AHL Central News: Playoff Race Intensifies

As we have moved past the halfway point of the 2019-20 season, the top two teams in the American Hockey League’s Central Division have comfortable leads when it comes to a postseason spot. The remaining six teams are just separated by seven points as they duke it out for the final two Calder Cup playoff berths.

Admirals Keep Chugging Along

The Milwaukee Admirals (28-8-4-2) continue to keep rolling through the 2019-20 season. They won two out of their three games last week to become the first team in the AHL to go over 60 points. With their 62 points, they have a nine-point lead in the division and a seven-point cushion for the top stop in the entire league.

The Admirals completed their stretch of three straight games against the Rockford IceHogs on Tuesday night. After winning both games on home ice last weekend, the Admirals completed the sweep in Rockford with a 4-1 win.

Michael McCarron scored the lone goal of the first period when his wrist shot from just inside the blue line found the back of the net. It was his first goal with the Admirals since being acquired from the Laval Rocket on Jan. 7.

Mathieu Olivier was first to the rebound off a Tanner Jeannot shot and swept it back home to double the Admirals’ lead early in the second period. The IceHogs responded with a power-play goal late in the frame to pull within one goal and breathe some life into the building.

The Admirals put the game out of reach with a pair of the goals in the third period. Anthony Richard used a quick speed burst to get behind the defense and give Milwaukee a two-goal advantage with his 13th tally of the season.

Rem Pitlick set up the final goal of the night, a few minutes later, by threading a backhand pass from the goal line through a maze of sticks to Mikka Salomaki in the slot, where he buried his third goal of the season.

Rem Pitlick Milwaukee Admirals
Pitlick has had a fantastic rookie season, so far. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

The Admirals returned home for a quick stop on Wednesday night where they extended their winning streak to four games with a 3-2 shootout victory over the Chicago Wolves.

The Wolves wasted little time by jumping out to a 1-0 lead just 46 seconds into the game. Olivier answered with his second goal in as many games to even things up about eight minutes later.

Chicago grabbed a 2-1 lead in the opening minute of the second period, but the lead lasted for less than 10 minutes. Daniel Carr, who won the AHL MVP with the Wolves last season, drew his current team even by getting to a loose puck in front of the net and flipping into the cage.

Daniel Carr Milwaukee Admirals
Carr came back to haunt his former team. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

That would be the final goal of the game as the teams remained scoreless throughout the rest of regulation and overtime. Connor Ingram made 30 saves to get the game to a shootout where he stopped all three Wolves’ chances. Pitlick scored in the opening round for the Admirals and that proved to be the difference-maker.

“It was a bit of a sandbox game,” said head coach Karl Taylor. “It was sluggish at times. Both teams pushed at different times. Both teams deserved a point tonight. We’re fortunate and we’ll take it, especially after playing in back-to-back nights.”

The Admirals finished off their week with a trip down I-94 to take on the Wolves in Chicago on Saturday night. Their rivals to the south got the best of them in a 4-1 decision.

The Wolves opened the scoring early in the first period before taking control of the game with three goals in the first half of the middle frame, including two just 45 seconds apart. Eeli Tolvanen scored the Admirals’ lone goal seven minutes into the third period, his eighth, with a wrist shot from the left circle.

The defeat was the Admirals’ first in regulation at Chicago since April 7, 2018, snapping a nine-game point streak.

Player of the Week

The Admirals got their seven goals last week from six different players. Olivier was the only player to light the lamp twice by scoring in back-to-back nights against the IceHogs and Wolves. The second-year pro has seven goals on the season, four more than he scored during his entire rookie season.

The Week Ahead

Tuesday, Jan. 21 vs Belleville Senators, Friday, Jan. 24 vs IceHogs; Saturday, Jan. 25 @ IceHogs

Wild Gain Ground with Big Week

The second-place Iowa Wild (24-14-3-2) won three of their four games this past week to get a little bit closer to the division’s top spot. They were able to gain two points on the Admirals, but they still have a nine-point hill to climb. Their big week did extend their lead over third place, which is now eight points.

