The new year is off to a great start for the Halifax Mooseheads who were able to quickly put a tough December in the rear-view mirror with a thrilling 3-2 overtime victory in Moncton on Tuesday night.
The fast paced action between the division rivals made for an exciting night for the 4000 plus fans on hand at the Coliseum. Arnaud Durandeau was the hero for the Herd when his wrist shot beat Matthew Waite 1:27 into the extra period to send the boys in the red jerseys flooding onto the ice in celebration. Durandeau’s winner was his second goal of the game and the Mooseheads snapped an eight game losing streak.
The win improves Halifax’s record to 16-18-1-2 and vaults the team back up into a tie for 12th place overall in the tightly packed QMJHL standings. Moncton suffered its fourth consecutive loss as the rebuilding team remains in the league basement at 13-23-1-0.
Rookie goaltender Alex Gravel certainly appeared focused to help Halifax get back in the win column as he turned aside a plethora of dangerous scoring opportunities by the Wildcats and ended the night with 28 saves.
“I was very determined to get the win because we haven’t had one for awhile. It feels really good,” Gravel said.
Moncton struck first in the game at 7:54 of the first period when Logan Johnston knocked in a juicy rebound from in front of Gravel for his first goal in a Wildcats uniform.
It wouldn’t be long before the Mooseheads pulled even though as Ben Higgins neatly tipped in a point shot from Cooper Jones with fewer than 15 seconds to play in the period which seemed to energize the Herd after coming up empty of 13 of their previous shots. Halifax came out flying after the intermission and the third star Durandeau quickly picked up his first goal of the night on the power play just 58 seconds into the middle stanza.
The crowd was brought back to life when veteran Lane Cormier’s shorthanded goal tied the game at 2-2 with a hard shot up under the crossbar a little less than seven minutes later. That’s where the score remained despite a furious third period by the Cats as Gravel withstood 11 shots in the final 20 minutes of regulation.
Halifax dominated puck possession in the entire overtime period and Durandeau came up with a much needed goal for the young team playing without many key teammates. Joel Bishop and Jared McIsaac earned the assists on the game-winner as both players finished the night with two assists each. McIsaac in particular had one of his best games in a Halifax uniform, showing great poise both with the puck and defensively as well. Cooper Jones and Benoit-Olivier Groulx picked up the only other assists in the victory.
Connor Moynihan, Barrett Dachyshyn and Walter Flower remain sidelined with injuries with no set timetable on a return for any of the trio. Nico Hischier isn’t back from a terrific showing at the World Juniors yet although it’s expected he’ll be in the lineup for at least one of the two games this weekend. Defenceman Jocktan Chainey served the second game of a four-game suspension.
The penalty kill was a major factor in the outcome as Halifax killed off all six Wildcats power plays including an extended two-man advantage midway through the first period. The Herd connected on one of just two power plays on the night.
Lane Cormier was named the first star of the game with one goal and one assist while the Moncton media handed the second star to Kody Gagnon who had two assists for the losing team.
17-year-old forward Ian MacPhee was called up and made his Mooseheads debut wearing number 9 on his back. The Timberlea native didn’t factor into the scoring but saw some ice time playing on a line with Anthony Sorrentino and Caleb Rich.
The Mooseheads and Wildcats are set to battle again on Friday night at Scotiabank Centre in the annual Teddy Bear Toss game and Gravel expects another back and forth matchup.
“Yes, I think it’s going to be another tight game and we have to get ready for it.”
Friday’s puck drop is set for 7pm against the Cats. The Mooseheads will also host the dangerous Saint John Sea Dogs on Saturday at 4pm in a nationally televised meeting on Sportsnet. The Dogs have loaded up at the trade deadline and are in position to take a run at the league title this season.
Tickets for both games are on sale now at the Ticket Atlantic Box Office at Scotiabank Centre, select Superstore Outlets, TicketAtlantic.com or by phone at 902-451-1221.