It took some timely goal scoring on the power play and more solid goaltending from Alex Gravel and Halifax has Drummondville on the ropes in the QMJHL President Cup Semi-Finals following a 5-2 victory in Game 4.
The Mooseheads got 33 saves from their goalie and scored four times in the second period to take a commanding 3-games-to-1 series lead over the favoured Voltigeurs and will have a chance to finish them off on Friday night in Game 5 at the Marcel Dionne Centre. Another win would put the Herd into the President Cup final where the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies are waiting following their sweep of Rimouski.
After Dawson Mercer struck on the man advantage midway through the second period to put Drummondville up 1-0, the Mooseheads came up with an enormous response. Raphael Lavoie got off a hard shot from the circle on the power play to tie it just 62 seconds after the Mercer goal and Max Trepanier pounced on a rebound at the side of the net to beat goalie Olivier Rodrigue to give the Moose a lead they would not relinquish.
Xavier Parent made it 3-1 and Antoine Morand scored a third power play goal and Halifax took a 4-1 lead to the dressing room after 40 minutes with their four goals coming in a span of 8:04. The Herd scored four times on 11 shots in the period while Gravel allowed just the one goal on 15 shots in the middle stanza.
“We took advantage and took control of the game on the power play and we were able to score some big goals,” said Head Coach Eric Veilleux.
The clubs traded late third period tallies with Samuel Asselin putting one into an empty net followed by a Voltigeurs goal by Joe Veleno with 1:12 to go in regulation but the game was decided by the outburst in the second period.
Fans stood and chanted Al-ex, Al-ex after the final horn in appreciation of the stellar play from Gravel who earned the first star of the game for the second night in a row. He helped the team weather a slow start in the first period as the Voltigeurs dominated puck possession but he kept it a scoreless game through 20 minutes of action. The Moose Country faithful stood and applauded on several occasions throughout the night after his big saves but none was more deserving than a huge glove stop on Pavel Koltygin in the second period. That prompted an extended standing ovation.
“I go game by game no matter what the series is at so next game at Drummondville I’m just going to go out there and try my best to help my team win,” Gravel said.
The Voltigeurs will need to win three straight games if they want to advance and it will begin with Game 5 in their home building on Friday. Coach Steve Hartley is confident his team has what it takes to accomplish the difficult task.
“It’s gut-check time. We need to show character. Yes we have a good team, we have talent and we’ve won three games in a row plenty of times this year.”
The Volts have indeed won multiple games in a row in the regular season with eight streaks of three wins or more, but they also haven’t lost three games in a row until this series against the Mooseheads as Halifax has dished out some adversity to the highest scoring CHL team.
A Mooseheads franchise record was set when Lavoie scored his 17th playoff goal of the year as he surpassed the previous record of 16 set by Stefan Fournier in 2013.
Fans eager to follow along in Game 5 on Friday night which is set for 8:30 Atlantic will be able to listen live on News 95.7 or watch on Eastlink TV. Should Drummondville force a Game 6, it would be played back in Halifax on Sunday at 2pm and tickets would go on sale Saturday at 11am.
For now, the team is focused on winning on Friday and punching their ticket to the President Cup Final for the fourth time in Mooseheads history. They have all of Nova Scotia behind them.