The long and winding (but important) roadBy: CK Nakhwal | Published: November 30th 2015
If it’s Monday, this must be Milwaukee.
The Moose have been on the road since last Tuesday, which makes today day seven of 13 on this their second-longest road trip of the season.
But somehow, it seems like the real trip is about to begin.
Sure, the Moose played two hard-fought games against a very good Lake Erie team in Cleveland last week (4-2 and 4-1 losses), but now they are about to dive into a stretch of four games in six nights in three cities.
And it’s not just the volume of games, or the travel, but the quality of the opponents. There’s no drop off from the standard set by Lake Erie.
First up, tomorrow night, is Milwaukee. All the Admirals have done is win 11 of their last 12 (including a franchise-record 10 game win streak) to move into first in the Central Division.
Wednesday night it’s the Chicago Wolves who’ve only won once in their last seven games, but still sit in a playoff spot with a 9-6-1-1 (.588) mark.
Thursday, it’s a flight to Toronto for a pair of weekend games against the Marlies who lead the North Division with a slick 15-5-1 (.739) record.
Like the Milwaukee-Chicago games, the Toronto tilts will be played back-to-back with the final game of the stop in T.O. to be played at Air Canada Centre on Sunday, Dec. 6.
It’s a hard road, and an important one for a young Moose team struggling to score goals but determined to build on its 4-11-1-1 start.
As the week begins Manitoba is ten points behind Chicago for the final playoff spot in the Central.
With the season nearing the quarter mark, the Moose know they’ve got to start putting results together to be part of the playoff conversation and it’s weeks like this one that can make a difference.
Veteran defenceman Andrew MacWilliam is day-to-day with an upper-body injury. D-man Peter Stoykewych and winger Jimmy Lodge are practicing in none-contact jerseys but other than that the team is healthy and nearly fully-stocked (Connor Hellebuyck and Joel Armia are with the Jets).
Head Coach Keith McCambridge has made it clear he can’t pick development over winning or vice versa. He’s said they’re both top priorities, so there’s plenty of teaching going on both at the team and individual levels. And there’s also a push to find ways to win that’s as firm as ever.
With 11 first-year pros, and 18 of the 27 on the roster with three years or less as professionals, sending the right message is critical and that’s being done.
And it appears to be getting through, the players are upbeat and determined to turn their efforts into points in the standings.
And it’s that last point that’s critical.
There’s no guarantee wins will follow, or how many of these players will play in the NHL down the road, but there’s a definite sense the players are being supported in their push to reach the next level and that they know it.
Let the next phase of the journey begin.
The Moose play the Admirals in Milwaukee Tuesday, December 1st at 7pm, tune in to TSN 1290 for complete coverage starting with the pre-game show at 6:45pm
Mitch Peacock - MooseHockey.com