In their third game of the season, the Manitoba Moose took on the Ontario Reign in their home opener. After leaving Winnipeg when the Jets returned in 2011, the Moose’s return was greeted to a large crowd of 8,812 fans – enough to fill the MTS Centre’s lower bowl. However, in the Ontario Reign – the new AHL Affiliate of the Los Angeles Kings, and (*essentially) last season’s Calder Cup champs – the Moose had a tough match-up. The result was a 4-1 loss, with just 17 shots on goal in a fairly uneventful game.
*The Manchester Monarchs won the 2015 Calder Cup, but Los Angeles got a new AHL affiliate, so most of the players from last year’s team now play for the Reign.
Action was slow in the early going, with no goals or great scoring chances through the first 12 minutes of play. John Albert had the game’s first good chance, just missing glove side on a shot from the slot. Then, with 6 minutes left to play, former LA Kings’ defenceman Jamie McBain came in on a 2-on-1; he tried to centre the puck, but instead banked the puck off Joel Armia’s skate and past Connor Hellebuyck for the first goal. The Moose immediately pushed back, controlling play in the offensive zone and generating a a number of good chances – J.C Lipon and John Albert in particular were buzzing around the offensize zone. However, the Moose weren’t able to convert, and the first period ended with the Moose down 1-0. Shots were 6-3 for the Reign.
The Moose came out hard in the 2nd period, and had a number of good chances to tie things up. Matt Halischuk and Chase de Leo broke in 2-on-1, but the Reign defenceman played it well and Halischuk wasn’t able to feed it across. Then, after Peter Budaj misplayed a soft dump-in by Morrissey, Lipon almost ended up with a glorious chance on a gaping net, but he was hooked down as he tried to fire it home. Shortly thereafter, the Moose were granted two straight powerplays, but failed to score on either. But as soon as the second was done, the puck squirted to Justin Auger – who had just stepped out of the box – creating a 2-on-1. Auger look to his right as if to pass, but quickly snapped it past Hellebuyck to stretch the Reign’s lead to 2-0. The 2nd period ended with the Moose down 2-0, and still trailing in shots, 15-10.
At no point in the 3rd period did the Moose seem on the comeback trail – in fact, they were unable to get a shot through the first half of the 3rd period. A bad giveaway by Brenden Kichton in his own zone led to Michael Mersch breaking in alone for the Reign – he was able to beat Hellebuyck, making the score 3-0 early in the 3rd. Chase de Leo nearly got one back when he came screaming down the left side and ripped a shot off the bar and out of play. With just 4 minutes to play, the Moose broke the shut-out of last year’s AHL (Ice Caps) back-up, Peter Budaj, when Patrice Cormier took a nice feed from Chase de Leo (who took an equally nice pass from Kichton), to make it 3-1. The Reign were able to get an empty netter, and the game ended 4-1.
General Observations – Three Games In
- Josh Morrissey makes a real nice outlet pass. (Good thing 2-line passes are no longer a thing). He also is a very smart shooter – he not only has great accuracy, but he keeps his head up and will shoot at a specific target, i.e his own player’s stick, looking for a tip. The only minor issue of concern so far is that he almost looks a bit too relaxed out there at times – he occasionally makes a giveaway when he’s not under too much pressure. (Chances are this will go away with maturity).
- Through two games, Connor Hellebuyck has had a few instances where he has had trouble playing the puck. The Reign almost got an easy goal off a giveaway early in the game, but were unable to wrap the puck around into an empty net. Something to keep an eye on. (No issues with his goaltending though – the guy is a stud).
- Chase de Leo has a wicked wrist shot. Not many guys can beat a goalie from the face-off dot, unscreened. He’s the type who can.
- Penalties weren’t as much of an issue tonight – the Moose took 3 minors, but the Reign went 0/3 – but they were costly in the two losses against the Marlies, particularly game 1 where they gave up 2 PPG’s.
Next Moose Action
The Moose will get an opportunity for redemption Saturday night at home, as they again take on the Reign at the MTS Centre. Game time is 7 pm.
Tonight’s Lineup: Head Coach Keith McCambridge kept the same pairs of wingers from previous games, but switched De Leo and Cormier. He also took Blomqvist out today in favour of Darren Kramer.