Limoges the OT hero for Moose
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The Manitoba Moose got out of their own way and got the job done.
Fans got their money’s worth and then some on Sunday afternoon, as the Winnipeg Jets’ AHL affiliate closed a two-game mini-series against central division foe Texas Stars (5-4-0), winning 2-1 in a hotly contested grudge match that ended in overtime at Canada Life Centre.
The Moose, 6-2-1 (13 pts), find themselves one point off the Western Conference lead in the early goings of the season.
The game-winner came courtesy of 25-year-old Alex Limoges, in his first year with the Moose, as he found himself alone in front of the Stars net and smoothly slid the puck between Anton Kuhdobin’s five-hole.
Limoges, who potted 23 goals in 2021 for the San Diego Gulls, had been goalless through the Moose’s first nine outings of the season, but had five assists to his name. The Winchester, Virginia native opened the scoring at 8:48 in the second period on a great solo effort while the clubs were at 4-on-4, stripping defenceman Ben Gleason behind the Stars’ net before circling in front and beating Kuhdobin.
“It felt good,” said Limoges of burying his first of the campaign. “It’s been a while. Obviously, I haven’t scored this season and my family is here today so it was good to do that in front of them but I’m glad that I started shooting again.
“It was a tough game. It was tough to get offence going and sustain it. They were pretty hard to play against so it was just good to find a way to sneak out with a win there.”
After spelling Arvid Holm in Friday’s contest against the Stars, goaltender Oskari Salminen, who played well in relief, allowing just one goal on 18 shots, saw action in between the pipes for a second-straight game, this time as the starter. The first-year Finnish netminder, now 4-1 on the season, once again played admirably, facing 33 shots in the contest and being leaned on heavily from the outset, as the Moose led an uninspiring opening 10 minutes in the first period.
The Stars had plenty of grade-A chances in the early goings, including a challenge from captain Curtis McKenzie on a breakaway that was calmly steered aside by Salminen. A period that started with the ice tilted and the Moose being outshot 6-2 ended 13-10 in favour of the Stars, as the hosts managed to navigate the bumpy terrain and leave the first frame scoreless.
“We weren’t too happy with our first period,” said Moose assistant coach Nolan Baumgartner. “We turned the puck over quite a bit. I think we had us marked for 10 or 11 turnovers and they had a couple chances right off of it. I think they had nine scoring chances in the first, so we wanted to tighten that up. Second period was penalty filled. Tough to get some guys into the game, but third period I thought we started to come along. We didn’t turn the puck over a lot, we got the puck down into their zone and created a couple of chances for ourselves. A nice win for us.”
“We felt good about our defensive game tonight. Some guys are trying to learn a system that is different to them so it’s a work in progress but it’s coming along.”
The Moose committed six penalties on the night, killing five of them. The league’s fourth-best penalty-killing unit entering the game (87.2 per cent) withstood the repeated self-infliction but finally paid the price when a Riley Barber shot ricocheted off Stars’ captain Curtis McKenzie’s skate and found twine to tie the game 12:27 into the second frame.
Despite conceding the unfortunate bounce, the Moose still left the contest feeling great about their special teams.
“I think we’ve been really good on (the penalty kill),” Salminen said. “I think the one Iowa (Wild) game we gave up two (goals). So if we took those out, we’d be like 95 per cent. We’ve been really good on the PK and I’ve liked it. We have a good pattern, so I’m always ready for the shot.
“At the start, I usually check out who’s on the power play unit. We’ve watched them, I know the stuff they do, so just kind of reading. You have to do more head checks just to be sure. They’re always trying the cross-ice passes, so be ready for those, be a little more back and just kind of read the situation well because it’s a lot of passing.”
The Moose had a couple of concerning moments injury-wise in the game. Winger Jeff Malott was taken down awkwardly into the boards in the first period, colliding tail-bone first. He left the game under his own power. In the second frame, defenceman Leon Gawanke was helped off the ice after suffering a lower-body injury. Both appeared no worse for wear, however, eventually returning to the game.
“On that road trip … we scored a lot of goals on that,” Baumgartner said. “It wasn’t that it came easy but it was one of those that we had leads, and they were big leads. To get a game like this where we have to play some tight defence coming down the stretch, is good for our group. It gives us confidence going into the week. We can work on some things and then heading into next weekend, just try to copy what we did today.”
The Moose (6-2-1) continue their six-game homestand on Friday against the Calgary Wranglers (3-5-0).
Joshua Frey-Sam happily welcomes a spirited sports debate any day of the week.