The Wild ended their five-game road trip in Bakersfield on Tuesday night. After losing to the Condors 5-2 on Saturday, Iowa returned the favor with a 5-2 win of their own in the rematch.

It took Luke Johnson all of just 53 seconds to get the Wild on the board as he threw the rebound off a Brennan Menell shot into a wide-open cage. The Condors came back to tie the game with a power-play goal less than three minutes later. Menell fired home a one-timer to give the Wild a 2-1 lead in the final minute of the first period.

Luke Johnson Iowa Wild
Johnson has been a nice fit with the Wild. (Courtesy Chicago Wolves)

Gerry Mayhew scored the only goal of the second period by firing a shot from the right circle just under the crossbar for his 25th goal of the season. Dimitry Sokolov, who assisted on Mayhew’s goal, increased the lead to 4-1 early in the third period.

The Condors added another power-play goal to cut the Wild’s lead to 4-2 midway through the final frame. Mayhew added an empty-net goal in the final minute. At the end of the game, he and Sam Anas, who had an assist on the night, were tied with Reid Boucher of the Utica Comets for the league lead in points with 42.

Gerald Mayhew, Iowa Wild
Mayhew is a top MVP candidate this season. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

The Wild returned home on Friday night and kept up their run of games against Pacific Division opponents with the San Jose Barracuda in town. Despite scoring first, the Wild dropped a 3-1 decision to their visitors from the west.

The game was locked in a scoreless tie until late in the second period. Dmitry Sokolov extended his goal streak to three straight games and point streak to four when he lit the lamp with less five minutes to go in the middle frame.

Jeffery Viel tied the game just 33 seconds into the third period. Less than six minutes later, Sasha Chmelevski’s snap-shot past Kaapo Kahkonen’s glove gave San Jose a 2-1 leads. Viel added his second goal of the night, an empty-netter, to give the Barracuda some late-game insurance.

Sokolov’s hot streak continued on Saturday night with two more goals in the Wild’s 4-3 overtime win over the Barracuda.

San Jose had the quick start as the scored just over a minute into the game and then doubled their lead midway through the opening frame. Sokolov scored right off a faceoff, late in the period, to cut the lead in half.

Kyle Rau’s ninth goal of the season drew the Wild even, early in the second period, when he kicked the puck to his stick and fired into a wide-open cage. Sokolov scored again late in the frame, this time while on the power play, to give Iowa their first lead of the night.

Kyle Rau Minnesota Wild
Rau is up to nine goals on the season. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

Jacob Middleton scored the Barracuda’s second shorthanded goal of the night to tie the game with less than two minutes left in regulation. With only one minute left in overtime, defenseman Louie Belpedio won the game with a backhander from the left side.

The Wild’s big week came to an end with a 4-2, come-from-behind victory over the Texas Stars on Monday afternoon.

The Stars took a 1-0 lead about 14 minutes into the game and that lead held up until the opening minute of the third period. Kyle Bauman tied the game just 19 seconds into the final frame, but Texas came back to regain the lead quickly after.

Anas set up Rau on the power play to draw even with about 13 minutes to go in the game. J.T. Brown, who had the primary assist on Bauman’s goal, gave the Wild a 3-2 lead about two minutes later. Mayhew added a goal of the empty net variety to cap off the scoring late in the game.

Player of the Week

Sokolov’s scored goals in four straight games and had points in five in a row before being held off the scoresheet on Monday. He led the team with four goals and five points last week. He is now third on the team with 11 goals despite just playing in 24 games. Nine of his 11 goals have come since Dec. 18.

The Week Ahead

Wednesday, Jan. 22 @ Grand Rapids Griffins; Friday, Jan. 24 vs Manitoba Moose; Saturday, Jan. 25 vs Moose

Wolves Deserved More Points

The Chicago Wolves (20-18-3-2) have been finding ways to grind out points over the past month and a half. They took three out of a possible six points last week in order to stay in third place. They are currently eight points behind Iowa for second place and three points ahead of the teams tied for fourth.

