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Sunday, October 22, 2006

Scouting the Manitoba Moose

The 3-1 Chicago Wolves victory over the San Antonio Rampage on Friday sets the stage for the Wolves return to the Allstate Arena on Tuesday. The Manitoba Moose face the Wolves in the first inter-divisional game of the season. The Moose are old foes of the Wolves from the days of the International Hockey League and one of the I-six, one of the six surviving IHL teams to gain membership in the American Hockey League.

Manitoba has been mentioned by some people as a team that might someday be promoted to the NHL. Home to the old World Hockey Association Jets and tenants in the the MTS Centre, the front office of the Moose is considered one of the best, if not the best, in the AHL. If hockey is going to return to Canada’s smaller cities, Manitoba might be one of the first.

Matt McGrath, a Moose fan wrote me, "for the third consecutive season the Moose will have a new head coach, this time Scott Arniel. Arniel, the former Manitoba Moose and Winnipeg Jet spent the 05-06 season as an assistant coach to Lindy Ruff in Buffalo. The Moose are coming off their best campaign in their ten-year history, recording 100 points. Although a disappointing game seven loss to Grand Rapids in the Division Finals spoiled a great season." For Manitoba, the meltdown in game seven of last year’s North Division playoffs to Grand Rapids, was as great a disappointment to Moose fans as not making the playoffs were to the Chicago Wolves fans.

McGrath gloated about a stronger Moose team, "Manitoba looks to have a strong veteran presence upfront with the likes of Winnipeg native Lee Goren returning for a third season in the organization, Brad Moran was brought in from Switzerland, former Moose (01-04) speedster Brandon Reid and Tyler Bouck was resigned to a two-way deal. Add players like Jesse Schultz, who had a breakout season with 67 points last season while leading the Moose in scoring and Jason Jaffray. Moran is returning to North America in the hopes of working his way up again, after a rough season with Langnau in the Swiss league which saw him play just 18 games due to a shoulder injury. The British Columbia native is a proven sniper having recorded 72 points in 80 games with the Crunch during the 04-05 season. The 99-00 Western Hockey League player of the year had a very successful junior career with the Calgary Hitmen, improving his point totals each season. Reid, has spent the past two seasons in Europe. Last season he finished third in scoring with Rapperswil in the Swiss league with 34 points in 44 games. Former first round pick Nathan Smith will be back for a fifth season, the centre had a solid start to the 05-06 campaign recording 9 points in 20 games while showing a lot of poise for a breakout season we had all been waiting for before going down with a season ending injury. Rick Rypien, a fan favorite should also spend time in Manitoba, the scrappy Coleman, Alberta native made his NHL debut with the Canucks last season.

"Manitoba’s defense will have a new feel to it and should be improved from a year ago. Led by veteran Joe Rullier, a tough physical player who has spent the past six seasons patrolling bluelines in the AHL with Lowell, Manchester and Hartford. Maxime Fortunus, Prestin Ryan and Nathan McIver will all return for their second season with the Moose. While free agent signings Nick Kuiper and Reagon Rome look to be solid pick-ups. Rome, from Nesbitt, Manitoba, split last season between Manchester where he recorded 4 assists in 13 games and Reading (ECHL) where he recorded 30 points in 49 games while also the team captain. Kuiper, a solid-stay-at-home defenseman will enter his third season of pro hockey having spent the past two with the Norfolk Admirals. The UMass-Amherst graduate has played 143 games recording 5 goals and 17 points with Norfolk."

The Moose are 2-4 this season. They are on a two game road trip, having lost 2-0 to the Milwaukee Admirals on Friday. The Wolves return from a two game Texas road trip sweep of the San Antonio Rampage. The Wolves have lost all their home games so far this year. They are 4-2 this season.

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