It was a bit of a rocky start but the Mooseheads turned it into an all-out offensive assault on the Moncton Wildcats in a lopsided 12-5 victory on Friday night at Scotiabank Centre.
Benoit-Olivier Groulx had a five point effort to lead the attack and the Mooseheads set a new team record for goals scored on home ice. The club had previously scored 11 at home on eight occasions and the overall record is 15 set by the 2013-14 squad in Rouyn-Noranda. Groulx scored two goals as did Filip Zadina, Otto Somppi and Connor Moynihan while 13 players had at least one point and nine had multi-point perfomances.
The two points helped extend the Maritimes Division lead for the Herd over Acadie-Bathurst. The Titan fell to Cape Breton in overtime and Halifax (36-13-6-1) now sits at 79 points while Bathurst (33-14-7-2) has 75 points. Both teams have 12 games remaining and will face off in Halifax on the final day of the regular season.
“It felt great to get that dub (W) against those guys and we owed them big-time for last game,” said Connor Moynihan.
The Mooseheads had a quick lead when Jake Ryczek scored on a point shot just 1:26 into the game but then ran into a little adversity as the Wildcats scored three times in a hurry to take a 3-1 advantage before the contest was eight minutes old. The momentum shifted back to the home side when Moncton defenceman Jonathan Aspirot took a slashing penalty and Jared McIsaac made the Cats pay on the power play with his eighth goal of the season, cutting the deficit to 3-2. The NHL Draft eligible defenceman had a three-point night giving him seven points in his last two games. McIsaac’s tally was the first of nine in a row for the Moose as they buried Moncton before the 7,913 fans in the building could blink.
“They came out strong but we just kept to the structure and kept pounding them in,” Moynihan said.
The Windham, New Hampshire native tied the score 3-3 at the 17:32 mark of the first period and Arnaud Durandeau gave his team a 4-3 lead when he netted his 16th of the season on a pretty shorthanded breakaway that spelled the end of the night for Wildcats starting goalie Matthew Waite. The goalie let in four goals on nine shots. Moncton coach Darren Rumble wasn’t even willing to wait until the intermission to switch goalies as Waite was lifted in favour of Mark Grametbauer with only 37 seconds to go in the opening 20 minutes.
The switch to Grametbauer didn’t stop the onslaught and he allowed eight goals on 29 shots as the Mooseheads completely over-matched their rivals in this game. The second period saw goals from Moynihan, Groulx, Lavoie, Zadina and Somppi to make it 9-3 after two periods and the Moose outscored the Cats 3-2 in the final 20 to coast to victory. Alex Gravel was big when he needed to be for Halifax with 32 saves.
Moncton played without a number of key players as Alexandre Khovanov is currently participating in the 5 Nations Tournament in Plymouth, Michigan. Mika Cyr is sidelined with a cracked clavicle, Gabriel Sylvestre was out serving a suspension and Anderson MacDonald is nursing a shoulder injury. The Mooseheads were without Joel Bishop who has been sidelines since suffering an upper body injury against Chicoutimi on February 8th. Goalie Blade Mann-Dixon sat in the press box with an upper body injury and is listed as day-to-day. Raphael Blais was called up from Miramichi and served as the backup.
Defencemen Jocktan Chainey and Patty Kyte both left the game early for precautionary reasons but aren’t expected to miss any further time.
The Mooseheads will hope to keep the good times rolling at home when they wrap up the long weekend with a Monday matinee against Alexis Lafreniere and the Rimouski Oceanic at 2pm. Special Family Packs are on sale, three for $33 or four for $40, maximum two adults. Tickets are on sale now at the Ticket Atlantic Box Office, select Superstore Outlets, TicketAtlantic.com, the Official Mooseheads Shop in Scotia Square or call 451-1221.