The Wolves took their five-game road winning streak into Milwaukee on Wednesday night, where it came to an end in a 3-2 shootout loss. While they were unable to beat the Admirals, they did pick up a very important point by getting the game beyond regulation.

Reid Duke opened the scoring just 46 seconds into the game. Patrick Brown forced a turnover at center ice and sent Duke up the right wing where he fired the puck into the top corner. The goal was his eighth goal of the season, all of which have come on the road. The Admirals tied the game less than eight minutes later.

The Wolves scored in the opening minute of their second straight period when Lucas Elvenes struck on the power play just 57 seconds into the middle frame. Elvenes charged to the front of the net to put home the rebound off of a Brandon Pirri shot.

Lucas Elvenes Hartford Wolf Pack
Elvenes leads the Wolves in scoring. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

The Admirals, once again, drew even midway through the second period. Both teams were held scoreless through the rest of the regulation and a five-minute overtime session. In the shootout, goaltender Oscar Dansk gave up just one goal while Duke, Pirri and Nicolas Roy were all denied.

Shortly after the game, Roy was recalled by the Vegas Golden Knights for the ninth time this season.

The Wolves returned home on Friday night for another meeting with the Admirals and played one of their best games of the season in a dominating 4-1 win. Gage Quinney had a huge night with his second career hat trick after having to miss Wednesday’s game with a lower-body injury.

Curtis McKenzie setup Quinney’s first goal of the game, just over two minutes into the contest, who finished off the play with a successful wraparound shot.

Gage Quinney Chicago Wolves
Quinney was the star on Saturday night. (Sarah Avampato / The Hockey Writers)

Defenseman Jake Bischoff scored his first goal of the season, early in the second period, to double the Wolves’ lead. Shortly after that, Quinney completed his hat trick with a pair of goals just 45 seconds apart while the teams skated at 4-on-4.

The Admirals spoiled Dansk’s shutout bid with just under 13 minutes to play. He made 24 saves to pick up his 14th win of the season.

“I was really happy with how our guys played,” said head coach Rocky Thompson. “We’ve been progressively getting better and better. I thought we played a really good game in Milwaukee, as well, but this one was a bit of notch up for us.”

The Wolves followed up one of their best games of the season with a disappointing 2-0 loss to the IceHogs on Sunday afternoon. The Wolves didn’t necessarily play a bad game, they just could not catch a break as the hit the post and missed the net on some golden scoring chances.

“I thought we did a lot of good things, actually,” Thompson said. “We were in back-to-back games, so fatigue would have been more against us today. We generated good opportunities; we just didn’t hit the net.”

Rockford scored in both the first and final minutes of the second period to get all the goals they would need. Garret Sparks made 18 saves as his record fell to 5-12-3.

Player of the Week

Dansk continues to play great for the Wolves in net. He has established himself as the top netminder in Chicago over the past few weeks. He picked up three points for the Wolves last week by giving up just three goals on 47 shots for a .936 save percentage (SV%). Dansk is 14-6-2 on the season with a 2.52 goals-against average (GAA), .910 SV% and two shutouts.

Oscar Dansk Chicago Wolves
Dansk has been the main man in Chicago. (Courtesy Chicago Wolves)

The Week Ahead

Friday, Jan. 24 @ Stars; Saturday, Jan. 25 @ Stars

IceHogs Keep Looking for Answers

The IceHogs (20-19-1-1) had their busiest week of the season with five games in seven days. They only picked up four points, but that is good enough to keep them in the fourth and final playoff spot. They are tied with the Stars and Grand Rapids Griffins, but they have the most regulation and overtime wins so they currently hold the tie-breaker.

Monday was a busy day for IceHogs off the ice. First, they signed Peter Quenneville to a professional tryout contract (PTO). Quenneville, the older brother of IceHogs’ forward John Quenneville, had 20 goals and 45 points in 37 games for the ECHL’s Rapid City Rush at the time of the signing.

