday and Friday before moving on to tackle the Baby Penguins in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Saturday and Sunday. The Sharks are holding "Guaranteed Win Night" on Friday for their fans. If they win, everyone goes home happy. If they lose, everyone gets tickets to a Sharks game for free! Let's hope that the Moose show up and cost the Sharks some tickets on Friday. Steven Zalewski leads the team in scoring among their active players with 17 goals and 25 assists. Former Moose defenceman Danny Groulx is right behind him with 32 points, so the Moose won't have it easy in their defensive zone. Alex Stalock is 25-10-1 with a 2.50 GAA, so scoring will require an all-out effort for the Moose. In Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Dustin Jeffrey leads the team in scoring with 43 points while winger Luca Caputi leads the team with 14 goals. John Curry is a respectable 16-13-1 with a 2.54 GAA in the Penguins' net. Being that these games will be Game Two and Three of a three-in-three set, the Moose will need a big effort. Let's be honest here: with all the turnover in the roster for the Moose, four out of eight points would be a minor miracle. If anything, the Moose simply need a win right now, and that's where they need to start. Don't worry about points; rather, just get a "W", and go from there. Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!
  15. <img src="http://i135.photobucket.com/albums/q124/cdnuniguy/AHL/antlerbanter.jpg" width="200" height="188" class="imageFloatLeftFramed"> We have a lot to cover on <span style="font-style: italic;">Antler Banter</span> this week as the Moose had three games in the last seven days and there was a little event called the AHL All-Star Game. Two Moose players took part in the mid-season event, and we'll check out how they fared in their All-Star Game appearances. Because of the All-Star Game info, I'm going to hold off on player moves and injury news for today. For all of your Manitoba Moose news and information, don't forget to <a href="http://www.moosehockey.com/" target="new">check out the Moose website</a>. If you're interested in attending a Manitoba Moose game, <a href="http://www.moosehockey.com/individualtickets" target="new">please click here</a> for seating information, ticket pricing, and availability. Lots of <span style="font-weight: bold;">Hardcore Hockey</span>, so let's get to it! <div style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-weight: bold;"><u>Reduced to a Simmer</u></span></div> The Moose spent last Wednesday in Abbotsford for their second game of a two-game set against the Heat. Another sold-out Abbotsford Entertainment &amp; Sports Centre was divided between Heat fans and Canucks fans, so it was close to being a home game for the Moose as the crowd cheered the visitors as much as their home team. Cory Schneider started for the Moose against Abbotsford's Matt Keetley. Abbotsford's Garth Murray was sent off for interference just 34 seconds into the game, and the Moose powerplay capitalized on their early chance. Evan Oberg found Mathieu Schneider with a pass, and the veteran defenceman ripped home his first goal as a member of the Moose. Manitoba's powerplay goal put them up 1-0 at the 47-second mark of the first period. Murray was back in the sin bin at 2:15 when he bumped defenceman Travis Ramsey into goaltender Cory Schneider. Tommy Maxwell came to the aid of his goaltender as both Maxwell and Murray dropped the gloves. After a fairly spirited battle, Maxwell was hit with the instigator penalty, meaning his night was over. The Moose, however, killed the man-advantage off, and the teams were back to five-on-five hockey. Guillaume Desbiens hit the scoresheet at the midway point of the first period. A defensive zone turnover committed by the Heat led to Desbiens going one-on-one with Keetley. Desbiens found the back of the net for his seventh goal of the season, and the Moose had a 2-0 lead at the 10:00 mark. Both teams settled down after Desbiens' goal, and the Moose carried a 2-0 lead into the intermission despite being outshot 10-7. The second period didn't feature any goals, but there was some bad blood. Guillaume Desbiens and Ryley Grantham exchanged blows at the 6:35 mark, and both got five minutes for their efforts. However, they were joined by Travis Ramsey and JD Watt just 27 seconds later as those two men dropped their gloves and settled things the old-fashioned way. If there was any doubt that these two teams don't like one another, it was put to rest in this game. However, with no goals scored, the Moose carried the two-goal advantage into the third period. Just two seconds into the last frame, Pierre-Cedric Labrie and Ryley Grantham started the period by chucking knuckles. After those two were done, the game got back to normal, but the parade to the penalty box didn't end. Minors were being handed out by referee Francis Charron as he worked to keep the game under control. With 27 seconds left in the third period, Guillame Desbiens scored his second of the game and eighth of the season into an empty net, and that sealed the deal. Manitoba earned the shutout victory with a workman-like effort. The 3-0 win was another strong game for Cory Schneider as the goaltender turned away all 35 shots fired his way for his third shutout of the season. With the win, Manitoba improves its record to 23-15-4-1. Just as a note, Abbotsford forward JD Watt finished the game with 29 minutes in penalties in this game. Is there any wonder as to why the Heat lead the AHL in PIMs this season? <div style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-weight: bold;"><u>Anchors Away!