The Halifax Mooseheads have evened the President Cup Finals Series vs Rouyn-Noranda at a game apiece following an exhilarating 5-4 double overtime victory that went into the wee hours of Saturday morning.
Benoit-Olivier Groulx netted the winner when he converted a fantastic setup by Max Trepanier at 9:53 of the second overtime period, ending the game for two very tired teams that played a fast-paced back and forth battle throughout the night at noisy the Iam Gold Arena. Groulx set off a huge celebration on the ice with his teammates as the Herd earned the all-important split on the road with the QMJHL Championship series ready to shift back to Halifax for Games 3 and 4 on Monday and Tuesday.
It was a huge night for Groulx who scored his first two goals of the playoffs and also added an assist. The Gatineau, QC native has seven points in six postseason matches since returning from a bout with mononucleosis.
The Moose got the start they were hoping for when Keith Getson opened the scoring just 4:25 into the first period to put the visitors on top early in a raucous atmosphere where seemingly all 3,380 fans had an air horn in their possession. Getson banged in a loose rebound after Joel Bishop put a backhand shot on goalie Samuel Harvey with a wraparound attempt.
The lead did not last long though with a couple of quick strikes by Rouyn-Noranda moments later. Raphael Harvey-Pinard tied the game exactly 70 seconds after Getson’s goal and Joel Teasdale gave the Huskies a 2-1 lead as they quickly bounced back with goals 37 seconds apart to stun the Herd. The rapid first period pace continued and it wasn’t long before the Mooseheads were on the board again with BO Groulx’s first goal of the night tying the contest 2-2 at the 7:47 mark. Groulx knocked in a bouncing puck that came out in front of the net after hitting the end boards. He was first to get his stick on the puck in the midst of a scramble in front of Harvey. That did it for the scoring in the opening 20 minutes as the teams went to the room tied 2-2.
Halifax took its second lead of the game 6:52 into the second period when Arnaud Durandeau finished off a play that started with a Jake Ryczek point shot through traffic that Groulx also earned an assist on. That made it 3-2 for the Moose but once again, the resilient Huskies would claw back. Noah Dobson struck on the power play later in the period to pull the teams even at 3-3 and Felix Bibeau scored for the seventh consecutive playoff game to put Rouyn-Noranda on top 4-3. Bibeau has 10 goals in the last seven games.
The Mooseheads have a goal scoring phenom of their own and he came through early in the third period. Raphael Lavoie picked up his 19th goal of the playoffs when he corralled a puck in front of the crease and slammed it into the back of the net 1:42 into the frame to tie the game 4-4. The play started with Jared McIsaac firing a shot on Harvey who made the initial save but the puck squirted out to his left where Lavoie and his long reach were waiting. The Huskies thought they had retaken the lead with a little less than 10 minutes to play in regulation but the potential Joel Tesdale goal was immediately waved off as he scored while the net had come off of its moorings. The teams continued to trade chances up and down the ice and by the time overtime rolled around it was clear that there was not much left in the tank.
The first extra period was a fairly defensive affair with the clubs unwilling to take chances at the risk of making a mistake. Play opened up a bit in the second overtime and Groulx ended with after the nice play by Trepanier who had an excellent game in his own right. Final shots were 54-45 in favour of Halifax. Alex Gravel picked up the win with 41 stops while Harvey made 49 saves in the loss. It was a fairly disciplined game with only seven penalties combined between the clubs. Rouyn-Noranda went 1-4 on the man advantage while the Moose were scoreless in three power play opportunities.
The win sets up an exciting couple of games in Moose Country Monday and Tuesday at 8pm. Tickets are on sale now at the Ticket Atlantic Box Office, select Superstore outlets, TicketAtlantic.com, the Official Mooseheads Shop in Scotia Square Mall or charge by phone 902-451-1221.