Moose Tracks

By Phil Laugher

Coming into the most recent bi-weekly period, Halifax had notched at least a point in eight of the previous nine games. The following four games would prove to be a great test, as Halifax faced two of the top teams in the country, in Val d`Or and Baie-Comeau, as well as the always tough Quebec Remparts and of course, the obligatory meeting with the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies, home of former Halifax coach and GM, Bob Mongrain.

Halifax played solidly throughout, going 2-1-1 in the four game stretch against the tough competition, while putting up 18 goals in the process. This upped their solid season record to 14-5-5-2, tops in the Maritime division. The line of Thatcher Bell, Brandon Benedict, and Marc-Andre Bernier have tailed off offensively, but the second line of Petr Vrana, Francois-Pierre Guenette, and Jean-Francois Cyr have filled in for them more than adequately, combining for 7 goals, 22 points between the three of them in the four game period. Things appear to get easier in the next two weeks, as Halifax plays league doormats Drummondville twice, as well as division rivals Bathurst and Moncton, among others.

Goaltending Change

The Halifax Mooseheads parted ways with 19-year-old goaltender Michael DiLorenzo this past week. DiLorenzo had disagreements with the Mooseheads coaching staff over his declining ice time, which resulted in his release. He and Jonathan Boutin had been alternating starts for the first month of the year, before Boutin emerged as the number one goaltender, and went on to start in ten straight games. The Mooseheads recalled 17-year-old Jason Churchill from the Maritime Junior A Hockey League, and he appeared in the 3rd period of the first game he dressed for.

Former Mooseheads News

Two former Halifax Mooseheads were called up to the NHL for the first time in their careers in the past couple weeks. Goaltender Joey MacDonald was called up by the Detroit Red Wings to be the backup, when Curtis Jospeh went down with the flu. Also, the Phoenix Coyotes recalled forward Ramzi Abid from the AHL. Abid appeared in one game, and registered a shot. Both players have since been returned to their respective AHL clubs.

Also, some unfortunate news this past week, as former Mooseheads power forward Sergei Klyazmin suffered a torn ACL to his knee  to the same knee that saw his 2001-2002 QMJHL campaign cut short. He had appeared in 8 games for the Hershey Bears, with no points. Heres hoping Sergei can recover quickly and get his career back on track.

Central Scouting Info

The preliminary rankings for the 2003 NHL Entry Draft were released recently, and four Mooseheads made the nod on the QMJHL list. The highest ranked skater was Marc-Andre Bernier, who came out of nowhere to end up 9th on the list. Alexandre Picard was 18th, and Petr Vrana 19th. Jonathan Boutin was the 2nd-ranked goaltender on the list. The highest ranked QMJHL skater was Rimouskis Marc-Antoine Pouliot.

Cant Wait For Violence

If you were near a television anywhere in North America last week, you no doubt saw at least a short clip of the Halifax Mooseheads in action. Coming into the game against the Baie Comeau Drakkar on Wednesday, November 13, there was the expectation of a playoff atmosphere, as two of the top teams in the Dilio Conference were going to be facing off, in what was expected to be hard-hitting, wide-open, intense affair. After all was said and done in one of the craziest games in the history of the Halifax Mooseheads, there resulted 23 ejections, 485 penalty minutes, and 11 games worth of suspensions, when two line brawls broke out during the game.

In the game, which at times looked like the more violent clips of an upcoming (if there is one in the works, which based on II, I sincerely hope not) Slapshot III, with numerous after-whistle scrums, players leaving the penalty box, referees being tossed around, players nearly coming off the bench, and goaltenders pummeling each other  not to mention Halifax pugilist Colby MacIntyre tossing Baie-Comeau tough-guy Marc-Andre Roys jersey into the Halifax bench after a spirited fight between the two, Halifax managed to emerge triumphant, despite the blatant goonery deployed by Baie-Comeau coach Richard Martel, who at times during various melees was standing on the boards in front of the bench, directing traffic. Before the rose-coloured glasses comment is lobbed my way, keep in mind that all 11 games worth of suspensions went Baie-Comeaus way. BC coach Richard Martel received a 4-game suspension for his actions, 17-year-old Louis-Philippe Martin picked up 5 games, and Alexandre Lamarche 2 games.

Things started to go awry late in the first period, when, up by a 4-1 tally, Halifax defenseman Alexandre Picard was clipped by an elbow from Alexandre Lamarche in front of the Halifax bench. Defenseman Bobby Clarke came onto the ice, and he and Lamarche dropped the gloves in the first of many fights. Then, midway through the second period, with the score widening, a scrum after the whistle resulted in a line brawl between the two third lines, with six ejections resulting. The main event, which many of you have no doubt seen, was a wild melee with 10:43 left in the 3rd period, where everyone on the ice paired off again, as well as the goalies. BC goalie Patrick Lepage was the first to enter the pile, and Halifaxs Jonathan Boutin skated in to meet him, and unfortunately for Lepage, Boutin laid a mighty beating. The 2003 draft prospect showcased another side of his repertoire  his pugilistic skills. For the remainder of the game, which had turned into a game of pond hockey, Baie-Comeau had only five players left, with no one but the coaches left on the bench.