</u></span></div> Manitoba returned home for a two-game set against the Milwaukee Admirals on Friday and Saturday. Milwaukee has being playing excellent hockey lately, so the Moose were in for a test in this series. Except they forgot to show up. Cory Schneider started in the Moose net on Friday, but didn't finish there. At the opposite end of the ice, Mark Dekanich got the call for the Admirals. I'm going to run through this quickly because it was ugly. There's no sense in highlighting all nine goals when only one team showed up to play. The Admirals jumped out to a 2-0 lead on goals by Mark Matheson and Jonathan Blum. Matheson's point shot handcuffed Schneider and found the back of the net at the 12:44 mark. His fourth goal of the season made it 1-0. Defenceman Jonathan Blum made it 2-0 as he pinched in from the point as the Moose defenders were lost in their own zone. Blum tucked his fifth goal of the season in the Moose net at 14:02, and the Admirals were sailing after 20 minutes. The second period saw the Admirals make the Herd into cannon fodder. Triston Grant turned a Manitoba turnover into his seventh goal of the season just 1:40 into the middle stanza, and the Admirals had a 3-0 lead. Chris Mueller made it a 4-0 game for the Admirals when he beat Schneider for his sixth goal of the season just over two minutes later. At the 3:53 mark of the second period, Cory Schneider's night was over - not that he got much help in preventing that from happening. With Rejean Beauchemin occupying the blue paint for Manitoba, there was hope that the Moose might respond. But they didn't. Wacey Rabbit scored his seventh goal of the season off a goal-mouth scramble just 40 seconds after the goaltending change, and the Admirals led 5-0. In what can only be called a "kamikaze move", Guillaume Desbiens tried to spark his lifeless team by challenging Admirals' captain Nolan Yonkman. The problem? Desbiens is 6'2" and 205 lbs. Yonkman stands in at 6'6" and 253 lbs. While the feisty Desbiens held tough early on in the fight, Yonkman eventually used his size to score the win. But Desbiens' effort seemed to wake the sleeping Moose as they started to show some life after the battle. Milwaukee's Oren Eisenman was whistled for hooking at 13:24, and the Moose sent out their powerplay unit. After moving the puck fairly well, Mathieu Schneider scored his second goal of the season on the powerplay when he ripped a shot past Dekanich from the high slot. With 4:47 to play in the second period, the Moose trailed 5-1. 1:35 later, it appeared that the Moose were starting to get their legs. Walsky won a puck battle along the boards, sending the puck back to Travis Ramsey at the point. Ramsey's wrist shot was deflected by Matt Pettinger in front of Dekanich, and it found its way through the goaltender. Pettinger's eighth goal of the season at 16:47 pulled the Moose to a 5-2 deficit with 20 minutes to play. Any comeback was crushed by Winnipegger Colin Wilson. Wilson scored his fifth of the season from the edge of the blue paint up under the crossbar after he took a pass from behind the net. Just 3:51 into the third period, and the Admirals led 6-2. Hugh Jessiman put the icing on the cake as he tapped in a gift from Wacey Rabbit. With Jessiman behind Pettinger, his ninth of the season looked effortless, and the Admirals led 7-2 with just over five minutes to play. The horn sounded at the end of sixty minutes, and the Admirals had bombed the Moose 7-2. I know that moose are mammals, but this group of Moose literally laid an egg. With the loss, the Moose drop to 23-16-4-1. <div style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-weight: bold;"><u>Déja Vu All Over Again</u></span></div> After watching the Moose get dismantled by the Admirals on Friday, there was hope that the Herd would respond with a better effort on Saturday. Cory Schneider got the start after being yanked a night earlier, and he squared off against Winnipeg's own Chet Pickard in the Milwaukee net. The Moose honoured the Trail Smoke Eaters by wearing <a href="http://i135.photobucket.com/albums/q124/cdnuniguy/AHL/MooseTrailEaters.jpg" target="new">Smoke Eaters-inspired jerseys</a> tonight. The Smoke Eaters won Canada two World Ice Hockey Championships in 1939 and 1961. Pierre-Cedric Labrie and Milwaukee's Scott Ford got to stretch their arms early as they dropped the gloves and removed their buckets. Both men got a few quality shots in, but neither one gained a serious advantage. With Labrie earning a draw, it appeared that Manitoba was ready to improve on their previous night's performance. Manitoba had its chances early on as Shirokov's breakaway shot went wide and Mathieu Schneider had a few solid blasts turned aside. Chet Pickard looks like he could be Nashville's goalie of the future with his steady play and poise. However, the Admirals were the first on the scoreboard again. Colin Wilson banged a rebound past Schneider of a Mike Santorelli shot at 17:18 of the first period for his sixth goal of the season. Wilson's marker gave Milwaukee the 1-0 lead. 44 seconds later, and the Admirals struck again. Robert Dietrich hammered a shot from the top of the right face-off circle, and the screened Schneider had no chance. Deitrich's third goal of the season gave the Admirals a 2-0 lead at 18:02, and they carried that lead into the intermission. The Admirals came out flying to start the second period, and they were rewarded again for their efforts. Peter Olvecky's centering pass caught the skate of Taylor Ellington and deflected past Schneider. Olvecky's 11th goal of the season at 5:10 put the Admirals up 3-0. The Moose began to chip away at the 13:50 mark. Marco Rosa corralled a puck and fired a rising wrist shot from just inside the face-off circle that got past Pickard's glove. Rosa's 11th goal of the season brought the Moose to within two goals at 3-1. Any momentum being built by the Moose was swept away when the Admirals scored again before the end of the second period. Peter Olvecky's weak shot from beside the net got underneath Cory Schneider, and Chris Mueller shoveled home the puck from inside the crease. Mueller's seventh goal of the season put the Admirals up by a 4-1 score after 40 minutes. 