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Goaltending key during Mooseheads hot 8-2 start

Darrell Theriault

2018-10-16

It’s been an excellent start to the season for your Halifax Mooseheads who have won eight of their first 10 games. That’s no easy task considering all 10 games have come on the road with another five on the way before the team plays its home opener on Saturday, October 27th.

One of the main reasons for the early success has been strong goaltending from both QMJHL Player of the Week – Alex Gravel and rookie Cole McLaren. Gravel was handed the league honour on Monday after improving his personal record to 6-2 with a pair of wins including a shutout over the weekend, while McLaren also sandwiched in his own shutout victory in that stretch.

“I like their work ethic and I think that they’ve both worked really hard to prepare leading up to the games,” said Mooseheads Goaltending Coach Marco Raimondo.

Gravel, the Chicago Blackhawks draft pick, has been dialed-in from opening night as evidenced by his 2.51 Goals Against Average and terrific .927 Save Percentage. McLaren has made the most of his opportunities as well with the Annapolis Royal native grabbing wins in his only two starts and even earning the QMJHL Highlight of the Night last Friday in Saint John with a trio of big saves on a shorthanded breakaway. Raimondo thinks keeping goalies loose and helping them have fun on the ice has been key.

“We just want them to go out there and enjoy themselves, have fun, enjoy stopping pucks and they have been able to do that.”

Having a good goal differential almost always leads to success in the standings and that has certainly been the tale so far for the Herd. Halifax has allowed a league-low 25 goals as a team through 10 games which includes two shutouts while the team is third in the QMJHL in goals scored with 42. The young 30-year-old coach gave credit to the veteran defense corps with being a large factor in the 8-2 record.

“We are so lucky to have the defencemen that we do have on this team. Obviously the system that the coaching staff of Eric (Veilleux), Jon (Greenwood) and Sylvain (Favreau) have put in place in front of the goaltenders has really made all the difference for our guys.

“I think the term shutout is usually directed towards the goaltender but I feel the way the guys play in front of us is equally as important and we’ve been really happy with the defencemen.”

The Mooseheads will aim for win number nine on Wednesday night when they face-off for the second time this season at the Avenir Centre in Moncton. The Herd skated away with a 4-2 victory on September 30th against the Cats on the strength of three points from Arnaud Durandeau and 32 saves from Alex Gravel. Raimondo said living a day at a time is the mindset he has tried to instill on the goalie tandem.

“I don’t break up our season into long segments. Right now, as a goaltending team we’re just focused on today and just being really good at the things we need to do today.”

Following Wednesday’s stop in Moncton the Maritimes Division-leading Mooseheads will continue the extended trip away from Scotiabank Centre with road games at Victoriaville on Friday, Sherbrooke on Saturday and Drummondville on Sunday. The exact order of starts hasn’t been announced but both Gravel and McLaren are certain to see the ice over the four-game span.

The Mooseheads home opener is set for Saturday, October 27th at 7pm versus Cape Breton. Individual tickets to all 34 Halifax Mooseheads home games are on sale now for the General Public at the Ticket Atlantic Box Office, select Superstore outlets, TicketAtlantic.com, the Official Mooseheads Shop in Scotia Square Mall or by phone 902-451-1221.

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