Manitoba Moose 2.0 lose franchise debut in Toronto

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After spending a couple of years in St. John’s, Newfoundland, the baby Jets have found their way home. Well, sort of; they’ve yet to play their first game back in Winnipeg, but the new Manitoba Moose hit the ice for the first time today, taking on the Toronto Marlies in the AHL’s opening night. Unfortunately for them, it didn’t go as they were hoping for, as they lost 5-3 to their hosts.

The game started off with a physical tone. Julian Melchiori rocked Matt Frattin with a heavy hit near the blue line, which made the Toronto winger quite unhappy. JC Lipon came quick to his teammates defence and dropped the gloves with Frattin, leading to three players finding their way to the penalty box. The Jets killed off Melchiori’s penalty with no issue but weren’t able to do the same with Ryan Olsen’s boarding penalty a few minutes later, which William Nylander turned into game’s opening goal.

Just a few minutes later, Brenden Kitchton reversed the tides, scoring the franchise’s first goal with a wrist shot from above the hashmarks, handily beating Antoine Bibeau to tie the game. With that said, Manitoba really struggled in the second period. Byron Froese put Toronto back on top in the first minute and a half, and Andrew Campbell added a goal from the point to further widen the gap. It was a period where Toronto really controlled play, taking seventeen shots against. Jay Harrison gave a bit of hope to the team with his first of the year late in the period, but was responded to by Josh Leivo before the frame could end.

Harrison, who tied for the team lead in shots, gave the team one more window of opportunity in the penultimate minute of the game. Just seconds after Keith McCambridge called a timeout and pulled Connor Hellebuyck out of the net, Harrison rifled another puck into the back of the net to make it a 4-3 game. The comeback wasn’t meant to be, though, as Sam Carrick added an empty-netter to seal the deal for Toronto.

Overall, this was a decent first game for the Moose. They were outpaced at times by a Toronto team that possesses NHL-quality skating ability, and it showed with some of the penalties they took and the shots they gave up in the first two periods. Connor Hellebucyk really kept them in this one; while his 29 saves on 33 shots don’t look particularly impressive on paper, so many of Toronto’s shots came from scoring chances. In any event, the Moose did a solid job of limiting opportunities in the third period, and if they can carry that into tomorrow’s game, might be able to grab a few points out of this visit to Southern Ontario.

By the way, the antler font on the back of the jerseys? Brilliant. Great way to separate from the big club.

The Moose will seek revenge tomorrow afternoon when they take on the Marlies once again. The puck drops at 2 PM Winnipeg Time.

Photo courtesy of Christian Bonin / TSGPhoto.com