For information on the hockey aspect of the hockey game, see below.

Recaps

Game 22: Friday, November 8: Halifax 6, Rouyn-Noranda 2

The Mooseheads rolled into western Quebec for a two-game road trip, against the Huskies, and coming off a disheartening OT loss against Val d`Or in the last game. Jonathan Boutin would get the nod in goal against Mathieu Poitras for Rouyn-Noranda. Brandon Benedict would open the scoring about midway through the 1st, sending them up 1-0 into the intermission. They would blow the game wide open in the 2nd period, with three more goals, first from Thatcher Bell, with Marc-Andre Bernier picking up another, and defenseman Bobby Clarke adding his first of the season. 4-0 after two. Rouyn would get two quick goals back, but Halifax added two late goals from Bernier and Milan Jurcina to ice the game.

Game 23: Saturday, November 9: Halifax 3, Val d`Or 3:

Halifax looked to build on the win by facing the Foreurs for the second time in a week, looking to avenge their overtime loss. (In retrospect, David Rodmans two-handed slash in overtime from the week before actually hit Alexandre Picards stick, rather than his arm, so I retract my statement from the last article.) Boutin would be in goal for Halifax, and Maxime Daigneault countering for the Foreurs. Things did not start out well for Halifax, as Nicolas Pelletier notched his first of many on the night Things did not start out well for Halifax, as Nicolas Pelletier notched his first of many on the night midway through the 1st. Petr Vrana brought Halifax back to a tie, before Pelletier scored two more in a one minute span late in the 2nd to put Val d`Or up 3-1 after 2. Michael DiLorenzo would start the 3rd period after Boutins poor 2nd period finish. Patrick Gilbert scored his second of the year early in the 3rd, and Thatcher Bell tied the game in the last 90 seconds. Overtime solved nothing.

Game 24: Wednesday, November 13: Halifax 9, Baie-Comeau 2:

Ive already focused on the side-show that took place during this hockey. Yes, for at least part of the game, the two teams DID play hockey. Boutin would start for Halifax again, and Michel Bergevin-Robinson got the start for Baie-Comeau. Halifax got to Robinson early and often, much like the past meeting between the teams. Brandon Benedict scored about a minute into the first, and it would not be the team`s last. Pascal Pelletier tied the game at the eight-minute mark, but that would be as close as they would get. Francois-Pierre Guenette extended his point streak to twelve games with his first goal of the game, followed by goals from Jean-Francois Cyr and Milan Jurcina, sending them to the intermission up 4-1. Jurcina scored his second power-play goal of the game midway through the second, and Guenette also added his second minutes later. Cyr would double his tally late in the 2nd, to make it 7-1 after two periods. With Patrick Lepage in nets, and after a goal of their own, Halifax would regain the 6-goal lead on a beauty from Guenette, to complete the hat trick. After the fighting festivities, Robinson came back in goal to give up the team`s ninth goal of the game to Petr Vrana. Halifax finished the game 6 for 12 on the powerplay.

Game 25: Friday, November 15: Quebec 5, Halifax 0:

Coming off the adrenaline-fueled high of the previous game, Halifax moved on to face the Quebec Remparts. Boutin would start again, with Benjamin McMullin getting the call for Quebec, and boy, would he answer that call. After a scoreless first, Quebec would jump on the board with four goals in a ten minute span, with goals from Nashville draft pick Timofei Shishkanov, 2003 prospect Josh Hennessy, Sebastien Bourgon, and Shawn Collymore, despite Halifax out-shooting them 23-10 in the period. Boutin was chased from the game, and was replaced by Jason Churchill, making his first appearance in the QMJHL. Churchill played well, but Collymore was able to beat him, to make the score 5-0. Benjamin McMullin was the game`s first star, making 51 saves, and getting a standing ovation from the Halifax crowd, something unheard of in a road building, and a classy note for the thousands of fans who stuck around in the blowout.

Statistics

Bi-Weekly Stats:

PlayerGPGAPPIM
*Vrana, Petr42682
Cyr, Jean-Francois42572
Guenette, Francois-Pierre43470
Bell, Thatcher42462
Jurcina, Milan43254

Season Stats: (as of November 21, 2002)

PlayerGPGAPPIM
Benedict, Brandon2510223224
Bell, Thatcher1813173025
*Vrana, Petr2515132810
Cyr, Jean-Francois227182510
Guenette, Francois-Pierre251111228
Bernier, Marc-Andre259122117
Jurcina, Milan19851341
Kent, Derrick18581326
Gilbert, Patrick252111335
Picard, Alexandre250111121
MacLean, AJ2545925
Labelle, Jonathan2525742
Upshall, Randy25257104
*Sharrow, Jimmy2406610
*Cabana, Frederik2423534
Preston, Jordie2523571
Clarke, Bobby1813464
Couch, Michael2403361
*Doucet, Kyle91234
*MacIntyre, Colby12101158
*Veinot, Nathan601127
Boutin, Jonathan1901117
*Churchill, Jason10000
xWojcik, Adam30004
xGillis, Bruce300010
xDiLorenzo, Michael110000

From behind the net, this is Phil Laugher, signing off for Hockey`s Future.