Moose get rolling against WildBy: Daniel Fink | Published: October 14th 2016
Opening night is always a special game. The dawn of a new season is fresh with possibilities and excitement for the season ahead. For the Manitoba Moose, there’s reason for optimism about the next 76 games.
Their first season back in Winnipeg was a learning process. A young team with an exciting, but inexperienced group of first year pros built on their game throughout the season and finished with a 26-41-5-6 record. Despite the seventh place finish in the Central Division, there were many things to like about the 2015-16 season. Brenden Kichton led the way with 41 points from the back-end. Chase De Leo tied for the team lead with 19 goals and finished one point behind Kichton in an impressive rookie season. Eric Comrie showed he was ready to carry the load in his first season and was named an all-star. Now one of the youngest teams in the AHL in 2015-16 is ready to take the next step.
Up front, youthful forwards like De Leo, Nic Petan, Scott Kosmachuk and JC Lipon are another year into their careers. All four now have NHL games under their belts. They are joined by additional young talent including Marko Dano and Andrew Copp. The Moose also gained experienced players with Anthony Peluso (322 pro games), Quinton Howden (241 pro games) and Scott Glennie (230 AHL games) join Patrice Cormier as seasoned members of the lineup.
Size won’t be an issue for the Moose on the blue-line. The Manitoba defence averages around 6’2 and 200 lbs. The youngest member of the group, Nelson Nogier, comes in at 6’3, 193 lbs. Jake Baker is the largest presence at 6’5, 223 lbs. Despite Josh Morrissey earning an opening day spot with the Winnipeg Jets, the Moose bolstered their back-end leading up to the season. Brian Strait and Kevin Czuczman join familiar names like Kichton, Julian Melchiori and Peter Stoykewych while recent tryout signing Jordan Hill brings valuable experience.
The goaltending position was a source of public debate throughout the Winnipeg Jets pre-season. Now the dust has settled and veteran Ondrej Pavelec joins Comrie between the pipes with the Moose. Pavelec certainly adds experience with nearly 400 NHL appearances and his name on a Calder Cup (Chicago-2008). Comrie, as previously mentioned, had a solid rookie season. He was a workhorse for the Moose, checking in as the goaltender of record for 32 of 34 games from Nov. 22 to Feb. 13 last season. There’s no doubt Manitoba has a solid option between the pipes every night.
Their foe tonight looks forward to a fresh start this season. The Iowa Wild finished eighth in the Central Division, two points behind the Moose.
Forward Zack Mitchell led Iowa in scoring last season with 42 points (22G, 20A) and is back for his third season with the Wild. Grayson Downing hopes to improve on an impressive rookie season that saw him rack up 40 points (19G, 21A) in 56 games. They’re joined by 2014 Minnesota Wild first round pick Alex Tuch.
The goaltending landscape in Iowa changed with Leland Irving departing over the off-season. That hole seems to be filled as Alex Stalock signed on with the Minnesota Wild over the off-season and made his way to Iowa.
Two teams enter tonight’s season opener with eyes on improvement. While it is just one game of 76, the Moose would certainly enjoy taking a strong first step out of the gate.
Don’t miss any of the action tonight. Tune in to the game at moosehockey.com/listenlive starting at 6:45 p.m. CT.