7:14 into the third period, the Herd got one back. Marco Rosa's backhander was deflected by Sergei Shirokov in front of the net, and the puck found its way through Pickard's pads and just over the goal line. Shirokov's 14th of the season pulled the Moose closer at 4-2. Just 11 seconds later, the Admirals showed why they are one of the better clubs in the AHL. Colin Wilson stripped Evan Oberg of the puck behind the Moose net on the ensuing dump-in. Skating towards the right corner, Wilson found Chris Mueller wide-open at the edge of the crease, and Mueller roofed it past Schneider. Mueller's second of the game and eighth of the season restored the three-goal margin as Milwaukee led 5-2 with just over twelve-and-a-half minutes to play. The Admirals iced the game at 17:23. With everyone watching Cal O'Reilly skate from west-to-east across the blueline, Mike Santorelli got in behind the Moose defenders. O'Reilly threaded a perfect tape-to-tape pass to Santorelli, and he broke in on Schneider. As Schneider followed Santorelli across the crease, the five-hole opened up, and Santorelli made no mistake. Santorelli's 12th goal of the season gave Milwaukee the 6-2 win. With the loss, the Moose drop to 23-17-4-1 on the season, and find themselves in third place in the North Division as they enter the AHL All-Star Break. <div style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-weight: bold;"><u>Clearing the Air</u></span></div> I'm not going to lie when I say that these two games sound worse than what they actually were. The Admirals play a very good up-tempo, puck possession game that the Moose don't match-up well against. While there weren't any players who had exceptionally bad games on either night, the Moose simply don't have an answer for Milwaukee's style of play. This is something that the coaching staff will have to address going forward, however, as Milwaukee exposed all sorts of problems in the Moose systems. Thankfully, however, the Moose will only see the Admirals again this season if both clubs advance to the Western Conference Final. Which could be entirely possible. <div style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-weight: bold;"><u>All-Star Skills Competition</u></span></div> The best skaters and goalies assembled for some fun as the 2010 Ducks Unlimited AHL All-Star Skills Competition was held Monday night at the Cumberland County Civic Center in Portland, Maine. <span style="font-weight: bold;">Fastest Skater</span> - Bobby Sanguinetti. The Hartford Wolf Pack defenceman set a new AHL record by completing the lap of the rink in 13.677 seconds. <span style="font-weight: bold;">Hardest Shot</span> - Blair Jones. The Norfolk Admirals' forward unleashed a blast of 100.7 mph to win the event. Jones is only the fourth player to break the 100 mph mark at this event. <span style="font-weight: bold;">Most Accurate Shot</span> - Jon Matsumoto. The Adirondack Phantoms' centerman hit four of five targets to win this event. <span style="font-weight: bold;">Top Goaltender</span> - Cedrick Desjardins. The Hamilton Bulldogs' netminder stopped 16 of 19 shots he faced in the Skills Competition to earn the title. Canada defeated PlanetUSA in the Skills Competition by an 18-12 score to stop a three-year losing streak at the hands of the PlanetUSA All-Stars. <div style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-weight: bold;"><u>All-Stars On Display</u></span></div> The 2010 Time Warner Cable AHL All-Star Classic was played Tuesday night, and both Sergei Shirokov and Nolan Baumgartner made an impact in the game. Shirokov suited up for PlanetUSA while Baumgartner was the captain for Team Canada. Shirokov netted two goals in his All-Star Game debut, and nearly had the best setup of the night when he played the puck into his own feet before kicking it across the crease while on a two-on-one. Unfortunately for Shirokov, the puck not only eluded Canadian goaltender Jonathan Bernier, but also his PlanetUSA teammate who got caught watching Shirokov's magic. Nolan Baumgartner scored a goal and added an assist in his play for the Canadian squad. Baumgartner really looked good playing in the wide-open format of the All-Star Game, and finished with a surprising +3 in the plus/minus department. In the end, a shootout was needed after Canada stormed back in the third period to tie the game at 9-9. Shirokov was unsuccessful in his shootout attempt as the third PlanetUSA shooter. Canadian PK Subban of the Hamilton Bulldogs scored the shootout winner to give Canada the 10-9 All-Star Game win. <div style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-weight: bold;"><u>Back To Business</u></span></div> The Moose head out on the road to Hershey, Pennsylvania for a couple of nights with the Bears. The Bears are the best team in the AHL with a 32-9-0-2 record, so this will be another weekend of tests for the Moose. Not much needs to be said about the Bears: they're good, and they know how to win. I'm looking forward to this weekend's action! It should be another good set of games! Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!