24 games into the 68 game season and the Halifax Mooseheads have to be happy with where they are. A huge 6-5 victory over the rival Moncton Wildcats has the Moose all alone in first place in the Maritimes Division and just two points behind Quebec for the overall lead in the QMJHL.
It wasn’t a pretty win on Tuesday night but two points were earned nonetheless and they came against a team that entered the night tied with Halifax (13-7-3-0) for the division lead. The battle was typical of a matchup between the rivals as the Mooseheads never trailed but saw the Cats come back twice to tie the game while they also responded three times to cut the Halifax lead back to one.
Arnaud Durandeau scored once and added two assists in an excellent effort and was rewarded with the first star of the game. He set up line-mate Joel Bishop for the game winner at 4:51 of the third period for what proved to be the game-winning goal. Moncton made things interesting with a Julien Tessier goal at 13:58 and came close to tying the game again a few times after pulling goalie Matthew Waite with 2:57 on the clock but the Moose scratched and clawed their way to an important victory.
There was intensity on the ice right off the hop when Jordan Lepage squared off with Brady Pataki in a heavyweight fight with the Mooseheads defenceman taking the decision. Both teams were under each other’s skin throughout the battle. Captain Max Fortier didn’t like a hit on star Filip Zadina along the boards from Nicholas Welsh and dropped the mitts with the Wildcats veteran midway through the opening period. Fortier left the game to receive some stitches before returning early in the second period.
Fans were still settling into their seats when Otto Somppi opened the scoring on the power play at 2:48 of the first period. The goal was the seventh of the season for the Tampa Bay Lightning prospect. Moncton tied the game not long before the period came to an end as second star Jeremy McKenna potted his 14th of the campaign. The middle frame was controlled by Halifax as they outscored the Cats 3-1 on goals from Durandeau, Zadina and BO Groulx and the Mooseheads took a 4-2 lead into the final 20 minutes.
The third period was a bit hairy for the Herd with Moncton fighting back as best they could. Jacob Hudson tallied a short-handed goal just 55 seconds into the period and there was a nervous vibe in Scotiabank Centre. Durandeau then chased down a puck in the corner and won the battle to feed a streaking Xavier Parent who hammered in his fifth goal to make it a 5-3 Mooseheads lead. The good special teams play continued for the Wildcats when Jonathan Aspirot once again cut the lead to one with a power play goal. Moncton had three goals on the night with the man advantage to go along with the one short-handed marker. Durandeau then set up Bishop for the game-winner only six seconds after the Aspirot goal to take some of the wind out the Moncton’s sails. Tessier added the final goal but Halifax did enough to stave off the Cats’ attack. The Mooseheads had several cracks at the empty net during the final 2:57 but did the right thing by staying poised defensively to help out goaltender Blade Mann-Dixon who earned the win, his 10th, with 33 saves.
Fortier finished with a pair of assists and was named the third star. Grabbing assists for the Mooseheads were; Durandeau (2), Fortier (2), Jocktan Chainey (2), Parent, Bishop, Mann-Dixon, Jared McIsaac and Connor Moynihan.
The Mooseheads will hit the road for three games this upcoming weekend when they visit Charlottetown on Friday, Saint John on Saturday and Acadie-Bathurst on Sunday. The next home game for Halifax is Friday, December 1st at 7pm vs the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies. 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.