Poor start hurts Mooseheads in loss to Moncton
If Friday night was in fact the final game the Mooseheads ever play at the Moncton Coliseum then good riddance indeed. The barn will close after this season and it wasn’t a memorable night for the Herd in the final regular season battle between the clubs this year in the Hub City as the Wildcats used a fast start to skate to a 5-1 win and the Mooseheads were witness to an ugly hit on star import forward Filip Zadina.
Early penalties spelled trouble for the Mooseheads as Moncton struck on the power play just 1:19 into the game and only seven seconds after Benoit-Olivier Groulx went to the box for hooking. Second star Jeremy McKenna picked up one of his two assists on the night when he sent a diagonal shot/pass to the stick of Anderson MacDonald who deflected the puck past starting goalie Alex Gravel for his 26th goal of the season. Things didn’t get any easier for Gravel who had a short stay between the pipes. Moncton won the early puck battles and scored on their first three shots of the game with Dylan Seitz and Nicholas Welsh finding the back of the net before the game was even seven minutes old. Although Gravel wasn’t receiving much help from his teammates, Head Coach Jim Midgley was forced to make a move and sent Blade Mann-Dixon on in relief of the 17-year-old.
“We only allowed five shots for the entire period but anytime you have to dig out from a three-goal deficit it is difficult,” said Mooseheads Assistant Coach Jon Greenwood.
The Coach agreed that the bounces weren’t going in their favour but the early penalties didn’t help either.
“Two of their first three goals went off our own player’s sticks. It happens. However we took two early penalties and that’s a tough way to start any game.”
With the score 3-0 entering the second period the thought was that the Mooseheads might have a bounce back period and in some ways they did by firing 15 shots at Moncton goalie Mark Grametbauer but it was another quick goal that caused a setback. McKenna was again the setup man as he fed rookie Jakub Pelletier for a tally only 31 seconds into the middle period to make it a 4-0 game. Midgley started to juggle the lines by putting Max Fortier and Otto Somppi together and even Ben Higgins with Somppi at times which helped spark some life into the offence but Grametbauer didn’t give Halifax much to shoot at. He finished as the game’s first star with 30 saves on 31 shots.
The third period started with yet another early strike by the Cats. Defenceman Daniil Miromanov barely manager to keep the play onside as he walked the line and sent a shot past Mann-Dixon just 55 seconds after the puck was dropped and Moncton’s lead was pretty much insurmountable at 5-0. Brett Crossley was able to break the shutout bid with his third goal of the season at 13:02. The assist went to rookie Kyle Petten who has started to see his name pop up on the stats sheet a little more often lately. The 16-year-old has seen limited ice time this season but now has points in three of his last four games. The Mooseheads won the battle on the shot clock in each period and finished with 31 shots to Moncton’s 25 but the results weren’t there in the end.
Play became a little more rough in the third period as frustrations mounted for the Mooseheads and the team really took exception to a hit on Filip Zadina late in regulation. Gabriel Sylvestre was given a five minute major and a game misconduct for checking to the head as he and Jonathan Aspirot teamed up on the hit on the Mooseheads star forward. The highly ranked NHL Draft prospect left the game and will be re-evaluated before Saturday’s crucial game against the Acadie-Bathurst Titan. His teammates quickly came to his defense and Coach Midgley and his staff were visibly upset by the hit by Sylvestre.
“His status is unknown until we get home and he’s evaluated further,” Greenwood said.
The Mooseheads are on home ice Saturday night in a key divisional matchup with the Titan. Bathurst defeated Cape Breton 7-2 to pull within four points of Halifax for top spot in the Maritimes Divison. The Mooseheads certainly don’t want to see that dwindle down any further this weekend. The game also marks the first time since an ugly meeting two weeks ago at the K.C. Irving Regional Centre where Halifax fell 11-1. Zadina was handed a suspension following that game and the dislike by the two teams grew in abundance. The Moose will be out for a little revenge in front of their home fans, there’s no doubt about it.
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