WINNIPEG, MB – The Manitoba Moose put together a half-and-half effort last week; the first half was great, the second half was less than desirable.
The first game was Manitoba’s most complete game of the week. The first period was a tight back and forth affair, but it didn’t stay that way in the second. In the middle frame, the Moose rocketed out to a four-goal lead. The scoring barrage was kicked off by Nicholas Jones, thanks to a sweet feed from Mikey Eyssimont. The second also saw Cole Perfetti break out of his scoring drought in a big way. The young star put up a beautiful tip-in goal and an assist in just over three minutes. The third, however, did not go as smoothly. It opened with a bang when David Gustafsson made the game 5-0. Yet, the Moose took their foot off the gas and allowed the Milwaukee Admirals to get back into the game. Thankfully, the comeback was short-lived as Gustafsson would pot his second, a mere 32 seconds after the Admirals scored twice, bringing an end to the goal-fest and cementing the Moose’s 6-2 win.
The second game was perfect for almost thirty minutes. The Moose came out flying and were up 2-0 over the Admirals after the first period. Everything looked great as Manitoba even extended their lead to three, eight minutes into the second. Then, at just about the halfway point, the wheels began to fall off. The Admirals connected twice in the span of two minutes to narrow the margin to one goal, and would stay that way until the third. In the third, the officials would go on to make some very questionable calls. One of these calls came around the midway point of the period and saw Dylan Samberg headed to the box. The Moose defenseman was called for interference, even though he hit the admirals player while that same player had the puck in his skates. Of course, like questionable penalties often do, this led to the game-tying goal for Milwaukee. Yet, the officials weren’t done there and gave Manitoba another debatable penalty a mere five minutes later. Thankfully, the Moose’s third-ranked penalty kill stood tall and held the admirals off the board. Then, jubilation for Moose fans everywhere, as Kristian Reichel would score his third of the year to put Manitoba up for good, 4-3, with less than a minute left.
The last game was an absolutely abysmal showing. It started with a puck in the Manitoba net just 1:25 into the game. The Moose would bounce back, outshooting the Admirals 11-5 and tying it up early in the second. However, a bad bounce off the goalie and a giveaway right after saw the Moose down 3-1 to conclude second. The third was not much better, as Manitoba continued to outshoot Milwaukee. A costly turnover and an empty netter saw the Moose’s second goal mean pretty much nothing. The game would end a disappointing 5-2.
The penalty kill continues to be excellent. Manitoba’s third-ranked PK is part of the reason they won the middle game of the three-game set. Even though they gave up the tying goal shorthanded, they shut the door on a Milwaukee powerplay later in the third. Without that stop, they likely need a game-saving goal with the goalie pulled. The most impressive feat was, the Moose managed to hold the eighth-ranked Admirals powerplay to an impressive 2-for-15 over a three-game series. On top of that, one of the goals against was scored five-on-three. If the Moose can maintain a strong penalty kill like this, they give themselves a chance to win every night.
The offense from the blue line is stellar. This three-game set saw two goals and three assists from Declan Chisholm, four assists from Leon Gawanke, one goal and one assist from Ville Heinola, and one assist from Jimmy Oligny. That’s 12 points in just three games from defensemen. Another positive, the defense got those 12 points even with a quieter, by his standards, Ville Heinola. Now, that level of point production probably won’t continue, but even half of that would be huge for the team.
The Not So Good
The goals against in bunches were definitely something that needed work this week. Even when the Moose won handily, they still allowed the Admirals to score two goals in a row, breathing life into their game. Although, it didn’t seem like a problem at the time. When it’s bundled with the three straight goals in the second game, and three consecutive goals in the third, you start to see a trend. The worst part is, a lot of these goals were in rapid succession. You can’t win hockey games against more challenging competition if you take even one shift off, let alone whole 10-minute spans. Hopefully, this is something head coach Mark Morrison can focus on in this upcoming week’s practices.
What’s Coming Up?
The Moose have the final two games of their homestand coming up, and we finally get to see someone besides the Admirals.
Manitoba Moose fans will get their first look at the Texas Stars this weekend. The 6-6-1-1 Stars have points in their last four and will be looking to close their five-point gap with the Moose. The first of two games will take place on Saturday afternoon at 2 pm CST, while the second takes place the next day at the same time. If the Moose hope to win these two games, they will need to shut down the Stars leading scorer Curtis McKenzie. Manitoba will also need to take advantage of the absence of Texas goaltender Jake Oettinger, who is still with the Dallas Stars.
Well, Moose fans, how will the Moose fair against the Stars? Will they play down to their competition or have a standout two-game series? Let me know what you think! You can find me on Twitter @FPHMoose!
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