Season Highlights Part 3: Big Game, Bigger PictureBy: Mitch Peacock | Published: June 22nd 2018
The Manitoba Moose enjoyed some magical times in the 2017-18 season.
There were home win streaks, and long stretches downtown without an outright loss. The Moose also enjoyed lengthy spells on the road without tasting defeat in regulation time.
Oh, and let’s not forget about an extended run atop the American Hockey League’s overall standings, and that’s just the regular season.
Yes, there was a return to the playoffs for the first time since reaching the Calder Cup Final in 2014, and an unforgettable five-game series win over the defending AHL champion Grand Rapids Griffins.
While you can make a case for several points when the Moose were at their very best, there’s one stat that catches the eye in a special way.
A streak so impressive, no other American League team topped it.
It’s easy to forget with the passage of time, but after sweeping the Marlies to climb into top spot in the overall standings in mid-December, the Moose had played just twelve of their first 29 games on home ice.
Manitoba started its season in Grand Rapids, however that was just the first of a series of modest road trips on either side of that six game spell in California.
There were a few stops at home sprinkled in along the way, but there were plenty of home games to play to catch-up by the time the third week of December rolled around.
With a 13-4-0-0 mark on their travels, the Winnipeg Jets’ AHL club was determined to keep a good thing going as it returned to Bell MTS Place.
By “good thing”, I mean really good. As in a freshly earned, brand-spanking-new, club record 14 straight without a loss in regulation time thanks to running the table on a three-game visit to Ontario.
Home for four straight, and eight of twelve, the Moose got busy at Bell MTS Place with a two-game set against the San Antonio Rampage.
Just days after sweeping the Marlies to go into first overall, Manitoba wasn’t letting up and the Rampage were on the wrong end of a lopsided affair.
After San Antonio opened the scoring early in the first period, the Moose scored five straight goals en route to a 7-2 victory.
Nic Petan and Jack Roslovic scored three points apiece and linemate Mason Appleton collected a couple.
15 consecutive games without a regulation loss, or 14-0-0-1, since falling in San Jose Nov. 12.
MAKING THEIR MARK
They didn’t know it at the time, but the re-match with San Antonio, the night after hitting 15 straight, would go down as the final game of that historic hot streak.
Jack Roslovic, who impressed the season before as a rookie pro, had become a candidate to lead the AHL in scoring as a sophomore. In so doing, he also became a logical candidate for promotion to the Jets.
With injury issues arriving up top, Dec. 22 at home to the Rampage would be Roslovic’s last game as a regular member of the Moose. That change kicked off a period of roster flux as the big club dealt with a series of players being sidelined.
Times were about to change for Manitoba, but on that night just before Christmas it was all about “the streak”.
Brendan Lemieux got the party started with a first period power play goal, and Mason Appleton doubled the advantage before the frame was done.
The Rampage were determined to put up a fight, and San Antonio captain Chris Butler made it a one-goal game with a power play tally of his own in the second stanza.
In the third period, Michael Hutchinson, who also would miss much of the second half of the season on re-call, stood tall in the Moose net and Spencer Martin was unbeatable for the guests keeping the crowd on the edge of its’ seat until the final minute.
Mason Appleton’s second goal of the game, this one into an empty net, sealed a 3-1 win for Manitoba and extended the team’s club record run of success to 16 without losing inside 60 minutes.
Looking back now, it was not only a club record, but also tied for the longest point streak in the entire American Hockey League in the 2017-18 season.
No other team in the Western Conference reached 16 without a regulation time loss. The eventual Calder Cup champion Toronto Marlies and their North Division rivals, the Utica Comets, also put up 16 game streaks, but no team made to a 17th consecutive.
On the other side of the holiday break, in their first game back, and hours after seeing Roslovic join the Jets, the Moose lost 3-2 to the San Jose Barracuda, ending an unmatched chapter in club history.
For all of the team’s road success last season, it has to be said the Moose were pretty slick at home for a time in 2017-18 too.
After all, Manitoba hit 16 without defeat overall the same night it reached 13 consecutive starts at home without coming up empty-handed (10-0-1-2).
In this case, the game in focus was in the spotlight for where it fit in the bigger picture than for the game itself.
A well-played game that took the Moose to their high-point of their season in terms of streaks, and a jumping off point for a time of roster change that forced the club to gain a new understanding of itself.
Photo Credit: Jonathan Kozub
Cameron Schilling broke down the importance of the game following the win.