Later that afternoon, forward Nathan Noel was suspended by the AHL for two games because of a slew-footing incident during the Jan. 11 game in Milwaukee.

The IceHogs finished up a stretch of three straight games against the Admirals on home ice Tuesday night. Just like the previous two games in Milwaukee, the IceHogs were on the losing end, this time dropping a 4-1 decision.

The Admirals scored the only goal of the first period and then doubled their lead early in the middle frame. MacKenzie Entwistle cut the lead in half with a power-play goal late in the second period. Entwistle was camped out in front of the net and cleaned up the rebound off of a Jacob Nilsson shot for his sixth goal of the season.

That would be as close as the IceHogs would get as the Admirals added two more goals in the first half of the third period. The IceHogs were outshot 29-19 on the night with Matt Tomkins making 25 saves in the losing effort.

Matt Tomkins Rockford Icehogs
Tomkins was a hard-luck loser versus Milwaukee. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

The IceHogs headed up to Michigan for a huge two-game set at the Griffins, who they were tied with for the fourth and final playoff spot at the start of the week. They drew first blood in a 2-1 shootout win on Wednesday night.

Collin Delia was back in net and he was on his game. He allowed just one goal on 30 shots in regulation and overtime and stopped both attempts he saw in the shootout.

Both goaltenders kept the game scoreless until nearly eight minutes into the third period when the Griffins finally broke the scoreless tie. Defenseman Chad Krys scored his first professional goal to tie the game about six minutes later. John Quenneville’s initial shot went wide and the puck rolled around the boards to Krys on the left side where he shot the puck through traffic to force overtime.

Ben Youds and Joseph Cramarossa both scored in the shootout to give the IceHogs a very important extra point.

We have documented over the past few weeks how decimated the IceHogs roster has been with most of their key players either injured or in the NHL. You can add leading-goal scorer Brandon Hagel to that list as he was recalled by the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday afternoon.

The offense struggled again in Friday night’s 4-1 loss at the Griffins. This was the ninth game in the last 12 where Rockford scored two or fewer goals. Since the start of the 2018-19 season, they are 46-3-1-2 when they score at least three goals.

Midway through the first period, Entwistle took advantage of an errant clearing pass by the Grand Rapids netminder and fired it back into the net to break the scoreless tie. It was the rookie’s second goal this week and third against the Griffins this season.

The Griffins took over the game after this by tying the contest up before the end of the first period. They took the lead in the second period before adding two insurance goals in the final frame.

On Saturday, the IceHogs tried to boost their offense by signing ECHL All-Star Gabriel Gagne to a PTO. The 23-year-old forward leads the ECHL with 24 goals. He has 28 goals and 48 points in 167 career AHL games and was an All-Star in 2018 for the Senators. With the addition of Gagne, the IceHogs have three of the top five ECHL scores on their roster when you include Peter Quenneville and Spencer Watson.

The lineup got an even bigger boost on Sunday morning. Just a few hours before the IceHogs took to the ice at the Wolves, Dylan Sikura was reassigned to the AHL by the Blackhawks. He had nine goals and 16 points in 22 games with the IceHogs before heading to the NHL back on Dec. 8.

Dylan Sikura Rockford Icehogs
Dylan Sikura is back in the AHL. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

Both Gagne and Sikura found the scoresheet in Sunday afternoon’s 2-0 win in Chicago. The IceHogs scored the only goal they would need in the first minute of the second period. Gagne’s shot from the right circle was blocked and Tyler Sikura got to the front of the net to swipe it home. Sikura now has four goals and seven points in his last six games versus the Wolves.

Gagne doubled the lead with just eight seconds left in the second period when he sniped home a drop-pass from Dylan Sikura for his goal with the IceHogs.

From there on out, Collin Delia shut the door and finished with 34 saves for his first shutout of the season.

