It may have been chilly outside the Moncton Coliseum on Tuesday night but a fierce contest heated up inside as the Halifax Mooseheads prevailed 4-3 in overtime over the host Wildcats in one of the most thrilling games of the season.
Jocktan Chainey was the hero as he knocked in the game-winning goal 1:10 into the extra period after jamming away in front of goalie Mark Grametbauer who was kept busy all night. Halifax peppered the Moncton netminder with 46 shots, 33 of which were considered dangerous. Rookie Xavier Parent passed to Max Fortier who found Chainey in front of the net and the defenceman swatted the puck in on his third attempt as a rush of green jerseys piled onto the ice in celebration.
The battle of division foes was an intense one as play went back and forth from end to end and is bound to only heat up during the home stretch of the season with the Mooseheads and Wildcats set to face each other five more times. Of course the rivalry is just as big off the ice with both cities vying to win hosting right for the 2019 Mastercard Memorial Cup, with the winner to be announced on Thursday, April 5th.
The game started with a bang as Raphael Lavoie lit the lamp just 33 seconds after the opening puck drop when he deflected the crossing pass from Jared McIsaac for his 12th goal of the season. Despite outshooting the Cats 17-12 in the first period it was Moncton who ended up with the lead after 20 minutes. Jeremy McKenna was a machine in the contest and scored back-to-back goals starting with a power play marker at 13:07 and adding his 21st of the campaign with just 28 seconds to go in the period. McKenna was a catalyst throughout the night and ended up with a whopping 12 shots on goal yet was deprived of a star selection.
Halifax continued it’s recent success with the man advantage beginning in the second period. Benoit-Olivier Groulx picked up the equalizer when Arnaud Durandeau’s backhand pass from the half-wall found his stick in front of Grametbauer and the NHL Draft eligible forward neatly tucked it into the net for his 17th goal of the season. The Moose struck again on the power play on a highlight reel end to end rush by McIsaac just 21 seconds into the third period to give the Herd a 3-2 lead. The potential first round NHL pick took the puck from behind his own net, skated through neutral ice before weaving through a pair of defenders and putting the puck on net where it was slammed home by Captain Max Fortier.
“Something that we’ve really focused on with Jared is playing dynamic and moving his feet and getting going up ice and he did a great job on that rush,” said Assistant Coach Jon Greenwood.
The goal looked as though it might stand as the game-winner until Moncton turned up the pressure in the dying minutes and Julien Tessier was left untouched in front of Blade Mann-Dixon and patiently waited for the Moose goalie to make a move before roofing a shot to tie the game 3-3 at the 18:04 mark. Both teams came up with great chances as regulation came to an end and Chainey put the finishing touches on the thriller early in OT to earn the third star of the game. McIsaac’s two assists helped him pick up the first star honours while Jakob Pelletier was named the second star with a pair of assists for the Wildcats.
Blade Mann-Dixon came up with some spectacular saves of his own in the win by stopping 28 shots and earning his 14th win of the season. The two points moves the Mooseheads into first place overall in the QMJHL standings with a 24-10-4-1 record and one point ahead of the Armada. Blainville-Boisbriand has four games in hand and according to reports made a deal with Cape Breton to add Drake Batherson who is currently playing with Canada at the World Junior Hockey Championship.
“It (first place) sounds pretty good. It means we’re winning a lot more game than we are losing. There’s a lot of games in hand for some other teams but anytime you see yourself near the top we’re pretty happy about it,” Greenwood said.
The Mooseheads played without defenceman Justin Barron who sat out with a minor upper body injury while Barrett Dachyshyn missed his second straight game with a lower body injury. Neither player is expected to miss significant time. Star forward Filip Zadina was out again as he continued his impressive showing at the World Junior Hockey Championship in Buffalo, NY. Zadina scored twice to lead the Czech Republic to a huge upset as they took down Finland 4-3 in a shootout. Zadina will face Canada in semi-final action on Thursday.
Halifax continues the road trip on Saturday evening in Saint John and Sunday afternoon in Acadie-Bathurst against a revamped Titan squad before returning to home ice next Thursday, January 11th against the Charottetown Islanders on Student Night at Scotiabank Centre. Tickets are on sale now at the Ticket Atlantic Box Office, select Superstore Outlets, TicketAtlantic.com, the Official Mooseheads Shop in Scotia Square or call 451-1221.