Gawanke, Moose do it again

Team that pulls together pulls off another unlikely win


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For Leon Gawanke, it was the agony of the feet followed by the thrill of victory.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 06/02/2022 (367 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

For Leon Gawanke, it was the agony of the feet followed by the thrill of victory.

With his Manitoba Moose trailing the Texas Stars 1-0 early in the third period Sunday afternoon, the German defenceman was left hobbling after a heavy pass from a teammate stuck him around his skate. He could barely make it to the bench and limped his way down the tunnel, fearing the worst as a result of friendly fire.

Moments later, he’d shaken off the pain and was back on the ice, where he set up the tying goal on a point blast that was tipped by Mikey Eyssimont. And, wouldn’t you know it, he scored the game-winner in the 12th round of a marathon shootout, sending the Moose to their latest “how did they do that” triumph in a year full of them.

Manitoba Moose defenceman Johnathan Kovacevic (centre) plays against the Texas Stars in downtown Winnipeg Sunday. Kovacevic is back from a stint with the Jets. (John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press)

“I think that game just pretty much shows our whole season,” Gawanke, sporting an ice pack on his tender tootsie, said at Canada Life Centre. “I don’t think we had a great game, but we find another way to get two points at the end. That’s pretty much all that matters.”

Manitoba improves to 24-11-3 as they head off on a four-game road trip that begins Tuesday night in Texas against the same Stars team.

Gawanke, like Eyssimont and six others in the lineup — defencemen Declan Chisholm, Ville Heinola and Johnathan Kovacevic, forward Kristian Reichel and goaltenders Mikhail Berdin and Arvid Holm — have all recently spent time with the Winnipeg Jets, either on the active roster or the taxi squad. And they bolster the ranks of a Moose team that has showed no signs of slowing down despite a slew of roster turnover.

“Usually when it goes to a shootout it’s not my job. But once it got later and later, I thought maybe I’ll get a chance,” said Gawanke, whose 20th point of the season now puts him in a tie for the team lead with forward Jeff Malott, who missed Sunday’s game with a lower-body injury.

“I told Doobie (assistant coach Eric Dubois) he’s got to put me out there earlier next time.”

Berdin also played a big role in this latest win, stopping 31 of 32 shots in regulation and overtime and making a number of big saves in the shootout. His final one came courtesy of a diving poke-check.

“When things aren’t going our way or we’re down by a goal, we try to stay level-headed,” Eyssimont said of finally getting rewarded midway through the final frame when he notched his seventh of the AHL season. Like Gawanke, he recently spent time up with the big club on the taxi squad, but didn’t see any NHL action.

“We were down 1-0 going into the third, but it didn’t really feel like it in the locker room. We know the things we needed to clean up and we just needed to execute. We went out and did that in the third. That’s kind of our mindset, kind of our identity these past few months.”

Declan Chisholm moves up ice. (John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press)

The game was played in front of just 250 fans under public health orders set to expire Monday night. By the time the Moose return for some home cooking starting Feb. 20, capacity will have expanded to 50 per cent. There’s certainly a sense of excitement around the team, especially with the NHL taxi squad now dissolved and plenty of healthy bodies around.

“We’re having fun coming to the rink, we’re having fun playing games. Obviously it’s easier to have fun when you’re winning,” said Gawanke. “In this room, everyone believes that if we have our full lineup we can go far this year. That’s our target.”

Twitter: @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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