The young Mooseheads seem to have found their stride.
Halifax has won four consecutive games for the first time this season following a convincing 5-1 victory on Friday night at the Moncton Coliseum. Led by a hat trick from rookie Ben Higgins and a 35 save performance by 16-year-old goaltender Alex Gravel, the Herd improved its overall record to 12-10 which is good for third place in the Maritimes Divison.
Higgins opened the scoring when he darted in on goaltender Matthew Waite on a breakaway, beating him glove side on the forehand just 2:35 into the contest.
“I think we’ve matured as a group and are learning how to keep our leads and have become more consistent,” Gravel said about the current winning streak.
The 1st period featured some wide open play but with Gravel making a number of big stops at the other end the Mooseheads went up by a pair on Higgins’ second goal at 10:44 from Barrett Dachyshyn and Joel Bishop. Halifax went to the locker room with a 3-0 lead thanks to a shorthanded goal by QMJHL co-leading scorer Max Fortier. The Lachine, QC native stole the puck at the Moncton blueline and used some nice moves to deke Waite for his 36th point of the season.
Manny Weiderer’s power play goal with a two-man advantage proved to be the only scoring in the second period while Arnaud Durandeau put the game out of reach in the third on the power play, thanks in part to a nice set up by Nico Hischier from behind the net. Hischier picked up another assist on Higgins’ shorthanded empty net goal that made it a 5-1 game. The Swiss rookie Hischier now sits in a three-way tie with Fortier and Charlottetown’s Filip Chlapik for the league scoring lead.
Halifax continued the trend of being the most penalized team in the league, giving Moncton eight chances with the power play compared to just three for the Herd. The Mooseheads have been shorthanded a grand total of 126 times this season which is 15 more than Val d’Or and Acadie-Bathurst.
“All the boys blocked shots on the PK tonight though and it helped me so much,” said Gravel.
Higgins was named first star of the game after scoring his first career hat trick. Gravel nabbed second star honours and Weiderer was named the third star. Gravel improves his personal record to 7-5 while lowering his goals against average to 3.02 and improving his save percentage to .913. He was quick to thank goaltending coach Eric Raymond for his success.
“Working with a guy like Eric is a privilege. He has helped me a lot so I think he deserves credit for that.”
Brett Crossley sat out with an upper body injury and is listed as day to day. Connor Moynihan served his one-game suspension which he was given for an aggressor against Charlottetown last weekend.
Halifax returns to home ice on Sunday afternoon at 2pm against the Acadie-Bathurst Titan at Scotiabank Centre.
Tickets are available now at the Ticket Atlantic Box Office at Scotiabank Centre, select Superstore Outlets, TicketAtlantic.com or by phone at 902-451-1221.