The Mooseheads were 20 minutes away from being eliminated from playoff contention on Tuesday night but Max Fortier keyed a late-game rally as the young club fought back for an exciting 4-2 win in Acadie-Bathurst.
Fortier scored back-to-back goals in the opening 2:22 of the final period to tie the game 2-2 and stunned the crowd of 2,004 at the K.C. Irving Regional Centre in the process. Rookie Otto Somppi grabbed the only assists on Fortier’s 29th and 30th goals of the season.
The teams played a scoreless first period but Christophe Boivin had the home club up 2-0 after 40 minutes on a pair of goals in the middle stanza and it looked like the Herd might have any hope of getting into the postseason dashed right then and there.
The Moose have played a never-say-die style for much of the 2015-2016 season and proved once again that you can’t count them out until the final horn is heard.
Backed by the outstanding goaltending by Kevin Resop, who made 39 saves but surprisingly wasn’t selected as a star, Halifax dominated the final period to pick up their 20th win of the season and moved to within seven points of the idle Drummondville Voltigeurs for 16th place in the overall standings with four games to play.
Arnaud Durandeau scored what turned out to be the game-winning goal when his shot from above the left circle fooled Titan starting goalie Tanner Somers at 9:03, giving the Mooseheads a 3-2 lead. Fellow rookie Walter Flower earned the assist. Somers made 24 saves and allowed four goals on 12 shots in the third.
Ilya Putintsev picked up the puck along the boards in the neutral zone and raced down the ice to score a pretty goal at the 13:03 mark to give insurance to the Halifax lead. Vince Watt assisted on the Russian rookie’s fifth goal of the season.
Fortier was named the first star of the game with his two goals while Boivin got the nod as second star and Somppi was honoured as the third star.
With the two goals, Fortier upped his team-best point total to 72 for the season with 30 goals and 42 assists. That’s a 42-point increase from last season for the NHL draft-eligible forward.
Eric Brassard did not travel to Acadie-Bathurst (illness). Ryan Huestis was recalled from the Valley Wildcats of the MHL and dressed as the backup goaltender.
The Moose have 47 points and can reach a maximum of 55 on the season provided they win their final four games. Drummondville has 54 and would need to lose all four of their remaining games in regulation in order for Halifax to claim the unlikely playoff berth.
The Volts will face the Armada twice before meeting the dynamic Huskies and Foreurs to end the season.
The Mooseheads next game is Friday night at Scotiabank Centre in what is expected to be an entertaining contest with Conor Garland and the Moncton Wildcats. Tickets are going fast so get yours today at the Ticket Atlantic Box Office at Scotiabank Centre, select Superstore Outlets, www.TicketAtlantic.com or by phone at 902-451-1221.
The home portion of the regular season wraps up Saturday at 4pm with the Annual Fan Appreciation Day as Halifax hosts the Charlottetown Islanders. 20-year-old graduating players Kelly Bent, Eric Brassard and Zack Taylor will be honoured while giveaways will take place throughout the matchup and the players will also toss prizes into the crowd after the end of the game.