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Mooseheads in need of series comeback after 7-4 loss

2018-04-07

The Halifax Mooseheads have found themselves in a bit of a hole early in their second round playoff series against Charlottetown following a 7-4 Islanders victory to give the visiting team a 2-games-to-none advantage after two meetings at Scotiabank Centre.

“It’s far from over. We’re just looking to go into Game 3 with a positive attitude and just not getting down on ourselves, staying positive and I truly believe we’ll find success,” Mooseheads defenceman Patty Kyte said following the loss.

GAME SUMMARY

It’s true, a 2-0 series deficit is not the end of the world and there’s time to right the ship but the Mooseheads will need to bounce back quickly with the series shifting to Eastlink Centre on Tuesday night in the Prince Edward Island capital. Fans in Moose Country have been witness to bigger rallies in the past, including the incredible 0-3 comeback against the Quebec Remparts in 2012.

The Islanders scored twice in the first period, three times in the second and had built up a 6-1 lead by the early stages of the third before Halifax finally got some puck luck. The Herd peppered goalie Matt Welsh with more than 40 shots for the second night in a row but with little results to show for their efforts until Raphael Lavoie started a mini-comeback. The lanky forward notched his third goal of the postseason with 8:58 to go in regulation and it seemed to give his club a spark. Brett Crossley and third star Benoit-Olivier Groulx then scored 1:34 apart to cut the Charlottetown lead to 6-4 and the Mooseheads had life with less than two minutes remaining on the clock. Unfortunately Hunter Drew dashed those hopes when he lifted a high looping shot from his own end that found the back of the empty net to secure a 7-4 win.

“We didn’t quit in the third and we got a couple of goals to cut it close and give ourselves a chance in the end. We’re looking to bring that momentum into Game 3,” Kyte said.

The team is confident they can increase their goal output against Welsh who has been very good between the pipes in the first two games. He had 47 saves on 51 shots tonight and stopped 41 in Game 1.

“Welsh is a good goalie for them and he makes the stops he’s supposed to make. I just think it’s the second chances that we have to be harder on. He’s good at stopping that first shot but we just have to crash the net more.”

If the scoring comes, it will be the defensive end where the Mooseheads plan to tighten up their game the most after allowing 11 goals through the first two games. The players feel they haven’t pressured the Islanders forwards as much as they should have and as a result things have come a little too easy for Charlottetown.

“I think the big thing for us (on the defensive end) is just to make sure our box outs are strong and not letting deflections in.”

Mooseheads goalie Alex Gravel had been stellar up to this point but suffered his worst game of the playoffs and was pulled in favour of Blade Mann-Dixon to start the third period. Gravel allowed five goals on 17 shots, while Mann-Dixon stopped 11 of 12 in the final stanza. It’s unclear who Head Coach Jim Midgley will turn to for Tuesday’s road game in P.E.I.

The return of the team’s regular season leading scorer Otto Somppi would be a huge bonus, but he continues to recover from a nagging upper body injury and there is no set date for the Tampa Bay prospect to be reinserted into the lineup.

Nikita Alexandrov led the charge for the Islanders with two goals and two assists to earn the first star while teammate Pascal Aquin stayed hot with his eighth goal of the playoffs to go with an assist en route to being named the second star. Charlottetown defenseman P-O Joseph left the game early with what looked like a hand or wrist injury and did not return. His status for Game 3 is unknown.

Fans stand in unison to honour the Humboldt Broncos
Fans stand in unison to honour the Humboldt Broncos. Photo: Amanda Wicks

The Mooseheads held a moment of silence prior to the game to honour the memory of the lives lost and those affected by the horrific bus crash involving the Humboldt Broncos hockey team. Kyte said the sad events this weekend have put things into perspective for himself and the rest of the Mooseheads.

“You know it’s a terrible tragedy and sad to hear. It’s nice to see the hockey world regroup around that and sending thoughts and prayers to the loved ones and the families. You know we all play the game for the brotherhood and to see that shattered on the way to a game is terrible.”

Game 3 is set for Tuesday at 7pm at the Eastlink Centre while Game 4 goes Wednesday in Charlottetown. The Mooseheads will be looking to push the series back to Halifax for Game 5 next Friday night at 7pm.

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