The Jackson Hole Moose split a weekend with the visiting Colorado Nailers, cruising on Friday and coming up just short on Saturday.
Jackson 8, Colorado 2
The first line is all coach Eric Ballard needed Friday night as the Akins-Sanders-Richardson line solved Nailers’ goalie Alex Palumbo early and often. Drew Akins and AJ Sanders finished with identical 6-point nights with a pair of goals apiece and 4 assists to go with. Dakota Richardson added 2 goals of his own as well as an assist.
Colorado showed signs of life in the 2nd but just could not contain Jackson’s top line. On the few scoring chances they had, Nick Krauss was equal to the task. The longtime Moose goalie made 38 saves on 40 shots.
Colorado 7, Jackson 6
Saturday was a different story as the Moose came out flat in the 1st and sleepwalked their way through the 2nd period as well. By the time they decided to play, it was too late.
Odd-man rushes, blown assignments, careless clearing attempts—the Moose, collectively, hung netminder Robbie Leslie out to dry on his birthday.
The Nailers took a 2-1 lead into the dressing room at the first intermission. The Moose came out with a little more purpose in the 2nd but Colorado potted 4 and enjoyed a 6-3 lead after the first 40 minutes.
Part of the breakdowns could be excused on a thin rearguard corps where Jackson was without stalwart Vincent Macri and Nate Goss-Woliner (who did play Friday night). Tom Hartnett moved back to defense, and coach Ballard also called on former high school standout Gage Dwan for his first duties as a Moose to help bolster the blueline.
Jackson’s made a push in the 3rd but momentum was quelled when team captain Brian Upesleja was whistled for a 5-minute elbowing major. Colorado scored only once on the extended man advantage, but that ‘one’ proved the difference.
Once again it was Jackson’s top line that did the heavy lifting. Akins supplied a hattrick to go with 2 assists. Sanders added 5 helpers, and Richardson finished with a goal and 2 assists.
The Moose (7-1) travel to Sun Valley this weekend to take on the Suns for a pair on December 17-18.
The home-and-home series finishes with Sun Valley coming to Jackson on December 31 and January 1 next weekend.