The Mooseheads fell behind by a large margin early in the game and despite a valiant comeback effort, the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies are now in the driver’s seat in the President Cup Finals after a 6-3 victory in front of a deafening crowd at the Iam Gold Arena.
The home team scored four times in a span of 8:38 to build a huge lead in Game 5 of the QMJHL Championship series and are within one win of claiming the President Cup for the second time in four years. The Mooseheads will need to win on Saturday afternoon back home in Halifax in order to force a Game 7 in Rouyn-Noranda Monday night.
The game will be remembered for an incredible save by Samuel Harvey in the dying minutes of action when Raphael Lavoie was robbed by his glove with 1:20 on the clock. Antoine Morand set Lavoie up with a perfect pass across and he quickly put it on net but Harvey got across to flash the leather just as Alex Gravel made his way to the bench for the extra attacker at the other end.
Two quick empty net goals put the game out of reach and made the final score misleading given the fact Lavoie was inches away from setting up a potential overtime showdown with 80 seconds to play. The more than 3,400 fans in attendance were in party mode all night and continued to blow their air horns long after the final horn sounded.
Halifax scored twice in the first period and once in the third period in the loss as they did their best to rally from behind. The Huskies first goal came 5:45 into action as Peter Abbandonato slid in a rebound during a scramble in front of Alex Gravel who had made a big initial save moments earlier. Abbandonato grabbed the puck as it sat at the feet of five different players fighting for possession and energized the rowdy crowd who started the Gra-vel chants early to try and get under the goalie’s skin.
The second Huskies goal came on the power play at the 10:08 mark. Raphael Lavoie rushed up the ice and got a decent short-handed scoring chance on Harvey but Rouyn-Noranda quickly turned it up the ice on an odd man rush leading to a Joel Teasdale shot and another goal on the rebound, this time from Raphael Harvey-Pinard. The Huskies had the hockey gods looking out for them on the next two goals. They struck on a delayed penalty call at 11:48 when Justin Bergeron floated a puck toward the net and Jakub Lauko deflected it high into the top corner for a 3-0 lead. William Cyr finished the first period onslaught with a fluke marker that turned out to be the game-winner. He shot the puck from the against the boards at the blue line and it was destined to go about 10 feet wide of the net but it hit the backside of Walter Flower and changed directions and went behind a helpless Gravel.
Eric Veilleux’s squad was down but they showed no quit as the Herd started to chip away. Arnaud Durandeau notched his 10th of the playoffs only about a minute after the Cyr goal and the Moose were on the board, cutting the deficit to 4-1. The goal came when BO Groulx shot it from the point, caromed off the skate of Bergeron and onto the waiting stick of the New York Islanders prospect. Groulx set up another one just two second before the period ended when he took a shot from the top of the circle that Harvey turned away but Lavoie was waiting for the rebound at the side of the net and had no trouble pounding in his QMJHL-leading 20th goal of the playoffs. That made the score 4-2 as a wild first period closed.
There was no scoring in the second stanza, although the Huskies had their chances. Gravel made 15 saves in the middle period while the Halifax offense went stale with just four shots on Harvey. That set up a huge third period and it was Samuel Asselin who pulled the Mooseheads to within a goal when he tallied on the power play at 3:43. It was the first man advantage of the night for the Herd who ended up going 1-3 on the power play. With Alex Gravel making save after save at one end, the Moose were desperately trying to find a way to even the game and Lavoie nearly did it. Jared McIsaac also had a great chance on a backdoor play setup by Durandeau during a third period power play but didn’t quite get all of the puck as Harvey turned it aside. The Huskies added empty net goals six seconds apart to round out the scoring.
Gravel finished his night with 39 saves on 43 shots while Harvey picked up the win with 18 saves.
Rouyn-Noranda may be without forward Jakub Lauko after he left the game with an apparent lower body injury following a collision with Lavoie. Lauko stayed down on the ice for a few minutes before being helped off by teammates and he did not return. The injury occurred early in the third period.
Game 6 will be played Saturday afternoon at 4pm at Scotiabank Centre were the noise level is destined to rival that of the boisterous fans in Rouyn-Noranda. 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.