Moose continue to steamroll opposition

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There appears to be no stopping the Manitoba Moose.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 30/11/2017 (1826 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

There appears to be no stopping the Manitoba Moose.

Hockey’s hottest team kept rolling on Thursday night at Bell MTS Place, destroying the Cleveland Monsters 7-1 for their eighth straight victory. Manitoba is now 16-5-2, which gives them 34 points on the year to lead the American Hockey League. It also enjoys an 11-point lead over the next-best team in the Central Division as the calendar flips to December, and has won its past two games by a combined score of 15-2. They also have a plus-34 goal differential, by far the best in the league.

To put this success in perspective, the Moose didn’t record their 16th win of last season until Jan. 20. And it took them until Feb. 20 the year before. Of course, in both seasons since returning to Winnipeg, the Moose finished far out of the playoff race. Now they’re leading the way.

“It’s crazy how far we’ve come. There’s a few of us that have been through the dark days here. It’s nice to see things starting to pay off,” said forward Chase De Leo, who is in his third year with the organization. “It wasn’t very fun coming to the rink when you’re losing games and getting blown out. No one wants to go through that.”

The latest win was more of the same: terrific goaltending from Michael Hutchinson, who stopped 34 shots; superb penalty killing, going two-for-two on the night to extend their consecutive kill streak to 23 straight over a five-game stretch; and balanced scoring from both the forwards and defence, with 12 of 18 skaters registering points.

Manitoba came out of the gate somewhat sluggish Thursday, getting outshot 8-4 in the opening minutes of the game. But Hutchinson was rock-solid, holding his team in it while they worked to get their skating legs going.

The Moose opened the scoring on the power play in the final minute of the first, as rookie forward Michael Spacek beat Cleveland goalie Brad Thiessen for his second career AHL goal.

Things really opened up in the middle frame.

De Leo made it 2-0 on a strange one with just over seven minutes to play, as his pass attempt deflected off a Cleveland stick up and over the shoulder of Thiessen. It’s the fifth goal of the year for De Leo, but the fourth in his past seven games as he heats up like many of his teammates.

Rookie Mason Appleton put his club up 3-0 just over 90 seconds later, taking a between-the-legs drop pass from linemate Nic Petan, skating pass three flat-footed Cleveland players and beating Thiessen. Appleton is up to eight goals on the year, with six of them coming in the past eight games.

“Our team game is really going in the right direction. When you have a win streak like that, you’ve got a lot of guys playing well, you’ve got a lot of parts clicking,” Appleton said following the game. “It feels great. Going into the season, I wasn’t too sure what the expectations were for this team. Obviously, we all hold ourselves to high standards. I think we’ve caught a lot of people by surprise by how well we’re doing.”

After Cleveland finally beat Hutchinson on the team’s 22nd shot of the game, the Moose quickly added two more before the period ended.

Buddy Robinson won a foot race to get to a loose puck and beat Thiessen to make it 4-1, and then Julian Melchiori’s point shot somehow got through a crowd.

All told, the Moose scored four times in a 4:02 span to put this one away.

Defenceman Peter Stoykewych joined the scoring party just over a minute into the third period, beating Cleveland goalie Matiss Kivlenieks, who relieved Thiessen after the fifth goal.

Roslovic finished off the scoring by converting a beautiful three-way passing play from Appleton and Petan for his team-leading 12th of the year. Coupled with his assist earlier in the game, Roslovic is now tied for second in the AHL in scoring with 12 goals and 14 assists.

Appleton had another strong game, putting up a goal and two assists, which gives him eight goals and 14 assists in the first 23 games of his rookie season. That puts him in a tie for fourth in AHL scoring. Petan, playing on the top line with the No. 2 and No. 4 scorers in the league, had three assists. He’s now up to two goals and 11 helpers in his 16 games since being sent down by the Jets.

“I think our confidence as a trio is pretty good right now,” Petan said. “It goes through the whole lineup. When you’re hot, you’re hot.

“We seem to have great starts, and when we’re up we seem to keep the lead quite well.”

Manitoba will look for their ninth straight win when they host the Monsters in a rematch on Saturday night.

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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