AHL Central News: Race for the Playoffs Gets Tighter

Another week has ticked off the 2018-19 schedule and the AHL’s Central Division remains as competitive as ever. The top five teams are currently separated by just six points while the bottom three teams are making a push to join the fun. There is a just three-point difference between sixth and eighth-place with sixth-place just six points out of a playoff spot.

Griffins Finish Week Strong to Remain on Top

The Grand Rapids Griffins (23-13-3-4) ended last week right where they started, atop the Central Division. After a slip up to start the week, the Griffins roared back with two straight wins to get themselves back into the first place. Before the start of their busy week, the Griffins brought back forward Tyler Spezia on a professional tryout contract (PTO). This is his second stint with the Griffins as he had a goal in five AHL games with them in December.

The Griffins then headed to the Second City for a big midweek showdown with the Chicago Wolves on Wednesday night. They suffered their only setback and fell out of first place for a short period of time with a 5-2 loss in arguably one of their worst games of the season.

The evening started well with the Griffins opening the scoring two minutes into the game as Dominic Turgeon got behind the defense and beat goaltender Oscar Dansk to the right post. That would be the lone goal of the opening period, but the Wolves responded with a pair of goals early in the middle frame to grab their first lead of the night.

Givani Smith’s second goal of the season tied things late in the second period as he quickly fired home a shot off an offensive zone faceoff win. The game did not remain even for long as the Wolves responded with the eventual game-winning goal just 15 seconds later. Chicago went on to add two more goals in the third period to win going away and move into first place for the time being.

The Griffins stayed in Illinois and headed about an hour west to take on the Rockford IceHogs on Friday night. Their 3-1 victory was their first win at the BMO Harris Bank Center since March 25, 2017, snapping an eight-game winless streak. After the IceHogs grabbed a 1-0 late in the first period, the Griffins came back to tie the game in the opening moments of the second. Defenseman Jake Chelios fired a shot from the left point off a faceoff win that floated into the Rockford net for his first goal with the Griffins.

Wade Megan, who had the primary assist on the Chelios goal, broke the tie midway through the third period by burying a Matt Puempel pass from the right circle. He capped off his three-point night by scoring an empty-net goal in the final seconds of the game. Harri Sateri made 29 saves for the win.

Matt Puempel Grand Rapids Griffins
Matt Puempel is enjoying some chemistry with Wade Megan (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

The Griffins returned home on Saturday night and blanked the Milwaukee Admirals 3-0.  Even though they were outshot 13-2 in the opening frame, the Griffins took a 1-0 lead into the first intermission. Megan fed Puempel to finish off a two-on-one rush with just seven seconds remaining in the first period.

They returned the favor by outshooting the Admirals 15-4 in the second period but there was no change in the score. Megan and Puempel teamed up yet again to double the lead with a third-period power-play goal. This time, Puempel fired a shot from the left circle and Megan was at the doorstep to clean up the rebound. Smith added an empty-netter to cap off the scorer late in the game. Patrik Rybar made 24 saves to earn his first career North American shutout after leading the Czech Extraliga with seven shutouts last season.

Player of the Week: Megan continued his hot streak and he wins this honor for the second time in three weeks. The Griffins scored eight goals last week and Megan factored into five of them with three goals and two assists. Since his return to the lineup on Jan. 4, after an 11-game stint in the NHL, Megan has five goals and 10 points in eight games.

The Week Ahead: Wednesday, Jan. 23 vs Manitoba Moose; Friday, Jan. 25 vs San Jose Barracuda; Saturday, Jan. 26 vs Barracuda

Wolves Stumble into Second Place

The second-place Wolves (23-14-4-1) briefly took over the top stop with a big victory to start the week. They eventually slipped down a position after picking up just one point over their other two games, all on home ice. The Wolves began their week with a battle for first place against the Griffins on Wednesday night. In the end, they became the first team in the Central Division to earn 50 points with a big 5-2 victory.

Although the Wolves dictated the play for much of the opening period, they found themselves down 1-0 heading into the first intermission. They took control of the game with three second-period goals, starting with Dylan Coghlan’s one-timer from the left circle while on a two-man advantage.

