After a shorter than normal offseason, the Manitoba Moose opened the 2021-22 American Hockey League season on the road in Toronto. Starting the year with back-to-back road tests against their Canadian rival, the Moose dropped the first game of the weekend set, 5-1.
Although a lopsided final score, the game was closer than the numbers dictated.
Much like that of their NHL affiliate Winnipeg Jets, goaltending and special teams were what flattened Manitoba’s hopes on Saturday. Going 0-6 on the power play, while allowing Toronto a goal on the man advantage didn’t help, meanwhile netminder Mikhail Berdin only stopped 21 of 25 shots, while Marlies backstop Erik Kallgren made 34 saves on 35 shots faced.
Manitoba’s Mark Morrison made his AHL head coaching debut on Saturday, taking over from Pascal Vincent who moved to Columbus to join the Blue Jackets for the 2021-22 season. He picked up his first loss in the process, but showed his capabilities manning the bench. Also making their Moose debuts were Simon Lundmark, Mikey Eyssimont, Luke Johnson, Greg Meireles, Austin Poganski and Evan Polei.
Toronto opened the scoring at the end of the first period, with Brett Seney scoring with 2:33 left in the frame. The Marlies added another midway through the second period on Josh Ho-Sang’s first with Toronto.
Mikey Eyssimont scored Manitoba’s lone goal, picking up a fantastic pass from Cole Maier, who put it past Kallgren, cutting Toronto’s lead in half. But with just 33 seconds left in the frame, the Moose gave up a power play marker, once again to Ho-Sang, giving the home team a 3-1 lead through 40 minutes.
Despite trailing 21-16 in shots heading into the final frame, Manitoba put 19 pucks on net in the third, but was not rewarded with any goals. Despite 10 minutes of power play time, the Moose could not beat Kallgren. Joey Anderson scored for Toronto midway through the period, before Seney added his second of the game, shorthanded into a Manitoba empty net with Mikhail Berdin on the bench.
Outshooting Toronto 29-11 in the final 40 minutes, the Moose finished the game up 35-26 in the shot department. Both Kristian Reichel and Luke Johnson had six shots on net apiece. But shots don’t win games, goals do. Giving up five was certainly not the game plan.
Although dropping their first game of the season, the Moose will look to quickly shake off the disappointment as they battle the Marlies again on Sunday afternoon. Puck drop from Coca-Cola Coliseum is set for 3:00 PM central time.