Two games. That is all it took for two-thirds of the Halifax Mooseheads top line to go down to injury. You would have thought that such a great loss of offense would have been a horrible development for QMJHL squad, but things were not as bad as they originally seemed.
In an October 6th game against the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles, 19-year-old forward Jean-Francois Cyr suffered a slight shoulder separation after taking a hit. The following game, against the Sherbrooke Castors, Thatcher Bell brought the Halifax Metro Centre faithful silent, as he lay on the ice, clutching his leg, with 90 seconds left in the 3rd period. What originally looked to be a serious injury turned out to be an ankle sprain. Bell has not returned to the lineup since going down, as management feels he should not be rushed back into the lineup too early (one has to wonder how much this decision is influenced by the conditions of their trade at the Midget Draft with Rimouski, where if Bell plays 50 games or more, Halifax must send their 2003 1st round pick to the Oceanic). And to top off the injury parade, defenseman Bobby Clarke sustained an injured thigh muscle against Shawinigan after taking a bump and landing awkwardly by the Halifax bench.
All these injuries opened the door for other players who had been underachieving to step up. Rookie Petr Vrana, and sophomore forwards Francois-Pierre Guenette and Marc-Andre Bernier all had breakout games during the most recent stretch of games as a result of their increased ice time. Bernier has been playing on the top line with Brandon Benedict, and Vrana has skated with Guenette and the returning Cyr, to put together a formidable unit.
Regardless of the injuries, Halifax was able to put together a solid 3-1-1 record, against some higher skilled competition.
Game 11: Friday, October 11: Halifax 2, Sherbrooke 0:
Without Jean-Francois Cyr in the lineup, Marc-Andre Bernier would see time on the top line. Sherbrooke boasted possibly the best collection of young talent in the league, and if they could get it together, Halifaxs goaltenders would be in for a long night. Jonathan Boutin tended the net for the Mooseheads. Derrick Kent opened the scoring late in the 1st period on a lovely feed from AJ MacLean. They picked up an insurance marker midway through the 2nd period, as enforcer Colby MacIntyre notched his first career goal, banging in a loose puck past Detroit Red Wings prospect, Drew MacIntyre. Boutin shut the door for the rest of the game, blanking the Castors. Thatcher Bell left the ice with the help of his teammates, after suffering an ankle injury late in the game.
Game 12: Sunday, October 13: Victoriaville 4, Halifax 1:
With Thatcher Bell and Jean-Francois Cyr out of the lineup nursing injuries, things looked bleak for the Mooseheads, who were going up against the Victoriaville Tigres. These pessimistic views were proven true, as their offense could not get going. Their defensive game was not up to snuff either, as poor passes and slow line changes lead to many of the Tigres goals. Jonathan Boutin was between the pipes for the second straight game. Guillaume Fournier opened the scoring for the Tigres midway into the 1st period. Boston prospect Milan Jurcina knotted the game at 1 with a howitzer from the point. Jamie McCabe countered to put the Tigres back on top less than a minute later. A sloppy line change led to a 2-on-0, where Mathieu Brunelle buried the puck. McCabe added more insurance late, and Carolina prospect Daniel Manzato closed the door the rest of the way, putting an end to Halifaxs eight-game streak of notching at least one point.
Game 13: Tuesday, October 15: Halifax 2, Acadie-Bathurst 2:
Still missing two key components from the offense, Halifax moved onto the road to face division leaders, the Acadie-Bathurst Titan. Derrick Kent opened the scoring late in the 1st, beating goaltender Adam Russo. Milan Jurcina notched his fourth goal (and fourth power-play goal) early in the 2nd to put Halifax up by two. However, they set back, and Bathurst rallied, with goals from rookie Patrice Bergeron, and Olivier Fillion, who scored with 23 seconds left in regulation. Overtime solved nothing.
Game 14: Saturday, October 19: Halifax 9, Shawinigan 2:
After scoring only five goals in their past three games, Halifax looked to break out of their offensive slump against the once mighty Cataractes. They would get good news, as Jean-Francois Cyr returned to the lineup. Jonathan Boutin started for the fourth straight game. It didnt take long for the deadlock to be broken, as captain Brandon Benedict opened the scoring 33 seconds in. Randy Upshall notched a beautiful wraparound goal for the 2-0 lead. Halifax busted loose in the second, with five goals, including three goals from import Petr Vrana. Marc-Andre Bernier and Jonathan Labelle added the other goals in the period, to make it a stunning 7-1 after two periods. Bernier and Vrana added another goal apiece, giving Vrana a season high four goals, and Bernier two. Both players tripled their career goal totals in this game. Charles Gauthier and Mathieu Gravel countered for the uninspiring Cataractes.
Game 15: Sunday, October 20: Halifax 8, Rouyn-Noranda 4:
The Mooseheads looked to continue the offensive juggernaut at home, and what better team to face than the team headed up by former head coach/general manager Bob Mongrain. And they would, with the help of breakout games from Francois-Pierre Guenette and AJ MacLean. Michael DiLorenzo got the start. A torrid start saw four goals in the first 6:30, with Guenette, Milan Jurcina, and Brandon Benedict score for Halifax, and Guillaume Desbiens for the Huskies. Desbiens would add a second late in the opening frame. Former Moosehead Giulio Scandella tied the game at 3 early in the 2nd, and chased DiLorenzo from the net.
The tie was short-lived, however, as AJ MacLean got his first of two. Derrick Kent and Guenette also added 2nd period goals, and after 40 minutes, the Mooseheads led 6-4. Halifax iced the game in a rough and wild third period, with MacLean and Jordie Preston adding insurance markers. The end of the game was marred by a series of fights and scrums, which resulted in several late misconducts. Milan Jurcina was also ejected for boarding league pest Pascal Morency early in the 3rd. MacLean finished the night with four points, a career high.
Last two weeks:
Season: (as of Oct 20, 2002)
Halifax hits the road for a three-games-in-four-nights swing through central Quebec, against Chicoutimi, Baie-Comeau, and Quebec. Halifax will look to continue their offensive ways on the road, where they are 2-0-4-1 thus far this season. Time will tell if they can remain undefeated in regulation away from the Metro Centre.
– Petr Vrana was in consideration for the QMJHLs Offensive Player of the Week award, but was beaten out by Quebec Remparts import forward (and Nashville draft pick) Timofei Shishkanov.
– Jonathan Boutin has appeared in six straight games for the Mooseheads, making it look as if he will be the number one netminder, at least in the near future.
From behind the net, this is Phil Laugher, for Hockeys Future.