Gage Quinney gave the Wolves a 2-1 lead just over a minute later by causing a turnover at his own blue line, then beating the defense down the ice before beating Rybar for his 10th goal of the season. The Griffins tied the game up about seven minutes later, but the Wolves answered just 15 seconds later as Tyler Wong tipped a shot from Erik Brannstrom into the Griffins net.

“I try and work on that a lot because you want to get goal any way you can, no matter how pretty they are,” Wong said of his game-winning goal.

Quinney scored his second goal of the night just over eight minutes into the third period to give the Wolves a 4-2 lead. He had a chance for the hat trick in the game’s final minute as he skated towards an empty net but elected to pass to Daniel Carr instead and he immediately heard it from the bench.

“He heard it from me,” head coach Rocky Thompson said with a smile after the game. “I was yelling ‘Shoot it! Shoot it!’ from the bench.”

The Wolves welcomed the rival IceHogs to Allstate Arena on Saturday night, and for the seventh time this season, the road team came away with the victory. Despite outplaying the IceHogs for much of the first period, the game remained scoreless after 20 minutes of play. Thompson said his team was guilty of “cheating” during the second period, meaning guys were taking longer shifts and playing outside of the game plan. Because of this, they gave up a pair of goals to the IceHogs and faced a two-goal deficit heading into the final frame.

The Wolves got some help early in the third period as the IceHogs took a pair of penalties just 19 seconds apart. While on the two-man advantage, Dylan Coghlan got the Wolves on the board with a slap shot from right circle in a sequence that saw him break his stick on a shot attempt, skate to the bench to get a new twig and then score.

Brannstrom tied the game just 46 seconds later while still on the power play with a one-timer from just inside the blue line. The game headed to overtime, but Rockford finished off a great passing play to pull off the upset and keep their big city rivals from regaining first place.

Things went from bad to worse on Sunday afternoon as the Wolves were shutout 4-0 by the Admirals. This was just the second time all season in which the Wolves were shutout. Zach Fucale made 20 saves in his second AHL start of the season.

Player of the Week: Carr will be heading to the AHL All-Star Classic this weekend and he deserves to be there by becoming the first player to hit the 50-point mark this season. He had a hand in all but two Wolves goals last week. He has already set his AHL career-high in assists and points and his four goals shy of his high-water mark set during the 2014-15 season.

Carr and Nosek Golden Knights
Daniel Carr’s (23) first season in the Golden Knights organization has been a successful one. (AP Photo/Jeff Haynes)

The Week Ahead: Thursday, Jan. 24 @ Cleveland Monsters; Saturday, Jan. 26 @ Monsters

Wild Keep Pace with Four Point Week

The Iowa Wild (22-13-4-3) bounced back nicely with a week at home against two California teams. The offense found its groove in taking four out of possible six points to stay within two points of first place. The Wild hosted the San Diego Gulls on Monday night in what will be known as the “Kyle Rau Game.” Rau racked up the sixth hat trick in franchise history in a 3-2 overtime win to end the Wild’s season-high four-game losing streak.

After a scoreless first period, Rau opened the scoring just over 11 minutes into the middle frame with a shorthanded goal. He forced a turnover and then Justin Kloos sent him in behind the defense where he beat goaltender Kevin Boyle to the blocker side. The tally was Iowa’s seventh shorthanded goal of the season, setting a new franchise record. The Gulls tied up the game late in the second period with a goal on a five-on-three power play.

Rau’s second goal of the night gave the Wild a 2-1 lead just shy of nine minutes into the third period. After forcing another turnover in the neutral zone, He finished off an odd-man rush from the right dot. The Gulls scored late in regulation with their goaltender pulled for the extra attacker to force overtime.

Rau completed his hat trick a minute into the extra time by firing a shot from the right side that went over Boyle’s glove, off the right post and into the net for the game-winner. Not only did the win snap the Wild’s recent skid, but it also ended San Diego’s eight-game winning streak.