Later that evening, both Hagel and Dennis Gilbert were reassigned for Monday’s game against the Senators, where they fell 3-0.

Brandon Hagel Rockford Icehogs
Hagel is still looking to make his NHL debut. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

The IceHogs were the better team for the opening period as they outshot Belleville 11-3, but they couldn’t get one past goaltender Filip Gustavsson. Josh Norris scored a power-play goal early in the second period to break the scoreless tie. The Senators got goals from Alex Formenton and Joseph LaBate to close out the scoring in the third period.

Kevin Lankinen made 26 saves, but he has had a rough go of it. Since Dec. 21, Lankinen is 0-6-1 with a 4.41 GAA and .872 SV%.

Following the game, Hagel and Gilbert headed back to Chicago to rejoin the Blackhawks roster.

Player of the Week

Offense has come at a premium for the IceHogs this season. They only scored five goals in their five games last week. Their two victories came with Delia in the net, who has played well after his early-season struggles. He gave just one goal on 64 shots for a .984 SV% and picked up his first shutout since March 3, 2018.

“There’s always ups and downs,” head coach Derek King said of Delia. “He wasn’t the Collin Delia we were used to seeing, but he’s got his game turned around. He’s been playing awesome. You just see the confidence we get when our goalies are making saves.”

The Week Ahead

Wednesday, Jan. 22 vs Stars; Friday, Jan. 24 @ Admirals; Saturday, Jan. 25 vs Admirals

Stars Stay Red Hot

The fifth-place Stars (19-18-2-2) have been one of the best teams in the entire league over the past two months. After a dismal start, they have themselves tied for a playoff spot with 35 games left on their schedule.

The Stars returned to action on Wednesday night hosting the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins for the first time ever. Tanner Kero’s hat trick was the difference in a 5-3 victory.

The Penguins struck first with a power-play goal less than five minutes into the game. Kero answered a couple of minutes later with his first tally on the night. While on a power play, Emil Djuse’s pass got Kero in behind the defense where he beat goaltender Casey DeSmith one-on-one.

Adam Johnson put the Penguins up 2-1 midway through the second period, but it would be all Stars after that. Anthony Louis was credited with the game-tying goal DeSmith misplayed the played the puck out of his glove and it trickled in behind him.

Joel L’Esperance’s team-high 17th goal of the season broke the tie just 38 seconds into the third period. Kero scored his second goal of the night, about 12 minutes later, when he picked off a clearing attempt and quickly shot it into the Penguins’ net. He completed his second career hat trick with an empty-net goal late in regulation.

Shortly after the victory, the Dallas Stars recalled defenseman Stephen Johns from his conditioning stint.

Johns is back in the NHL. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

These two organizations made a trade on their off day when the Stars acquired forward Oula Palve in exchange for defenseman John Nyberg. Palve has a goal and eight points in 37 AHL games during his first season in North America.

On Friday night, the Stars completed the two-game sweep of the Penguins with a 4-3 shootout win. The Stars won all four games between these two squads this season.

Nick Caamano opened the scoring less than two minutes into the game with a hard charge to the net before flipping the puck into the net. Ben Gleason’s second goal of the season doubled the Texas lead a few moments later. The goal chased started goaltender Dustin Tokarski from the game and he was replaced by Emil Larmi.

The Penguins got on the scoreboard before the end of the first period and tied the game with a power-play goal early in the second period. The lead did not last long as Anthony Louis scored from the left circle, about five minutes later, to give the Stars a 3-2 lead.

The game headed to overtime after the Penguins tied the game with another power-play tally early in the third period. Both teams had their chances to win in overtime, but neither could convert. Jason Robertson and Caamano both scored in the shootout to give the Stars the extra point while Jake Oettinger stopped two of the three shots he faced.

“It feels good after being injured and missing quite a few games,” Caamano said after the game. “You see the guys competing and you want to compete with them. It’s nice to get back on the ice with the guys and winning in a shootout is awesome.”

