The Manitoba Moose were singing “there’s no place like home” all the way through the month. They were red hot during the April portion of a mega 17-game homestand at Bell MTS Iceplex, posting a 7-1-1 record.
The Moose had to wait until April 7 for their first game of the month, when they welcomed the Belleville Senators for a four game series.
Related: Manitoba Moose March 2021 in Review
The Moose had lost their final three games in March and the Senators extended that streak to four in the first game, skating to a 3-2 win despite being outshot 17-1 in the third and 37-16 overall.
Starting a Streak
The next night, both teams decided that defence be damned as they combined for 74 shots 13 goals in a back-and-forth barn-burner.
The Moose took 49 of those 74 shots and scored eight of those 13 goals, capturing an 8-5 victory. The game-winner came off the stick of Nicholas Jones 6:08 into the third period while the Moose were shorthanded.
Six players had multi-point nights: Marko Dano (one goal, two assists,) Skyler McKenzie (two goals,) Kristian Reichel (one goal, one assist,) Cole Perfetti (two assists,) Cole Maier (two assists) and Jonathan Kovacevic (two assists.)
In the third game of the series, the teams played to a 2-2 tie at the end of regulation. In the extra frame, Perfetti took a loose puck in the offensive zone and hit leading scorer Jeff Mallott with a beautiful centring pass for the latter to whack in for the overtime game-winner.
The Moose captured their third-straight win two days later, rolling to a 5-1 victory. Perfetti was once again a star, recording two goals and an assist for his third-straight multi-point game.
Nathan Todd had three assists as well, including one he recorded by executing a jaw-dropping between-the-legs deke to get around his man and put a shot on goal that generated a rebound for CJ Suess to bang home.
Handling the Heat
After 10 days off, the Moose welcomed the Stockton Heat to town for a five-game series. The first game took place on April 22, at the exact same time the Jets were facing the Toronto Maple Leafs at Bell MTS Place. It was the first time in franchise history the Jets and Moose played in Winnipeg on the same day.
The Jets fell 5-3 at the downtown rink. However, the Moose — bolstered by the addition of Joona Luoto, Nelson Nogier, and Dominic Toninato from the taxi-squad — rolled to a 5-2 win as Perfetti extended his point streak to four games and the winning streak to four games.
Four different players had two points — including Dylan Samberg, who recorded the first multi-point night of his professional career — while Nathan Todd piled up three assists.
Comrie Sets Franchise Wins Record
In an afternoon rematch on April 24, Eric Comrie set a franchise record by posting his 85th win in a Moose uniform, surpassing Cory Schneider. It came in a 3-0 win in which he didn’t have to work too hard as the d-men in front of him were stingy and only allowed 13 shots all game.
Perfetti extended his point streak with the game’s opening goal and tallied assists on both of Dominic Toninato’s goals thereafter for a three-point afternoon.
“It means a lot, it’s an organization that’s been special to me since day one,” Comrie said of reaching the milestone. “It’s been an honour to be drafted here and play for the Moose… just being part of the organization and being able to set a franchise record is very special to myself.
“It’s been special, it’s been a lot of special times,” the goaltender in his third stint with the organization continued. “Hopefully there’s some more memories down the road. It’s been a lot of fun playing here and I just want to continue.”
Stockton Series Continues with Close Contests
In the third game of the series, Perfetti extended his point streak once again with a goal as the teams played to a 2-2 tie after regulation. After a scoreless overtime, the Heat’s Matthew Phillips scored the shootout game-winner to halt the Moose winning streak.
The Moose got back into the win column the following day, though, capturing a 3-1 victory thanks to goals from Gustafson, Toninato, and Jonathan Kovacevic.
In the final game of the month — the last of the 17-game homestand that started all the way back on March 8 — the roster and lineup saw a huge shift due to Taxi Squad call ups. A couple of local players in Brett Davis and Noah King made their Moose debuts.
David Gustafsson made sure the long homestand finished in style. With the game tied 1-1 in overtime, he took the puck at the blue line, powered around a defender by the boards, cut to the front of the net, and puck the puck top shelf.
“Not one game we’ve been outworked,” head coach Pascal Vincent said after the final game of the month. “We’ve been more successful offensively, but the work ethic has been there the whole time.”
Top Prospect Report
Mikhail Berdin (G)
Berdin made five starts, posting a 4-1-0 record while getting pulled once. Mid month, he was briefly called up to the Jets’ Taxi Squad.
Through 24 starts this season, the flashy Russian holds a 11-10-2 record, a 2.67 GAA, and a .902 SV%.
Declan Chisholm (D)
The rookie defenseman had a strong April playing a variety of partners such Leon Gawanke, and toward the end of the month, Ville Heinola.
In eight games, he recorded four assists, did not take a penalty, and was a plus or even in every game but one.
Leon Gawanke (D)
The second-year pro played in five games and was held pointless.
David Gustafsson (F)
A promising centre and someone the Jets will want to take a long look at next season, Gustafsson showcased good instincts and an offensive flair.
He didn’t play until the Stockton series as he was on the Taxi Squad before that, but in five games, he recorded three goals and an assist.
Ville Heinola (D)
After sitting on the Taxi Squad for the majority of the month (he did get into one NHL game, on April 15 against the Maple Leafs) Heinola returned to the Moose for their final three games against the Heat. He recorded one assist.
Joona Luoto (F)
Luoto played all five games of the Stockton series, recording one assist. He was on the Taxi Squad prior to that.
Nelson Nogier (D)
After spending nearly the entire season on the Taxi Squad but not playing at all, Nogier was finally given the chance to get some games in during the Stockton series.
The 24-year old defenseman had one assist in five games after his long layoff.
Cole Perfetti (F)
The Jets’ top prospect was red-hot, piling up four goals and nine assists for 13 points and putting together a seven-game point streak. He is second on the team in points with 23.
Kristian Reichel (F)
Reichel played in all nine games, recording two goals and five assists for seven points.
Dylan Samberg (D)
Samberg played all five games of the Stockton series, recording two assists,
What’s Next? No Calder Cup Playoffs, Unfortunately
The Moose will depart on a seven-game road trip that will wrap up the season. They’ll face the Toronto Marlies three times between May 6 and May 9 before heading to Belleville for a four-game series between May 11 and May 16.
Sadly, those seven games will be all as the AHL recently confirmed there will be no Calder Cup Playoffs this season.
The AHL gave each of the five divisions the options to “independently determine its own postseason format.” Only the Pacific Division will hold a tournament to crown a divisional champion.
While the Moose have no playoff berth to strive for, it has been important for prospects to play and develop, said head coach Pascal Vincent.
“At the end of the day, we’re here to develop and develop positive habits and good habits understanding what the standards are of this organization — the Jets and the Moose — the culture we want to install in those guys, and understanding that next year when you’re going to come back, we expect an improvement,” he said.
While he praised his team for working hard and showing a lot of pride, he also admitted that not having a Calder Cup to push for is disappointing.
“But like I said, not having playoffs, it takes away a lot,” he continued. “The best way to say it is it’s in our DNA. We want those playoffs. We want to play for the Cup. When you start a hockey game, you want to win that game. That’s why we come to the rink. We’re in this business to win games. It’s not there so we’ll adjust mentally, but it’s not great.”
Declan Schroeder is a 27-year-old communications specialist and freelance journalist in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He holds a diploma in Creative Communications with a major in journalism from Red River College and a bachelors in Rhetoric and Communications from the University of Winnipeg.
Deeply rooted in the city’s hockey culture, the original Jets skipped town when he was two and the 2.0 version came onto the scene when he was 17.