Moose Tie Up Series Heading Home
By Willy Palov – Sports Reporter
The Chronicle Herald
Home ice hasn’t exactly been an advantage so far in the series between the Halifax Mooseheads and Val-d’Or Foreurs.
The Mooseheads won their second straight at the Air Creebec Centre in Val-d’Or on Wednesday, matching what the Foreurs did in Halifax to open the series. The third-round best-of-seven is now tied 2-2 after the Mooseheads’ 5-4 victory in Game 4.
“It’s a best out of three now,” said Mooseheads forward Jonathan Drouin. “That’s what we wanted. Winning games here, it’s harder to do here than in our barn and I’m sure they wanted to do it in their barn. It’s two big wins and tonight was a huge one.”
Coming off an emotional 6-5 overtime win the night before, the Mooseheads picked up where they left off to open Game 4. They had tons of jump right from the opening face-off, turning around a troubling trend from the previous two games when they had horrendous starts.
“Obviously it’s easier to play when you’re up at the start than to be (down) 3-0 two games straight,” Drouin said. “The boys knew that today and we had to step up our game at the beginning. Getting the first goal on the power play was huge.”
Andrew Ryan scored on the power play to give Halifax the game’s first lead, but Anthony Richard and Samuel Henley answered to put Val-d’Or in front 2-1 late in the first period. The Mooseheads got a huge goal from Philippe Gadoury in the final minute of the opening period and then added two more in the second to turn the game around. Drouin and Nikolaj Ehlers scored to make it 4-2 heading into the third period.
Val-d’Or star Anthony Mantha cut the lead to 4-3 early in the third period but Drouin scored a huge breakaway goal with 6:23 remaining to give the Mooseheads just enough breathing room. Jeremie Fraser scored with 1:29 left to make it a one-goal game but the Mooseheads avoided some close calls in the closing seconds to hang on for the win.
“It wasn’t a pretty finish tonight but we came here to get two wins and that’s what we did,” Ryan said. “Any time you can go into another team’s rink and steal two wins it’s huge. I think now it comes down to going back home and getting on track in our own rink. We want to stick to our plan and keep building on what we did up here.”
Mooseheads head coach Dominique Ducharme made the bold decision to start backup goalie Kevin Darveau ahead of Zach Fucale. Darveau was outstanding, stopping 31 of 35 shots. Antoine Bibeau made 33 saves for the Foreurs. It is the first time in three years someone other then Fucale has started in the playoffs for the Mooseheads, a stretch of 46 straight games.
“It was my first start since February 15th against Charlottetown, I think, so I was really looking forward to it,” Darveau said. “It’s not pressure. It’s what we all want as a goalie. You want those situations, those tight games in the end. For sure I like to have a lot of shots so you’re in the zone. I’m really happy.”
The line of Ryan, Drouin and Gadoury also had a strong performance for the second straight game. Drouin had a huge five-point night, Ryan finished with a goal and assist and Gadoury had a goal and two assists.
Drouin was especially dominant, which wouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who has followed this year’s playoffs. His two goals and three assists extended his points streak to 25 games. He has 74 points during that time and leads the league in playoff scoring with 37 points in 13 games.
“He’s a magician with his hands,” Darveau said. “But I always tease him that I would’ve stopped that breakaway or anything. But he’s awesome and he’s a great leader in the room. People always say that he has a bad attitude but it’s totally wrong. He’s a true leader for this team.”
The Mooseheads also seemed to find some cracks in the Val-d’Or defence. The Halifax forwards had trouble getting into scoring position in the first two games but stretched out the Foreurs in the neutral zone and in their own end.
“That’s something we talked about and we want to keep building on that as the series goes on,” Ryan said.
With momentum clearly on their side, the trick now for the Mooseheads will be to keep it going into the next game. The teams have two days off before Game 5 on Saturday in Halifax.
“Maybe we’ll have a day off tomorrow but we’ll be back to work on Friday,” Darveau said. “We’ll be ready, that’s for sure.”
Game 6 is in Val-d’Or on Monday and Game 7, if necessary, will be played in Halifax on Tuesday.
Notes: Halifax forward Timo Meier (upper body) and defenceman Brendan Duke (lower body) were hurt in Game 3 and did not play. … Val-d’Or forward Louick Marcotte was named the CHL player of the week on Wednesday. … MacKenzie Weegar recorded his 14th assist of the playoffs on Ryan’s goal, setting a new record for Mooseheads defencemen. … Former Mooseheads defenceman Randy Gazzola had three assists for the Foreurs.