The Stars headed north for a holiday matinee at the Wild on Monday afternoon. They looked like they could be headed for a big road victory before a late comeback gave Iowa a 4-2 win.

Robertson snuck a backhand shot into the Wild’s net about 14 minutes into the game to open the scoring. That 1-0 lead held until the opening minute of the third period when the Wild drew even.

Less than six minutes later, Joel Kiviranta, who was reassigned to Texas over the weekend, gave the Stars a 2-1 lead. However, the Wild responded with a tying goal less than a minute later and the game-winning goal exactly two minutes after that. They added a late empty-net goal for good measure.

Player of the Week

Kero entered the week with just two goals and 15 points before putting up five points in three games. In addition to his second career hat trick versus the Penguins, he also added a pair of assists to bring up his season total to 20 points.

The Week Ahead

Wednesday, Jan. 22 @ IceHogs; Friday, Jan. 24 vs Chicago; Saturday, Jan. 25 vs Chicago

Griffins Remain in Striking Distance

The Griffins (18-19-2-4) have been coming on strong for the last couple of weeks with a six-game point streak. With another four points earned last week, they are in a three-way tie for the final playoff spot with the IceHogs and Stars.

Before the Griffins started their week, veteran defenseman Brian Lashoff was reassigned to the AHL by the Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday morning. He had an assist in nine games for the Red Wings before heading back to Grand Rapids.

Brian Lashoff Grand Rapids Griffins
Lashoff is back with the Griffins. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

Later that night, the Griffins started a huge two-game series with the IceHogs, who they entered the week tied with for a playoff spot. The visitors drew first blood with a 2-1 shootout victory.

Kevin Poulin made his first-ever start at the Van Andel Arena and he stopped 25 out of 26 shots in regulation and overtime but allowed two goals on three shots in the shootout.

Neither team could find the back of the net until the third period. Joe Veleno scored the lone Griffins goal about eight minutes into the final frame by using his speed to get the goalie out of position before sneaking the puck under the pads. The IceHogs forced overtime with a goal less than five minutes later.

Joe Veleno Grand Rapids Griffins
Veleno had a big goal on Wednesday. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

The game headed to a shootout after the Griffins failed to convert on a power play in overtime. Matt Puempel and Dominic Turgeon were unable to score on their shootout chances.

The Griffins got revenge with Friday night’s 4-1 win and leapfrogged over the IceHogs in the standings. They scored the final four goals of the night after a Pat Nagle turnover led to the first goal of the game midway through the opening frame.

Dominik Shine tied the game late in the first period by striking from the left faceoff dot for his third goal of the season. Chase Pearson scored the eventual game-winning goal with three minutes to go in the second period. He jammed home a rebound for his fifth goal of the season and third against the IceHogs.

Matt Ford, who was playing in his 700th career AHL game, struck on the power play midway through the third period to give the Griffins a 3-1 lead. Chris Terry’s empty-net goal iced the game with less than three minutes to play.

Matt Ford Griffins
Ford has played in over 700 AHL games. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

Nagle made 21 saves for his win on the season. He has given up two goals or fewer in each of his last three starts.

“I thought we played with more tempo tonight,” said head coach Ben Simon. “I thought we played with more consistency in regards to playing a little bit faster. We did a better job of holding onto pucks in the offensive zone. We did a lot of positive things.”

The Senators came to town on Saturday night and even though they won 4-3 in a shootout, the Griffins extended their season-high point streak to six straight games.

After a scoreless opening frame, Shine opened the scoring with his second goal in as many games just over three minutes into the second period. Parker Kelly scored a shorthanded goal to tie the game about 10 minutes later. The Griffins regained the lead with a power-play goal before the end of the period when Dennis Cholowksi blasted home a one-timer from the point for his second goal of the season.

They extended their lead to 3-1 six minutes into the third period when Evgeny Svechnikov scored his sixth goal of the season with a backhander from down low. The Senators forced overtime with a pair of goals four minutes apart from Morgan Klimchuk and Michael Carcone.