On Wednesday, The Minnesota Wild traded Kloos to the Anaheim Ducks for forward Pontus Aberg. Kloos had 12 goals and 30 points in 34 AHL games this season and will now play for the Gulls, who just left town. Hours before the Wild took the ice Friday night, defenseman Louie Belpedio was recalled to the NHL. He led all Iowa defensemen with 80 shots at the time of his promotion.

Later that night, the Wild hosted the Ontario Reign in a crazy affair that saw their comeback attempt fall short. The Reign built a 3-0 lead by the 3:22 mark of the second period before the Wild started to claw their way back into the game.

Gerry Mayhew’s 11th goal of the season got the Wild on the board by scoring through Cal Petersen’s five-hole. Ontario responded with their fourth goal just 48 seconds later with a power-play goal. Rau scored a power-play goal of his own before the middle frame ended to cut the lead to 4-2.

Matt Moulson, who once played for the Wild at the NHL level, scored his second goal of the night just 17 seconds into the third period. Just over two minutes later, Mayhew responded with another goal while on the power play by blasting home a one-timer off a pass from Sam Anas.

All-Star Cal O’Reilly cut the lead to a single goal by cashing in on a rebound for his 13th goal of the season less than four minutes later. The Wild tied the game shortly thereafter, but it took some extra time to confirm it. Will Bitten hacked at a loose puck, but the officials on the ice never signaled that a goal was scored. When the whistle blew over a minute later, the men in stripes took a look at the play and awarded Bitten with a goal which drew the game even.

Unfortunately, Ontario scored the eventual game-winning goal just over two minutes later to spoil the evening for the home crowd. The Wild had better luck in the rematch between these two teams the following night. They once again fell behind as the Reign built a 2-0 lead midway through the game before the Wild found their offensive footing.

Anas got the Wild on the board with just under three minutes remaining in the second period by finishing off an odd-man rush with Mayhew and Ryan Murphy. Iowa netted three goals in the final period to pull away with a 4-2 victory. O’Reilly tied the game with a power-play goal six minutes into the frame. Anas scored the eventual game-winning goal less than five minutes later. O’Reilly iced the game with a late empty-net goal.

Player of the Week: The Wild had one of their best offensive weeks of the season with five players racking up at least four points. Rau averaged two points per game last week with four goals and two assists. His big week now has him leading the Wild with 14 goals and he is second on the team with 29 points.

The Week Ahead: Friday, Jan. 25 @ Milwaukee Admirals; Saturday, Jan. 26 @ IceHogs

Stars Struggle Mightily Out West

The Texas Stars (21-14-3-2) spent their week in California but the Golden State was not very welcoming. Despite losing all three games and not earning a single point last week, the Stars are still hanging on to the fourth and final playoff spot thanks to having more regulations wins than the Admirals.

Before the Stars began their road trip, the Dallas Stars announced on Wednesday that Erik Condra had been reassigned to the AHL. Despite being in the NHL for the previous 17 days, Condra still led the team with 35 points at the time of his reassignment. He was in the lineup at the Gulls on Wednesday and made an immediate impact.

The Gulls got a pair of goals from Cory Tropp and Adam Cracknell in the final five minutes of the opening period to take a 2-0 lead into the first intermission. Condra scored just 11 seconds into a second-period power play to cut the lead in half. The Stars received four minutes of power play time early in the third period, but they were unable to solve Boyle who earned First Star of the Game honors with 26 saves. Landon Bow was the hard-luck loser after making 30 saves of his home.

Friday was a big news day off the ice as Denis Gurianov was recalled to the NHL. He has a goal and three points in his 11 games with Dallas this season. Joel L’Esperance was also added the Central Division team for the upcoming AHL All-Star Classic. He leads all AHL rookies with 22 goals.

Denis Gurianov
Denis Gurianov is back in the NHL with Dallas. (Photo: Andy Nietupski/Texas Stars)

Later that night, the Stars took on the Barracuda and dropped their second straight 2-1 decision. Much like on Wednesday in San Diego, the Stars found themselves down 2-0 despite outplaying San Jose for most of the game. Their lone goal, once again, came on the power play. This time defenseman Gavin Bayreuther fired home a shot from the point off a faceoff win.

