Winning turnaround

Moose back in the groove with six-game unbeaten run

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A nightmare.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 18/11/2019 (1104 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A nightmare.

That pretty much summed up the opening month of the season for the Manitoba Moose.

They couldn’t score, their special-teams units were near the bottom of the league and their goaltending was below average.

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS The Manitoba Moose are 9-8-0-0 on the season after starting the year with a 1-7-0-0 record.

The AHL team’s early woes caused them to lose six straight games in October, giving them an abysmal 1-7-0-0 record at the end of the month.

But despite all of that, the Moose didn’t press the panic button. In fact, after the team dropped their sixth straight game, captain Peter Stoykewych said the team was capable of winning six games in a row and turning their season around.

Well, it appears Stoykewych owns a crystal ball, as the club’s 5-2 win over the San Antonio Rampage on Sunday at Bell MTS Place was their sixth victory in a row. The Moose now find their heads above water as they’ve improved to 9-8-0-0 on the season.

The Moose are the second-hottest team in the league, only trailing the Milwaukee Admirals (11-3-1-2), who have lost just once in their past 10 games.

“We didn’t feel like we were that far off,” Stoykewych, a defenceman with an assist and eight penalty minutes in nine games this season, said after Monday’s practice. “It was always a minute or two here and there and now we’re getting some bounces go our way.”

It hasn’t hurt that goaltender Mikhail Berdin has been on fire lately. The 21-year-old Russian went 4-0-0 this past week, making 148 saves while posting a .967 save percentage. Berdin’s efforts led to him being named the AHL player of the week.

Berdin was pulled in a 6-4 loss to Milwaukee on Nov. 6. He followed that disappointing result with a 41-save shutout against the Rockford IceHogs and has been on a roll ever since.

“You know, he tells us that he’s a great prospect for the Winnipeg Jets,” Moose head coach Pascal Vincent said. “We knew it, but now the more he plays, the more he confirms what we think about his future.”

In the first eight games to start the season, the Moose only found the back of the net 15 times. In nine games this month, the Moose have scored 36 times.

Forwards Jansen Harkins and Seth Griffith have been leading the charge offensively. Harkins is the team leader in scoring with 20 points, including a team-high 15 assists. Griffith leads the Moose with eight goals and has chipped in seven assists.

The Moose are also getting production from forward Kristian Vesalainen, the Jets’ first-round pick in the 2017 NHL draft. Vesalainen had two assists in his first eight games, but in his last nine, he’s contributed three goals and three assists.

“If you have five guys that know where the puck is going and you know where the players are going to be on the ice, then you open up chances and you open up options to be creative and that’s what we’ve done recently,” Vincent said on his team’s improved play on offence.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Manitoba Moose head coach Pascal Vincent during practice at Bell MTS Place, Monday.

The Moose got into a groove at home and are coming off of a four-game homestand. But now the Moose will try to keep their good times rolling away from Bell MTS Place as they pack for a seven-game road trip. Their long journey begins Wednesday night in Ontario against the Belleville Senators. They won’t return home until Dec. 6 when they host the Chicago Wolves.

But Stoykewych isn’t worried. He doesn’t believe the team’s upcoming travel itinerary will send them back to their losing ways.

“Honestly, sometimes you feel a little bit more comfortable on the road as well. Just being away and getting a change of scenery, it kind of revamps you to be out there with the guys,” Stoykewych said. “You’re out there with the guys for a couple of weeks, so you get time to spend together away from the rink. Sometimes, the road is great for you as well. We have no problem with it. We’ve been fine on the road here and we’ll try to continue to do so.”

INJURY UPDATE

Griffith left Sunday’s game after taking a puck to the face. The shot knocked out three teeth, forcing Griffith to miss Monday’s practice for a medical appointment. Vincent said Griffith won’t be ready for Wednesday’s game, but they’re hopeful he’ll rejoin the club this weekend when they’re in Toronto to play a pair of games against the Marlies.

“Three teeth out of his mouth (from) one shot. We picked up two of them and they put them back in. That’s crazy stuff,” Vincent told the media. “But, he’s a tough kid. He’s a tough person. He came off the bench and went to the clinic right away. He should be on the road trip at some point. We think Toronto, but we’re not sure yet.”

Vincent is also hopeful defenceman Logan Stanley will suit up at some point during this road trip. Stanley has been out of action since Oct. 18 with a wrist injury.

taylor.allen@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @TaylorAllen31

Taylor Allen

Taylor Allen
Reporter

Eighteen years old and still in high school, Taylor got his start with the Free Press on June 1, 2011. Well, sort of...

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Updated on Monday, November 18, 2019 8:42 PM CST: Adds photo

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