The young Mooseheads emptied the tank on Monday night in Rouyn-Noranda but couldn’t find a way to extend their season in a 5-2 loss to the experienced Huskies who won the first round series in six games.
More than 2,800 screaming fans cheered on the home team as final seconds ticked off the clock at Iamgold Arena and the second seeded Huskies survived a scare from the underdog Mooseheads to move on and continue their defence of the President Cup.
Halifax was given little to no chance coming into the series ranked as the 15th seed in the QMJHL but not only picked up a pair of wins against the veteran Rouyn-Noranda squad but also took them to a pair of overtime games. The Herd made the league take notice of what is yet to come for a team loaded with 16 and 17-year-olds. The playoffs proved to be a coming out party for rookie goalie Alex Gravel who made another 34 saves in the Game 6 loss to earn the third star of the game, the fifth time in six games he was named a star. The Asbestos, QC native stopped 243 of 263 shots in the series and posted a Goals Against Average of 2.92 along with a Save Percentage of .924.
Gabriel Fontaine, the triple overtime hero in Halifax on Friday, was a huge factor in helping his team capture the series. Fontaine set up the opening goal in Game 6, scored his third of the series early in the middle stanza and then assisted on Tyler Hinam’s game winning goal just over a minute later. The New York Rangers prospect was named the first star for his three-point effort. The top line of the Huskies was hard to stop as they used their speed to create numerous chances and Alexandre Fortin was a catalyst throughout the series. He earned the second star in the clinching win with three assists. The Huskies took a 3-0 lead before Halifax was able to beat goalie Olivier Tremblay midway through the contest.
The Mooseheads found their offence from a pair of defencemen in the loss as Frederic Aube scored on a difficult angle in a goal similar to the one he scored at Scotiabank Centre in Game 4. Rookie Jordan Lepage tallied for the first time in his career 32 seconds into the third period which gave the Mooseheads life for a brief time. Lepage’s goal cut Rouyn-Noranda’s lead to 3-2 but before the Herd could even think about a potential tying goal, Matthew Boucher slid one under the pads of Gravel and the Huskies restored their two-goal advantage and the writing was on the wall for the Moose. J-C Beaudin further sealed the victory when he made it a 5-2 game at 10:17 of the third period and the party was on in the Abitibi region of Quebec. Nico Hischier, Max Fortier and Keigan Goetz had the Mooseheads assists.
Gravel was swarmed by his teammates as the final horn sounded and the teams shook hands to wrap up an exciting first round series that engaged both fan bases and helped the Mooseheads core group gain some invaluable playoff experience that will be useful in the future.
With the season now over, that spells the end of the line for Captain Keigan Goetz and Assistant Captains Jake Coughler and Frederic Aube. The three overage players will move on to the next step in their careers. Aube was stellar in his final playoff series by logging a daunting amount of minutes on a depleted Mooseheads blueline.
Halifax will now shift its focus to Thursday’s Draft Lottery where the team has a 2-in-21 chance of claiming the first overall pick. Halifax is one of five teams taking part in the new lottery format and will be joined at the event by Moncton, Sherbrooke, Rimouski and Val-d’Or.