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Antler Banter - Volume 14



<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!


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