Both Michael Rasmussen and Puempel had great scoring chances in overtime, but neither could convert. Terry scored on his shootout attempt, but so did Vitaly Abramov and Logan Brown to give the Senators the extra point.

Player of the Week

Shine is not known for his offensive production as he entered the week with just two goals and eight points in 35 games. He snapped a nine-game pointless streak with a goal and assist on Friday and followed that up with another goal on Saturday. He is now five points shy of his career-high, set back in 2017-18, with 33 games to play.

The Week Ahead

Wednesday, Jan. 22 vs Wild; Friday, Jan. 24 vs San Diego Gulls; Saturday, Jan. 25 vs Gulls

Moose Split Home Stand

The Manitoba Moose (20-24-0-0) spent their week on home ice hosting four games against opponents from the Eastern Conference. After splitting the week, they find themselves in seventh place, just two points out of a playoff spot.

The busy week began with a rare Monday night with a rare game against the Senators. The visitors from Ontario were not good house guests as they won the first game of a two-game set 5-3.

The contest got off to fast start with three combined goals in the first 3:40 of the opening period. A little over a minute after Carcone put the Senators on the board first, Kristian Reichel got the Moose even with his fourth goal of the season. Carcone struck again, less than a minute later, while on a delayed penalty to give the Senators a 2-1 lead.

Skyler McKenzie scored his eighth goal of the season off of a Belleville defender’s skate to tie the game again about five minutes later. Carcone finished off his hat trick before the first period expired to give the Senators a 3-2 lead at the break.

Skyler McKenzie Manitoba Moose
McKenzie is up to eight goals on the season. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

Things calmed down a bit in the middle from with only one goal, but unfortunately, it was scored by the Senators. Ryan White’s first goal of the season got the Moose to within one goal with less than five minutes to play. The Senators iced the game with an empty-net goal in the late stages of the period.

The Moose had a better go of it during Wednesday night’ rematch, which they won, 3-2, in overtime.

After the Senators scored early in the first period, the Moose had some magic in the final minute of the opening frame. Logan Shaw evened up the score, while on the power play, with just 29 seconds left in the period. Just 18 seconds later, Michael Spacek set up Cameron Schilling’s fifth goal of the season to give the Moose a 2-1 lead.

The Senators came back to tie the game just over three minutes into the second period and that was the last goal scored during regulation. The Moose peppered Gustavsson with 14 shots in the third period, but could not get one past him.

Spacek won the game for the Moose in overtime by getting to the rebound off of Jonathan Kovacevic shot and sweeping it over the goal line for his fifth tally on the season. Eric Comrie made 32 saves to keep the Moose undefeated in overtime this season.

Michael Spacek Manitoba Moose
Spacek played a big role in both wins last week. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

“I loved the team today,” said a smiling head coach Pascal Vincent. “We were extremely good on the forecheck. We were aggressive at getting the puck back. I thought we played really well as a team. Eric Comrie was outstanding, again.”

Before the Moose began their weekend series with the Laval Rocket, both defenseman Schilling and forward Nelson Nogier were both recalled by the Winnipeg Jets.  

The Rocket dominated the weekend series opener with a 3-0 shutout of the Moose on Saturday. Charlie Hudon scored an early second-period goal to give Laval a 1-0 lead before Riley Barber and Nikita Jevpalovs added goals in the third period.

The Moose killed off all six of the Rocket’s power plays on the evening, but could only get 17 pucks to the net and none in behind Cayden Primeau.

The offense showed up for Sunday’s rematch as the Moose took down the Rocket 5-1 to end the week on a high note.

Reichel gave the Moose a 1-0 lead less than two minutes into the game by redirecting an Andrei Chibisov shot past goaltender Keith Kinkaid. The Moose took control of the game with three more goals in the first half of the second period from C.J. Suess, JC Lipon and Spacek.

