Battle in Gatineau lives up to the billing
A matchup in Gatineau between the Mooseheads and Olympiques started with a 35-minute pregame ceremony to honour longtime Head Coach Benoit Groulx was certainly worth the wait as the clubs went toe-to-toe in one of the most exciting contests of the year and ended with the Olympiques pulling out a 3-2 victory in a nine-round shootout.
The animosity was evident early with playoff-like intensity which stemmed from Halifax’s shootout win over Gatineau at Scotiabank Centre in December when goalie Mathis Rousseau showed some charged up emotion after stopping defenceman Tristan Luneau to win the game. Rousseau and his counterpart Franky Lapenna were both incredible in Wednesday’s latest battle, but in the end it was Lapenna who was the difference with 38 saves through regulation and overtime before stopping six-of-nine Halifax players in the shootout including the game-winning save on Evan Boucher. Lapenna was handed the first star and Rousseau earned the second star.
Both teams played a physical brand of hockey, didn’t back down from one another and played with speed throughout the entire night to entertain a strong crowd of 3,700 at the Slush Puppy Centre who witness Groulx be honoured with a banner raising ceremony and speeches from Claude Giroux, Max Talbot and Commissioner Gilles Courteau.
The Mooseheads had a pair of short-lived leads in the game with Jordan Dumais and Josh Lawrence both scoring in regulation. Dumais tallied at 1:56 of the second period to put the Herd ahead 1-0 on a nice setup by Markus Vidicek. Unfortunately for the visitors, the Olympiques took advantage of a Jake Furlong turnover in his own end just 39 seconds later to tie the score with Alexis Gendron notching the equalizer. The game stayed locked in a 1-1 tie until Josh Lawrence broke free from the Mooseheads blueline and turned on the jets to create a breakaway before beating Lapenna on a beautiful backhand goal at 7:43 of the third period. Gatineau had the answer again with defenceman Isaac Belliveau burying a point shot on a delayed penalty call with 6:19 remaining in regulation. Overtime failed to solve anything which led to an extraordinary shootout.
Josh gets the legs pumping and finishes with the backhand for a beauty.
🚨 Lawrence (33) 7:43 3rd period
Unassisted | #GoMooseGo pic.twitter.com/r4JMTq3d08
— Halifax Mooseheads (@HFXMooseheads) February 9, 2023
Gendron was the first to shoot but was stopped by Rousseau. Vidicek then tried his patented move that was worked well in the past but just couldn’t elevate the puck enough as Lapenna got the right pad out for a great save. Rousseau then stopped Riley Kidney and skated towards him to let him know about it after the save. Josh Lawrence put one on the board for the Moose on the next shot by using his quick hands an waiting out Lapenna before roofing a pretty shot. Next up was Tristan Luneau in what almost seemed like a WWE script. This time the defenceman got the better of Rousseau to tie the game and stood and stared at the goalie as if to give him a little taste of his own medicine. Jordan Dumais had a chance to end it and was looking five-hole but Lapenna closed the door to push the shootout to a fourth round. Both teams then had two consecutive misses leading to round six. Cam MacDonald scored to put the Olympiques ahead which meant that Zach L’Heureux would need to match the goal to extend the game. The Nashville prospect made no mistake with a pinpoint, five-hole tally and to keep his team alive. Olivier Nadeau was next up for Gatineau and scored to yet again push the Herd to the brink. This time Mathieu Cataford came through with a clutch goal to extend the shootout to an eighth round which saw both teams miss. Joey Vetrano lit the lamp in the ninth round and Lapenna made a big save on Evan Boucher to end the contest and leave fans wanting more.
The Gatineau DJ even played the Mooseheads’ goal song after the Lapenna game-winning save. One can only hope that we see this matchup again this spring in the playoffs.
Despite the loss, Halifax was able to push their incredible run of games without a loss in regulation to 25, surpassing the 1996 Olympiques for a tie with the 2019 Rouyn-Noranda Huskies for fifth all-time in the QMJHL. The record is held by Sidney Crosby’s 2005 Rimouski Oceanic at 28 consecutive games without a loss in regulation.
The road trip continues in Drummondville on Friday night at 8pm AST before wrapping up in Shawinigan at 5pm on Saturday. The next home game for the Herd is coming up on Friday, February 17th at 7pm against the Acadie-Bathurst Titan at Scotiabank Centre. Tickets are on sale now at TicketAtlantic.com.