The Manitoba Moose played seven straight road games to wrap up the 2021 AHL season. Playing for personal pride and to improve their status in the Jets’ organization, they posted a 3-2-1-1 record in those seven games, and finished the truncated campaign second place in the Canadian Division at 18-13-3-2.
Three Matches with the Marlies
In their first road game after a mega 17-game homestand at the Bell MTS Iceplex, the Moose took on the Toronto Marlies. Frederik Andersen started for the home team on a conditioning assignment.
Related: Manitoba Moose April 2021 in Review
The Moose built a 3-1 lead by the late in the late-second, scoring twice on Andersen and once on Joseph Woll. However, they saw that lead evaporate in just 33 seconds due to back-to-back puck-handling blunders by overzealous goaltender Mikhail Berdin. After the second misadventure behind the net, he got the hook and was replaced by Cole Kehler.
The Moose ended up capturing a 5-3 victory thanks to a late-second period goal by Nelson Nogier, a third-period insurance marker by Cole Maier, and a huge kill of a five-on-three (at one point it was six-on-three) in the dying minutes.
In the second game of the series, both team’s offences took centre stage in a back-and-forth game that ended up knotted up 4-4 after regulation. Overtime solved nothing, and in the fourth round of the shootout, David Gustafsson potted a dirty goal to extend the Moose’s point streak to 10 games.
The Moose completed the sweep the next afternoon, capturing a 4-3 victory and further extending the point streak. Leading scorer Nathan Todd put up a goal and two assists while David Gustafsson scored the eventual game-winner and added an assist.
Close Battles in Belleville
The Moose then traveled to Belleville to play four games against the Senators to wrap up the season. They pushed the first two games to extra time — extending their point streak to an AHL-season-high 13 games in the process — but came up short in both: the first one 4-3 in a shootout and the second one 3-2 in overtime. Nathan Todd once again drove the offensive bus, recording a goal and three assists in the two games.
Prior to the first game of the series, whiz-kid Cole Perfetti departed the team, as it was announced he would be joining Canada’s national team for the 2021 IIHF World Championships in Latvia.
Point Streak Snapped
In the third game of the series, the point streak was finally snapped as the Senators once again won by one goal but this time in regulation. A Parker Kelly marker with 4:05 left in the third proved to be the dagger, as the Moose couldn’t find a late equalizer and fell 3-2. David Gustafsson and Nathan Todd scored for the Moose.
Season Comes to an End with a Thud
The final game of the season, a Sunday afternoon tilt, was anticlimactic. The Moose got whacked 6-1, with Senators’ rookie Roby Jarventie leading the way with three points. Cole Maier scored the only goal for the Moose.
Top Prospect Report
Mikhail Berdin (G)
Berdin faded a bit down the stretch, allowing three-plus goals in all six of his May starts. That’s perhaps understandable given he made 30 of the team’s 36 starts overall.
The flashy Russian goalie finished the season with a 13-11-4 record, 2.89 GAA, and .897 SV%.
Leon Gawanke (D)
Gawanke played in three games, recording one assist, before departing for Latvia to play with Germany in the 2021 IIHF World Championships.
The second-year pro wrapped up his season with one goal and six assists in 26 games, but a fairly ugly minus-13 rating.
David Gustafsson (F)
The promising young centre continued to put his speed and skill on display, recording two goals and three assists to boost his season totals to seven goals and 12 assists for 19 points in 22 games.
He’s a player who’s going to get a long look for full-time work with the Jets next season.
Nelson Nogier (D)
Nogier played in all seven games, recording a goal and an assist.
The d-man played just 12 games all season — and none before late April — as he spent extended periods on the Jets’ taxi squad but didn’t get to suit up for any NHL contests.
Cole Perfetti (F)
Perfetti recorded one goal and two assists in three games before departing for Latvia to play for Canada in the 2021 IIHF World Championships.
He finished his very promising rookie season second on the team in scoring with nine goals and 17 assists for 26 points in 32 games.
Kristian Reichel (F)
Reichel played in six games this month, recording a goal and an assist. Overall, he registered six goals and six assists for 12 points in 29 games.
He’ll be back with the organization next season on the second and final year of his deal.
Dylan Samberg (D)
Samberg’s final seven games were very productive as he logged big minutes and recorded the first four points of his professional career on a four-game point streak (one goal, three assists.) Overall, he played in 32 of the Moose’s 36 games.
“I feel like I gained a lot more confidence throughout the year as it went along… starting to make more plays, especially with gap control — the coaches helped me a lot with that as well — and I feel this was a good development year,” Samberg said at an end-of-season media availability.
Vincent Reflects on Odd Campaign
It was a strange season for certain, from not starting until mid-February, to roster turnover due to players going between the Moose and Jets’ taxi-squad, to playing only Canadian opponents, to playing out of the Bell MTS IcePlex, to playing knowing their won’t be any playoffs.
Despite all that, head coach Pascal Vincent reflected on the three-month stretch as a positive experience. The bench boss held (virtual) court for nearly 40 minutes Monday, providing a ton of insight into the season and the players under his watch.
On the season like no other: “It’s one of the years I will remember the most because of the adversity we faced but also because the results that we’ve had… it was an interesting season, one I will remember for the rest of my life.”
“It went by so fast and the feeling was — the best way to put it was — the players were sad that it was over. We had such an amazing group… they really enjoyed being together, they really enjoyed going through the adversity together, the good times and the harder times. It went by really fast and we had a lot of fun.”
On team chemistry: “Our guys just competed hard like we were playing for a playoff spot. They had real strong team chemistry and found a way to get together and get on a mission together and to be the best team that we can possibly can be even knowing that there’s no playoffs.”
“It was a bunch of guys that wanted to work hard for themselves and for the guy sitting next to them.”
On lessons he learned this season and apply to seasons to come: “leadership, not having a captain was a bit scary because we didn’t know who would take the lead. We found out that the group itself (took the lead.) The best way to describe it is… the power of the group. We had 20 players, so 40 arms 40 legs, but we really had one heart.
“That team was pushing together and they had the same desire to be the best they could be. Leadership is important, we all know that, but the team leadership we had this year was beyond being a captain.”
“We had guys we that didn’t know if they could play, but given an opportunity, they took advantage of them. So being patient with players, even more so nowadays.”
On adapting and learning as a coach: “I love to study… this year, I saw it as an opportunity to, I don’t want to say re-invent myself, but it was a different challenge.
“It gave me an chance to work differently with the coaching staff and give a little bit more and give up on some of the things I used to do in the past. For example, our meetings were a little bit different… what I’ve learned the most is: I’m somebody that is quite detailed and I work on that quite a bit. This year, I was detailed about choosing which details would be important, if it makes sense.”
“(Meetings) had to be shorter… I needed to understand what the next meeting’s going to look like but the Reader’s Digest version: it’s quick, it’s to the point, and the guys understand it because we don’t have time — that much time — to explain it or to teach it. It needed to be simplified the best we could… I got better at finding what’s the most important today for the players and what needs to be shown.”
Jets Fans Have Plenty of Prospects to Be Excited About
At the end of the day, the Jets’ prospects got to play and develop, and that’s the most important thing. Many — Declan Chisholm, Gustafsson, Jonathan Kovacevic, Perfetti, Todd, Samberg, and others — showed promise.
They, along with everyone else, will hope next season is closer to business-as-usual. And of course, every player will hope to get a chance to show they’re worthy of an NHL job in the fall.
Declan Schroeder is a 26-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.