Moose merry heading into Christmas break

Record-breaking run continues

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’Twas the game before Christmas — and the Manitoba Moose wrapped up yet another victory that sends them into the holidays flying higher than a fleet of reindeer.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 22/12/2017 (1800 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

’Twas the game before Christmas — and the Manitoba Moose wrapped up yet another victory that sends them into the holidays flying higher than a fleet of reindeer.

Manitoba’s 3-1 win over San Antonio on Friday night means they have gone a very sweet 16 games without losing in regulation. That 15-0-1 run is the best in franchise history and has built them a comfortable lead on top of the American Hockey League standings.

Despite the outcome, there was nothing pretty about this one. No fancy ribbons or shiny bows. Because after building an early two-goal lead, the Moose appeared to go into vacation mode and had to hang on through the final 40 minutes.

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Brendan Lemieux (centre) celebrates his goal, which opened the game’s scoring, against the San Antonio Rampage on Friday night.

 

Goalie Michael Hutchinson was busier than Santa’s elves. The AHL goalie of the month for November, who also took home goalie of the week honours on Monday, stopped 36 of 37 shots he faced to run his personal record to an incredible 13-1-2 on the year. He has the league’s best save percentage and second-lowest goals-against average.

“It’s crazy how over time, the process works,” forward Chase De Leo said following the game of the run his team has been on. He’s been part of the Moose the past two seasons when they were near the bottom of the standings.

Brendan Lemieux opened the scoring near the midway mark of the opening period, capitalizing on a very generous San Antonio giveaway. The puck ended up on his stick directly in front of Rampage goalie Spencer Martin, who had no chance. Lemieux now has nine goals, and 20 points, through 20 games with the Moose this season.

Manitoba’s talented top line then teamed up for the next goal just a few minutes later. Jack Roslovic and Nic Petan fed rookie Mason Appleton, who beat Martin for his 11th goal of the year.

It looked like the game might quickly turn into a rout, as it did 24 hours earlier when the Moose beat the Rampage 7-2. But San Antonio showed plenty of fight on this night — both figuratively and literally — as they hung around.

The Rampage outshot the Moose 20-5 in the second period and scored the only goal, capitalizing on a late power play. Hutchinson was sensational, and his team likely would have been facing a deficit if not for several stellar stops. He was briefly shaken up at one point after taking a shot high to the chest area, but stayed in the game after a visit from the trainer.

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Mason Appleton heads up ice against the San Antonio Rampage Friday night.

Tempers flared at the end of the frame, with every player on the ice save for the two goalies coming together in what was definitely not an exchange of Christmas cheer. It continued a theme that began Thursday night and carried over into the feisty rematch.

“That’s what teams are going to try to do. We’re a skilled team, but I think we can play hard, play gritty, play mean if we need to,” De Leo said. “But we have to, no matter what, play a full 60. I thought we kind of got off our game a bit.”

San Antonio came close to tying on a few occasions in the third period, but Hutchinson stood tall, including stopping a breakaway in the final minute.

Appleton then sealed the win with a power-play empty-netter a few seconds later, with an assist from Roslovic. Appleton now leads all rookies in AHL scoring, while Roslovic’s two helpers put him on top of the overall AHL scoring lead.

Manitoba (23-5-3) finished 2-for-6 on the power play, while San Antonio (16-12-2) went 1-for-5. The Moose began the night with the second-best power play and penalty kill in the AHL, to go along with several other accolades, including most goals scored, fewest goals allowed, most wins, most points and best winning percentage.

“It’s all about good vibes. I feel like we need to ride this thing as long as we can. Definitely coming into seven days off with a win feels a lot better and gives us something to celebrate,” De Leo said.

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Manitoba's Jack Roslovic tries to keep control of the puck with San Antonio's Dominic Toninato in pursuit during the second period, Friday.

Manitoba doesn’t return to action until Dec. 30, when they welcome the San Jose Barracuda to town for a pair of weekend games.

mike.mcintyre@freepress.mb.caTwitter: @mikemcintyrewpg

 

Mike McIntyre

Mike McIntyre
Sports columnist

Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.

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