Josh Brook scored Laval’s lone goal in the final minute of the second period while on a power play. Cole Maier finished off the scoring early in the third period.

The Moose were outshot 40-18, but Mikhail Berdin was on his game. This game marked the fourth time Berdin has faced at least 40 shots.

Mikhail Berdin Manitoba Moose
Berdin led the way to victory on Sunday. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

Player of the Week

After setting a new career-high with 41 points last season, Spacek has been struggling to produce on a consistent basis. Heading into the week, he had just four goals and 10 points in 26 games. He averaged a point per game last week with two goals and a pair of helpers to lead the Moose with four points.

The Week Ahead

Friday, Jan. 24 @ Wild; Saturday, Jan. 25 @ Wild

Rampage Try to Keep Pace

The last-place San Antonio Rampage (14-17-5-5) picked up three points in two games against rare opponents. While they are at the bottom of the Central Division standings, they are still just four points out of a playoff spot with games in hand on the rest of the division.

The Rampage got some revenge on the Toronto Marlies, who blew them out last Sunday, by beating them 4-3 in Thursday night’s rematch.

Defenseman Jake Walman’s fifth goal of the season opened up the scoring just five seconds into a power play and just 42 seconds into the game. Less than five minutes later, Mike Vecchione doubled the lead by going five-hole on goaltender Joseph Woll for his team-high 18th goal. The 18 goals also set a new career-high for Vecchione, who scored in both games versus Toronto. Last season, Ryan Olsen and Jordan Nolan led the team in goals with 17 for the entire season.

Mike Vecchione San Antonio Rampage
Vecchione has a new career-high in goals. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

Cam Darcy became the second blueliner to score on the night about seven minutes into the second period to give the Rampage a 3-0 lead. Klim Kostin redirected a Mitch Reinke start to give the Rampage a four-goal advantage less than three minutes later. Kostin now has five goals and 10 points in his last 10 games.

The Marlies were not ready to just roll over and play dead as they began a comeback effort late in the second period. Scott Pooley scored just before the second intermission to get them on the board. Nic Petan cut the Rampage lead down to 4-2 with a redirection midway through the third period. Kenny Agostino’s wraparound goal drew the Marlies to within just a goal with less than two minutes to play.

Adam Wilcox stood tall as Toronto pulled their goalie for the attacker. Wilcox made 24 saves to help the Rampage beat the Marlies for the first time in four tries this season.

“We played a good team,” Walman admitted after the game. “To come out and have the start like we did and then find a way to finish it off is a good sign for us. It’s something we are looking to do. We battle in practice and it showed tonight.”

The Rampage earned a point in Saturday night’s 4-3 shootout loss to the Penguins; their first visit to San Antonio since 2008. San Antonio is now 0-5 in shootouts on the season.

Former Rampage defenseman David Warsofsky helped give the Penguins a 1-0 lead when the rebound off his shot from the point hit off a teammate and got in behind Ville Husso. Austin Poganski evened things up, nine minutes into the second period, with a shorthanded tally, the team’s third of the season.

Austin Poganski San Antonio Rampage
Poganski scored the Rampage’s third shorthanded goal. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

Walman’s power-play goal, six minutes later, gave the Rampage their first lead of the night. However, Jordy Bellerive scored just over a minute later to send the game into the second break knotted at 2-2.

Bellerive and Walman both scored again during the third period, just 80 seconds apart, to send the game into overtime. The Rampage were outshot 5-0 in the extra time, but they had the best chance when Darcy got in all alone and hit the post. Bellerive scored the only goal of the shootout to give the Penguins the victory.

Player of the Week

The Rampage are at their best when the defensemen are not only chipping in, but driving the offense from the back end. Walman scored three of the Rampage’s seven goals last week and he is up to 21 points on the season. He is one of three defenders in the top eight in scoring for San Antonio.

The Week Ahead

Tuesday, Jan. 21 vs Penguins; Friday, Jan. 24 @ Colorado Eagles; Saturday, Jan. 25 @ Eagles