The struggles continued on Saturday night in a 4-2 loss at the Stockton Heat. The Stars got 51 shots on goal, but Heat netminder Tyler Parsons stood on his head to make 49 saves in an amazing performance. For the third straight game, the Stars found themselves trailing 2-0 even though they were the better team for much of the time. Colin Markison finally got his team on the board late in the second period by crashing the net and stuffing home a rebound for his sixth goal of the season.

The Heat extended their lead to 3-1 early in the third period, but defenseman Shane Hanna responded just 30 seconds later by roofing a shot over Parsons. The Stars had about 11 minutes to draw even but were unable to do it. Stockton added an empty-net goal in the final minute of play to finish off the scoring.

Player of the Week: The Stars fired off 119 shots on goal last week, including 92 in their last two games, and only scored four goals. With the offense being stymied by some great goaltending, Bow kept his team in the game in both of his starts. He stopped 59 of the 64 shots he faced in his pair of 2-1 losses. His 2.62 goals-against average (GAA) is the eighth best among all AHL goaltenders.

The Week Ahead: Wednesday, Jan. 23 @ Tucson Roadrunners; Friday, Jan. 25 vs Heat; Saturday, Jan. 26 vs Gulls

Admirals Finally Snap Losing Ways

The Admirals (20-16-6-1) only earned three points in their four games last week. However, that was good enough to draw even with the Stars with 47 points. They are still on the outside looking in when it comes to a playoff spot because they have a lower points percentage than Texas.

Before the Admirals took the ice, the Nashville Predators announced on Monday that they traded Connor Brickley to the New York Rangers for forward Cole Schneider. Brickley had seven goals and 11 points in 39 games for the Admirals this season. Schneider, a veteran of 465 AHL games, had 13 goals and 25 points for the Hartford Wolf Pack on the season. His 25 points make him the second highest scorer on the Milwaukee roster.

Schneider was not in the lineup as the Admirals opened up their four-game road trip at the Manitoba Moose on Monday night. Both goaltenders were very busy as the two teams combined for 78 shots on goal in the Moose’s 3-2 overtime win.

It took until 6:47 of the second period before the game got its first goal and it was Colin Blackwell who opened the scoring. Blackwell attempted a centering pass from the right circle but it was blocked and came right back to him. He then went around the back of the net and stuffed home a wraparound attempt for his third goal in the last two games.

The Moose responded about nine minutes later to even things up before the Admirals regained the lead in the final minute of the middle frame. Tanner Jeannot got to a rebound off an Emil Pettersson shot and tapped it into the Manitoba net for his sixth goal of the season.

The game headed to overtime after the Moose tied the game about nine minutes into the third period. They went on to win the game in the final minute of the extra as they took advantage of the recently-signed Vince Pedrie’s broken stick. Goaltender Troy Grosenick made 39 saves in the losing effort.

Things did not improve two nights later as the Admiral’s dropped Wednesday’s rematch 4-2 to extend their losing streak to four games. Forward Nick Baptiste scored both goals for Milwaukee, including the first tally of the game. While on power play midway through the first period, Baptiste was able to get to a rebound and score his eighth goal of the season and third on the power play.

His second marker of the night ended the scoring after the Moose put up four straight goals to build an insurmountable lead. With Grosenick pulled late for an extra attacker, Tyler Gaudet fed Baptiste from the left corner where he fired home the puck from the slot. There was plenty of off-ice news while the team traveled from Manitoba to Grand Rapids. First, Grosenick was added to the All-Star Roster. He will replace Colin Delia of the IceHogs as he is currently playing for the Chicago Blackhawks.

Shortly after, the Predators announced that they had recalled Blackwood. Despite missing 27 games due to injury, he still sits sixth on the team with seven goals. This is his first stint in the NHL. The Admirals were back on the ice Saturday at the Griffins where their winless streak hit five games. Even though they held a 13-2 shot advantage, the Admirals found themselves down 1-0 at the first break.

