After a pair of rebuilding seasons spent in the bottom quarter of the QMJHL standings, the Moncton Wildcats are filling the net once again.
Playing out of the brand new state-of-the-art Avenir Centre, the Cats are back on the prowl with 83 goals scored through 19 games. They’ve spread the scoring around too, with eight players having scored five goals or more led by leaders in 19-year-old veteran Jeremy McKenna (11), Minnesota Wild prospect Alexander Khovanov (10) and 2019 NHL Draft prospect Jakob Pelletier (9).
Moncton has won eight straight, with their latest conquests coming this past weekend in a 4-3 shootout win over Val-d’Or on home ice followed by a 3-2 road win over the Memorial Cup host Halifax Mooseheads on Alex Khovanov’s overtime winner.
Wildcats head coach Darren Rumble says his team is well aware of the benchmarks they’re striving for to be successful come playoff time.
“If you want to be in the conversation among the best teams in the league, you’ve got to have at least 250 goals for and fewer than 190 goals against,” he told Neil Hodge of the Moncton Times & Transcript. “Those are a couple of numbers that we shoot for. When you achieve those targets, it’s an indicator that you’re playing good hockey.”
As of November 6th, the Cats are on pace to smash those marks, counting on the aforementioned balanced scoring approach to carry them through the highs and lows.
“Our scoring has been wide spread this season,” Rumble added. “If somebody isn’t having a good game, there’s a good chance that somebody else is going to be there. We have different guys stepping up offensively each game. That makes it difficult for opponents to zero in on one or two guys they want to focus their attention on.”
While veterans in McKenna and Mika Cyr (8-14–22) have been steady contributors, Moncton’s young stars have been equally impressive as the aforementioned Pelletier, who was part of Canada’s gold medal Hlinka Gretzky Cup team this past summer, continues to draw the interest of NHL scouts. The third overall pick in the 2017 QMJHL Draft accounted for roughly nine percent of Moncton’s offence in his rookie season, finishing with 61 points (23-38–61).
In addition to their big shooters, the Wildcats have a hard-working contingent of depth forwards that provide sandpaper along the boards along with some added secondary offence. Former OHL forwards Dylan Seitz (5-1–6) and Brady Pataki (4-4–8) have found their niche in the Maritimes.
Behind puck-moving defenders Simon Le Coultre (5-7–12) and QMJHL Rookie of the Month Jordan Spence (2-14–16), overage netminder Francis Leclerc has provided the Wildcats with stability in the crease, playing to a 9-1-2-0 record with a 2.64 goals-against average and a .917 save percentage.
“We’re a target team with the record we have,” leading scorer Jeremy McKenna told Hodge. “Opponents are going to want to play their ‘A’ game against us so we need to be ready to play our best. It’s obviously nice to be getting points, but we’re not putting too much pressure on ourselves thinking about this streak. We just want to keep getting better as a team each week.”
The Cats haven’t lost in regulation in over a month, a string of 14 straight games. They now set their sights on a three-in-three this coming weekend with matchups against Charlottetown, Acadie-Bathurst and Chicoutimi.
The KIA CHL Top 10 Spotlight takes a closer look at one team from the weekly KIA CHL Top 10 Rankings.
Past KIA CHL Top 10 Spotlight editions:
Sept. 26, 2018 – Halifax Mooseheads
Oct. 4, 2018 – London Knights
Oct. 11, 2018 – Victoria Royals
Oct. 18, 2018 – Rouyn-Noranda Huskies
Oct. 25, 2018 – Prince Albert Raiders
Nov. 1, 2018 – Ottawa 67’s