WINNIPEG – The Manitoba Moose have moved up the American Hockey League standings so fast, even one of their leading scorers didn’t know they had climbed to the top of their division.
Bill Sweatt scored twice as the Moose moved into a tie for first place in the North Division with a 5-2 win over the Toronto Marlies on Wednesday.
The Moose have won 12 of their last 15 games and improved their record to 24-12-5, giving them 53 points to match the idle Hamilton Bulldogs.
“Are we?” asked Sweatt, a rookie who is second on the Moose with 11 goals and 28 points behind Sergei Shirokov, who was recently called up to Vancouver. “OK, well, that’s great then. But it’s a long season, though.”
Manitoba has a game in hand on the Bulldogs.
“We had a rough streak before Christmas break and then we’ve started coming along here now,” Sweatt said.
“Everybody’s playing for each other, playing hard for each other.”
Toronto sits in third place at 20-18-7 with 47 points.
The Marlies finished a nine-game road trip, going 3-4-2 over that span.
“I’ve run some guys pretty hard here,” Toronto coach Dallas Eakins admitted. “We didn’t have much left for tonight.”
Dusty Collins, Ryan Cruthers and Shawn Weller also scored for Manitoba before a crowd of 6,606 fans at MTS Centre.
Matt Lashoff and Dale Mitchell replied for Toronto.
The Marlies opened the scoring as Lashoff’s long shot went past netminder Tyler Weiman at 3:41 of the first period.The Moose didn’t take long to respond, getting goals from a pair of players on pro tryout contracts before a crowd of 6,606 fans at MTS Centre.
Signed on Monday, Collins scored his first goal 25 seconds later when he flipped a loose puck high over Jamie Reimer as the netminder was splayed on the ice.
Collins has a history with Manitoba, having played 104 games for the club from 2008-10. He was playing with Ontario Reign of the ECHL before the tryout.
Cruthers, signed on Jan. 7, scored his first career AHL goal at 10:01 to give his new team the 2-1 edge.
Cruthers was with Reading of the ECHL this season and also got into one game with the AHL’s Lake Erie Monsters.
Moose head coach Claude Noel said his players have been encouraging each other–whether they’re familiar faces or not.
“What’s really good with our players is that they’re happy for everybody,” Noel said
Sweatt made it 3-1 with a short-handed goal at 13:32 of the second period and added his second of the night–and 10th this season–at 10:17 of the third.
Mitchell and Weller finished the scoring in the game’s final three minutes.
Weiman, who had 20 saves, was making his second straight start. The seven-year pro now has five victories in his last five starts.
Reimer made 28 saves for Toronto.
Toronto’s next action is Saturday at home against Peoria. Manitoba hosts Abbotsford on Friday.