They could not figure out goaltender Rybar, who stopped all 24 shots he faced in a 3-0 shutout. Former Griffin Tom McCullom made 25 saves in the losing effort. The Admirals got to return the favor Sunday afternoon as they ended their four-game road trip with a 4-0 shutout of the Wolves in Chicago. They opened the scoring while on a late first-period power play when Baptiste buried his 10th goal of the season with just 33 seconds left in the frame.

Schneider picked up his second primary assist of the game to help Milwaukee double their lead eight minutes into the second period. He found Anthony Richard jumping off the bench and got him the puck in the slot where he flipped it past Fucale for his team-leading 14th goal.

The lead was extended to 3-0 with another power play midway through the third period. This time, Pedrie fired a shot from the right point that somehow made it through traffic and into the Wolves net for his first goal with the Admirals. Mathieu Olivier added an empty-net goal with just under four minutes remaining to seal the deal.

Grosenick stopped all 16 shots he faced in his first start since being named to the All-Star team. This was his first shutout of the season and 14th of his career. It was also his 100th AHL win.

Player of the Week: Baptiste had himself one of the best weeks of his season. He scored three of the eight Admirals goals, including the game-winner in their lone victory of the week. His big week has him tied with Matt Donovan for the second-most goals on the team with 10.

The Week Ahead: Friday, Jan. 25 vs Wild; Saturday, Jan. 26 vs Moose

Rampage Still Can’t Figure Out How to Win on the Road

The San Antonio Rampage (21-20-1-0) continue to be unbeatable on home ice, but they were unable to make up any ground on fifth place because they cannot figure out how to win consistently on the road. They are 17-6-0-0 at home while they are just 14-4-1-0 in away games.

The Rampage were both figuratively and literally shorthanded versus the IceHogs on Tuesday night. They were down two of their top point producers with Jordan Kyrou and Jordan Nolan recently recalled to the NHL and, due to a handful of nagging injuries, they were only able to dress 17 skaters. Somehow, they were able to overcome the adversity and bring home a 2-1 victory.

The IceHogs took a 1-0 lead into the second period when new leading scorer Mitch Reinke evened things up by firing a wrist shot from the slot for his fifth goal of the season. His 24 points lead all active players on the Rampage roster as well as all AHL rookie defensemen. The game remained tied until Bobby MacIntyre scored the game-winner with just over three minutes remaining in regulation. Connor Bleackey forced Luke Johnson into turning the puck over in the corner where Trevor Smith fed the puck to MacIntyre in the slot for the tally.

The Rampage have now won 11 straight games at home and 15 of their last 16. Their 17 home victories are tops in the AHL. Unfortunately for the Rampage, they had to leave the comforts up home and head north for a two-game series at the Moose over the weekend. With the team down a goal early in the second period, Austin Poganski scored the Rampage’s lone goal of the night with a chip shot from the slot.

The went on to score the next three goals to bring home a 4-1 win. The Rampage got 37 shots on goal, but were only able to score the lone goal. The team struggled again the following night in a 4-2 loss in the rematch with the Moose. The Rampage found themselves down 4-0 late in the second period. They gave up two power play goals, one in each period, after their penalty kill unit gave up just two goals in the previous 12 games combined.

The Rampage brook through with a power-play tally of their own at the 18-minute mark of the second period. Poganski got his stick on a Chris Butler shot from the point to redirect it into the Rampage net.

LaLeggia cut the lead to two with just 50 seconds left, but it was not enough to mount a comeback.

Player of the Week: With all the recent promotions to St. Louis, the Rampage needed someone to step up and fill the offensive void. Poganski did his best by factoring in three of the four goals the team scored last week. With Kyrou and Nolan up in the NHL, Poganski now leads all forwards in scoring with 18 points.

The Week Ahead: Friday, Jan. 25 vs Gulls; Saturday, Jan. 26 vs Heat

IceHogs Running Out of Time to Find Offense

Last season, the IceHogs (17-19-3-5) used a late-season surge to grab the fourth and final playoff before advancing all the way to the Western Conference Finals. Their lack of offense has them hanging on for dear life of seventh place and time is starting to run out of time to begin another one of those charges.

