The American Hockey League’s Canadian Division has had just two consistencies throughout the season: that of its first and last place teams, and the ever-changing narrative of teams ranked No. 2 through 4 in the five-team division based north of the 49th parallel.
Now two-thirds of the way through the shortened 36-game 2020-21 season experienced by four of the five Canadian Division clubs – yes, the Stockton Heat (playing out of Calgary, AB. this season) are not playing the full 36 games, but will compete in 30 contests this season – the ‘potential’ postseason picture is about as clear as mud.
Everything from if the Calder Cup Playoffs will even occur, to how/where the postseason will occur, to how the new divisions will work, to how to rank teams with such varying levels of games-played, to which teams will even finish 1, 2, 3 in the Canadian Division is still up in the air.
But not wanting to wait around for any of those answers, the Manitoba Moose took care of business for the third-straight game on Monday afternoon. Facing off for the final time in a four-game series with the Belleville Senators in a rare 4:00 PM battle from the club’s Bell MTS Iceplex training facility, the Moose peppered the visitors in a dominant 5-1 shellacking.
Leading the way once again for Manitoba was rookie standout Cole Perfetti. Entering Monday’s game with four assists in his past two outings against Belleville, the Winnipeg Jets’ 10th overall selection in last year’ NHL Entry Draft put up two goals and added another assist for two goals and seven points in his past three games.
Putting up a career-high six shots on net, Perfetti’s two power play goals also set new personal bests on the evening. Now sitting at six goals and 17 points on the season, the 19-year-old is just one point back of 2020 second overall selection Quinton Byfield for fourth in rookie scoring league-wide.
“The bounces just hadn’t really been going for us offensively,” Perfetti said following Monday’s game. “We’ve been hitting a lot of posts and haven’t really been able to score as a team, and especially for me. To get a couple good bounces tonight and see the puck go in the net all series as a team, it’s great for our confidence heading into the next series and for the rest of the year.”
Further to Perfetti’s point, Manitoba combined to outscore Belleville 16-8 through the past three games, by way of 8-5, 3-2 and 5-1 victories.
Alongside Perfetti, fellow rookie Jeff Malott also had a multi-point night on Monday, scoring his 11th goal of the campaign, while adding an assist. And not to be outdone, Moose scoring leader Nathan Todd had himself yet another spectacular outing, picking up three assists on the night, including an absolute beauty in setting up CJ Suess for a tap-in.
Nathan Todd pulls out a FANTASTIC backhand toe-drag between his legs, setting up CJ Suess for an easy tap in.
The assist was Todd’s team-leading 18th point of the season.
What a move for the #MBMoosw forward.
— Carter Brooks (@CBrooksie84) April 12, 2021
“It was a total team effort for sure but from start to finish,” Moose head coach Pascal Vincent said post-game. “The way we managed those four games against Belleville, I think we got better as the series went on. I really enjoyed our third periods the whole series. We’ve been pretty good the whole year. We have good starts and extremely good third periods, so it was a real good game for us.”
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But back to Perfetti, who is only eligible to play within the AHL this season as a one-year exemption following the league’s decision to allow underage drafted Ontario Hockey League players the opportunity to suit up professionally while the OHL and Ontario provincial government sorts out the mess that has become the 2020-21 season.
Currently leading the team in power play goals, while sitting third in points-per-game, Perfetti’s recent tear has seen multi-point performances in three-straight outings, while most importantly helping his team to three victories in a row as Manitoba enters the final third of the season.
“This isn’t a 19-year-old’s league; this is a man’s league,” Perfetti added. “So it still is very fast and there isn’t a lot of time and space. I’m still adjusting to the game, but it’s starting to slow down a little bit. I’m starting to get more confidence and have kind of been able to bring the play to me. I think I’ve been getting a lot of quality chances this year and have been able to set guys up well.”
But again, with it being the unprecedented 2020-21 AHL season, the Moose are now off for 10 days before next playing a game. Interestingly, the team is now 12 games through its AHL-record 17-game homestand, and will continue on Thursday, April 22 in the first of five games against the visiting Stockton Heat. Puck drop from Bell MTS Iceplex is set for 6:00 PM central.