The Mooseheads bench breathed a sigh of relief when Samuel Asselin netted the only goal of the shootout and Cole McLaren made the game-winning save on Jeremie Poirier to give Halifax a closer than expected 5-4 shootout win over the visiting Saint John Sea Dogs.
The 49 win of the season for the Mooseheads came in front of a raucous sold-out Scotiabank Centre arena in the second-to-final game of the season. The two points will help the Herd keep pace with the Baie-Comeau Drakkar as the fight between the teams for first overall in the QMJHL’s Eastern Conference will come down to the final day of the season. Halifax (49-15-2-1) takes 101 points into action against Charlottetown while the Drakkar (49-14-2-2) have 102 points and will host Rimouski for the second consecutive day.
Saint John put forth one of their best efforts of the season against the Moose to make for an entertaining battle in what had been a season series dominated by the Herd. Entering the night, Halifax was 7-0 against the Dogs and had outscored them 50-10. The Sea Dogs were first to strike in the game when Benjamin Gagne deflected a centering pass by Maxim Cajkovic and put it top shelf over Cole McLaren at 3:12 of the first period.
With a loud crowd cheering them on, the Mooseheads fought back to tie the game 1-1 late in the opening period when Arnaud Durandeau sniped his 37th goal of the season on a quick low shot that beat goalie Zachary Bouthillier. Patty Kyte started the play with a long outlet pass to Benoit-Olivier Groulx who dropped it off for Durandeau just inside the blueline.
It looked as though the Herd were rolling to victory in the second period when Groulx and Durandeau scored 3:39 apart to make it a 3-1 game but the pesky Sea Dogs refused to go away in this one. William Poirier scored on the power play after an undisciplined interference penalty by Joel Bishop in the neutral zone and Nicholas Deakin-Poot kept the puck and scored short side on McLaren during a two-on-one break to tie things up 3-3 heading into the third period.
The building was tense as the period began but erupted when Keith Getson fired one past Bouthillier at 8:24 to put the Mooseheads on top once again 4-3. Halifax clung to the lead until Samuel Asselin was sent off for four minutes on a high sticking call and Brady Burns made them pay as he poked the puck in from the side of the net on the man advantage to tie the game 4-4 at 17:46.
Overtime didn’t solve anything and Cole McLaren turned aside all three shooters while Asselin scored on the Mooseheads’ third attempt and the team breathed a sigh of relief.
The one point gained by Saint John has moved them into the final QMJHL playoff spot going into the final day of the season. They are tied in points with Shawinigan but hold the tie-breaker. The Sea Dogs visit Moncton on Saturday while the Cataractes host Victoriaville.
Now the Mooseheads prepare for the Charlottetown Islanders tomorrow at 4:30. A Halifax win and victories by Baie-Comeau, Moncton, Chicoutimi and Cape Breton would actually set up a Mooseheads vs Islanders first round battle in the playoffs. The game is another sell-out at Scotiabank Centre and will be shown nationwide on Sportsnet.
The three most likely opponents for the Mooseheads in the postseason are Moncton, Charlottetown and Chicoutimi pending Saturday’s results.
Individual Playoff tickets will go on sale Tuesday morning at 11am at the Ticket Atlantic Box Office, select Superstore Outlets, TicketAtlantic.com, the Official Mooseheads Shop in Scotia Square or charge by phone 902-451-1221.