The team made some roster news before they began their three-game week. On Sunday, defenseman Brandon Davidson was reassigned to Rockford by the Blackhawks. He picked up an assist in 10 games with the Blackhawks before having knee surgery. Davidson is a veteran of 162 NHL games and has played in 150 AHL contests.

The team also parted ways with Neil Manning on Tuesday. The 27-year-old defenseman split time between the IceHogs and the Indy Fuel in the ECHL. Both sides agreed to terminate Manning’s Standard Player Contract (SPC) as he looks towards the next chapter of his career, possibly in Europe.

The IceHogs offense had been playing well of late with 12 goals in their last three games. Unfortunately, the struggles returned during Tuesday night’s 2-1 loss at the Rampage. Victor Ejdsell showed why the Blackhawks are high on him when he opened the scoring midway through the first period by firing home a wrist shot from the right circle. William Pelletier, who missed the previous three games with an injury, picked up the secondary assist on the play.

The Rampage eventually tied the game in the second period and took their first and only lead with just over three minutes remaining in regulation. Anton Forsberg made 24 saves in the losing effort as the IceHogs earned a single point in their three-game trek through Texas.

The IceHogs made a brief stop at home for a meeting with the Griffins on Friday night. They had held an eight-game home winning streak over Grand Rapids, but that came to an end in a disappointing 3-1 loss. The IceHogs struck first late in the first period as Pelletier scored off the rebound from an Ejdsell shot. The lead lasted only two minutes into the second period when goaltender Kevin Lankinen gave up a goal on a fluttering shot from the blue line.

The Griffins broke the tie midway through the third period before adding an empty-net goal in the final minute to secure the victory. Interim head coach Derek King vented his frustration after watching his team lose another close game in which they could not score more than one goal.

“We’ve got three quarters of the team working hard and the other quarter is not,” an unhappy King said Friday night. “We can’t win hockey games – I’ve said this to you guys 100 times already – we can’t win hockey games with three quarters of the team. We need the whole team.”

King made some changes on Saturday night for their game at the Wolves by benching forwards Nick Moutrey and Henrik Samuelsson in favor of seven defensemen. The team responded with a big 3-2 overtime win.

Ejdsell continued his nice week by opening the scoring early in the second period by tapping home a centering pass from Lucas Carlsson. About two minutes later, All-Star defenseman Andrew Campbell found himself all alone at the top of the left circle where he roofed a shot home for his third goal of the season.

Early in the third period, Dennis Gilbert and Luke Johnson took minor penalties 19 seconds apart and the IceHogs saw their lead evaporate as the Wolves scored a goal on each penalty to tie the game. It took nearly 17 minutes for the IceHogs to get their first shot on goal in the final period. Andreas Martinsen had a look at a wide-open cage with 10 seconds left in regulation, but he whiffed on the shot, sending the game to overtime.

Graham Knott ended the game 1:29 into the extra time by finishing off a great passing play with Darren Raddysh and Anthony Louis. With his assist in regulation, Knott registered his first professional multi-point game. Forsberg made 36 saves to bring home the two points.

Player of the Week: There were many over the summer who thought Ejdsell was not only going to make the Blackhawks out of training camp, but play on the top-six. That scenario never came close to fruition as Ejdsell has struggled during his first season in North America and has dealt with two separate injuries. He appears to be healthy and is starting to produce of late. He had two goals and an assist last week and has points in four straight game. The IceHogs could surely use a prolonged hot streak from him considering they have the lowest scoring offense in the AHL.

Victor Ejdsell
Victor Ejdsell is starting to heat up for the IceHogs. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

The Week Ahead: Friday, Jan. 25 vs Moose; Saturday, Jan. 26 vs Wild

Moose’s Hot Streak Have Them Entering the Fray

Don’t look now, but the Moose (19-18-2-1) are the hottest team in the Central Division right now. They won all four of their games last week and have points in seven straight games. They have failed to earn a point just one time in their 11 games since Dec. 30. They are still in eighth place in the Central Division, but have moved to within one point of passing the struggling IceHogs.

