Moose: Scouting the Enemy

(Photo Credit: Jonathan Kozub)

If these last two games for the Milwaukee Admirals are anything to go by: expect the unexpected. They will be closing out a three-game homestand tonight against the Manitoba Moose who currently lead the Central Division, are on a five-game winning streak, and only have a single loss from their last ten-games. So, hey, let the good times roll!

The Moose are off to an absolute flying start. They have a record of 13-5-1-1 (28 points, 0.700 points percentage) which puts them atop the Central Division and only behind the Tucson Roadrunners (0.767) for the best record in the Western Conference. There is so much to be impressed with the Moose so far this season. And it all starts with very balanced play.

There is only a single team to have already played 20 games or more in the Western Conference – and it’s Manitoba. Of the 20 games that they have already competed in a staggering 12 games have been played on the road. That includes last night where they fought the Grand Rapids Griffins at the Van Andel Arena to win 3-1. The Moose are now sitting on a road record of 8-4-0-0 (16 points, 0.667 points percentage). That is the top mark in the Western Conference and they are in a shout for being one of the best road teams in the entire league. They have scored 39 goals and conceded 28 goals out on the road while also registering the third best road penalty kill in the Western Conference (88.9%) and the second best road power-play in the Central Division (18.4%).

Leading the charge for the Moose this season as been the super impressive 20-year old center, Jack Roslovic. This is his sophomore season as a professional hockey player. Roslovic had 48 points (13 goals, 35 assists) in 65 games with the Moose last season and did manage to make his NHL debut with the Winnipeg Jets along the way. This season he already has 21 points (10 goals, 11 assists) in 20 games. That ranks him third in the AHL in points and he only trails three others for the league lead in goal scoring.

Roslovic is followed in team scoring for the Moose by a familiar name in Michael Sgarbossa. It feels like it has been a bumpy road since he left the Lake Erie Monsters. His 2015-16 season as a member of the San Diego Gulls was terrific but it was followed in 2016-17 by playing for four different teams with two different organizations. He did log 38 games in the NHL last season. But this new change of scenery and a consistent platform to play with the Moose has seemed to work a treat. Sgarbossa has produced 19 points (8 goals, 11 assists) in 20 games.

In net the Moose are content with a battery split between Eric Comrie and Michael Hutchinson. Comrie, the younger of the two at 22-years old, has had the majority of starts in net with 12 games played compared to Hutchinson (8). Though, it has been Hutchinson with the numbers sparkling ever so more: 6-1-1-0 record, 2.13 goals against average, and 0.939 save percentage – including stopping 37/38 last night on the road in a win over the Griffins.

It might be safe to assume then that Comrie gets the nod tonight in Milwaukee seeing as Hutchinson worked last night in Grand Rapids. If so, it might be worth noting that Comrie has a record of 3-3-1-1 against the Admirals with a 4.04 goals against average and 0.874 save percentage. …but those are just numbers and history, so, who knows. No matter, this season he has a record of 7-4-0-1 this season with a 2.50 goals against average and 0.921 save percentage.

What the Admirals need to do in order to really slow this Moose stampede from descending upon Milwaukee tonight really becomes an internal focus. The last two wins for the Admirals on home ice have featured some gritty work by Trevor Smith, Bobby Butler, and Harry Zolnierczyk elevating the group while Anders Lindbäck keeps everything in striking distance. I would expect more of the same from all of those names but it will be crucial for the depth to start shining for the Admirals. With a new opponent standing in front of them in the form of the Moose – it is less about what they do and more about the Admirals refining and grinding tonight. If the Admirals can make this a simple game and win puck battles? It shouldn’t matter who the Moose are, what their record is, or what run of form they’ve been on. The Admirals can win this game if the entire group shows up and plays a full sixty minute game.

What are your expectations for tonight’s game? Are you surprised at all by the start to the season by the Manitoba Moose? With a massive chunk of December being spent on the road how important is it for the Milwaukee Admirals to sweep this three-game homestand to set the right tone?

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