The Moose, in the midst of a six-game homestand, extended their point streak to four straight games with a 3-2 overtime win over the Admirals on Monday night. Goaltender Eric Comrie needed to be sharp early and he was able to keep the game scoreless heading into the second period.

The Admirals opened the scoring with a wraparound goal about seven minutes into the second period. Seth Griffith’s big night started with the primary assist on Logan Shaw’s game-tying power play goal about nine minutes later. Unfortunately, the visitors regained their lead with a power-play tally of their own in the final minute of the second period.

The Moose knotted up the score about nine minutes into the third period when defenseman Jimmy Oligny’s stretch pass sent Jansen Harkins in behind the defense and he beat Grosenick to the far post for his third goal in as many games. The score remained tied until the final minute of overtime when Griffith took advantage of a defender without a stick to tuck home the game-winner. Comrie finished with 34 saves in the victory.

Before Wednesday’s rematch with the Admirals, the Winnipeg Jets recalled defenseman Cameron Schilling. This is the 30-year-old defender’s second stint with the Jets this season, having appeared in four games earlier in the season.

Later that night, the Moose doubled up Milwaukee 4-2 to extend their point streak to five games. Less than two minutes after the Admirals opened the scoring with a power-play goal, Kristian Reichel’s scored from up close to even things up. Logan Stanley gave the Moose a 2-1 lead just over a minute later with a one-timer from the point.

Shaw scored his second power-play goal of the series 26 seconds into the middle frame to increase the lead to 3-1. Michael Spacek finished off a nice passing play with J.C. Lipon and Marko Dano to finish off the scoring for the Moose, 8:30 into third period. The Admirals added a second goal late in the game, but Comrie’s 31-save performance was too much to overcome.

On Thursday, the Moose signed forward Chris Collins to a PTO. The 26-year-old currently leads the ECHL with 48 points in 37 games. The following day, Shaw learned that he will be taking Mason Appleton’s place at the AHL All-Star Classic. He leads the Moose in both goals and power play goals.

On Saturday night, the Moose welcomed in the Rampage for a weekend series between two teams on a roll of late. Shaw got the home crowd on their feet by opening the scoring just 10 seconds into the game, the fastest opening goal in franchise history. The Moose held onto their 1-0 lead until the opening minutes of the second period when the Rampage evened things up.

Hunter Fejes scored his first goal with the Moose about eight minutes into the second period after Reichel sent him off on a breakaway. Brent Pedersen cashed in on his own rebound for an insurance goal with three minutes left in regulation before Lipon’s empty-netter in the final minute of the game.

Before Sunday’s rematch, the Jets announced that they reassigned defensemen Sami Niku and Schilling to the Moose. The Moose struck first again against the Rampage as the newly-signed Collins deflected a shot into the San Antonio net for his first AHL goal about five and a half minutes into the game. Stanley doubled the lead with power-play goal nine minutes later.

Schilling gave the Moose a 3-0 lead midway through the second period as he followed up Dano’s shot off the post for his second of the season. A minute later, Tucker Poolman fired a wrist shot from the point that found the back of the net to make it 4-0. The Rampage scored late in the second period and got another goal in the final minute of the game, but Comrie remained a tough nut to crack.

Player of the Week: For once, the Moose did not have an obvious choice for this honor. Shaw scored three goals, Griffith had seven points but if Comrie’s performance is good enough to be named the CCM/AHL Player of the Week then it’s good enough to get the same recognition here. He won all four starts in made last week allowing seven goals on 138 shots. In fact, he started all six games of their recent homestand going 5-0-0-1 with a 1.95 GAA and .943 save percentage.

Eric Comrie Winnipeg Jets
Eric Comrie has the Moose trending upwards. (Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports)

The Week Ahead: Wednesday, Jan. 23 @ Griffins; Friday, Jan. 25 @ IceHogs; Saturday, Jan. 26 @ Admirals

The AHL will have a bit of a shorter week as they head into the All-Star break beginning on Sunday. The race for the four playoff spots in the Central Division will be even more intense in the second half of the season.