In this trade, Halifax acquired three integral parts that should help propel them deep into the QMJHL playoffs. From the Screaming Eagles, Halifax acquired overage sniper/playmaker Stuart Macrae (18 goals, 38 assists in 44 games), 19-year-old offensive defenseman Steve Villeneuve (11 goals, 17 assists in 42 games), and 19-year-old power-forward/bench-jumper/Anaheim Mighty Ducks draft pick George Davis (5 goals, 8 assists, 182 PIM in 43 games). Going the other way were solid overage defenseman Patrick Gilbert, 19-year-old checking forward Jonathan Labelle, 18-year-old tough-guy Nathan Veinot, and defensive prospect Adam Pardy. Also going to Cape Breton were two first round draft picks, one in 2004 and the other in 2005, which will likely be returned at the 2003 Midget draft for players currently on the Mooseheads roster.
Macrae is a bona fide playmaker that will likely be immediately inserted onto the Mooseheads first line. Villeneuve will quarterback the Mooseheads power-play, at least as long as defenseman Milan Jurcina is out of the lineup (Jurcina suffered a thigh injury against the Hull Olympiques, the game before being released to captain the Slovakian entry at the World Junior Hockey Championships, an event which he subsequently missed), and quite possibly for the remainder of the season, even after Jurcina`s return. Davis brings a physical dimension that Halifax desperately needed, as the forward units have not used their size as effectively as was hoped in the pre-season.
Lost in these new acquisitions are the players going the other way. Pat Gilbert, who recently played his 300th career QMJHL game, played 95 of those with Halifax, putting up 6 goals and 44 points in his stint in Halifax. His defensive presence and steadiness will definitely be missed on the Halifax blue-line. Jonathan Labelle, acquired in the off-season from the Hull Olympiques, played an intense game and was an excellent penalty killer. While his offensive numbers were not there (3 goals, 11 points, in 41 games), he brought other intangibles to the rink every game. Nathan Veinot had a short stint with Halifax, but he was fearless, taking on many of the t op enforcers with other teams throughout the league. He put up 1 assist in 16 career games. Adam Pardy was a late cut at the Mooseheads training camp, a victim of the deep defense Halifax possessed, and was affiliated to the MJAHL. Good luck to all of the former Mooseheads, and here`s hoping you all have success with your fresh start on the Island.
But this blockbuster may not be the last of the trades Halifax GM Marcel Patenaude makes before the Thursday morning deadline, as rumours have been swirling that Halifax is looking to upgrade their goaltending even further, and potentially clear up numbers issues on the blue line. Whatever happens, the remainder of the trading period should be very interesting.
– Derrick Kent returned last week from his knee injury after missing twenty games. He suffered a sprained knee on October 27th against the Quebec Remparts after he was the victim of a knee-on-knee hit from Curtis Tidball, near the end of a 6-3 Halifax loss. He picked up two points in his first four games, spending some time on the second line with Brandon Benedict and Marc-Andre Bernier, as well as on the checking line.
– Milan Jurcina suffered a thigh injury against the Hull Olympiques on December 17th, one day before he was to leave for Sydney for the Slovakian training camp. The injury prevented him from competing in the World Junior Hockey Championships in Halifax and Sydney, and could keep him out of the lineup for another 2-3 weeks.
– Frederik Cabana suffered a concussion over the Christmas break at the Quebec under-17 training camps. The injury went originally undiagnosed, until Cabana played one game against Bathurst. He will be out for an indefinite amount of time.
Game #37: Thursday, December 19: Halifax 7, Montreal 4:
Halifax continued on their arduous nine-game road trip, with a stop at the relatively empty Centre Bell in Montreal for a date with the Rockets. Guillaume Lavallee would get the start for Halifax against Jonathan Cayer. Montreal came out to a flying start, with three first period goals from Fabien Laniel, Jean-Francois Soucy, and Maxim Lapierre, to give Montreal a 3-0 lead after 1. Kyle Doucet scored his 6th of the season early in the first, followed 20 seconds later by Michael Couch`s 2nd of the season. Jean-Francois Cyr tied the game later in the period. Soucy put Montreal back up 4-3 moments later, before Jordie Preston tied the game again before the end of the 2nd period. Halifax exploded for three goals in five minutes early in the third, with Francois-Pierre Guenette, Bobby Clarke, and Marc-Andre Bernier burying goals before the eight minute mark. That was all the scoring Halifax would need, extending their undefeated streak to seven games.
Game #38: Friday, December 20: Halifax 5, Sherbrooke 4 (OT):
Halifax looked to further their undefeated road swing through Sherbrooke, with Jonathan Boutin getting the start for the Mooseheads, up against Drew MacIntyre. Sherbrooke would get the lead early on a goal from Sebastien Courcelles. Three minutes later, Frederik Cabana would tie the game with his 3rd. Sherbrooke would go back up by one late, on a power-play goal from Mathieu Wathier, chasing Boutin from the net, replaced by Guillaume Lavallee. Jonathan Labelle tied the game five minutes into the 2nd with a short-handed goal, and Halifax would take the lead on a power-play marker from Petr Vrana. Jean-Francois Cyr put Halifax up by two with two-and-a-half minutes remaining in the period, but Sherbrooke snuck their 3rd in under the wire, on a goal from first-overall pick Alex Bourret. The score remained 4-3 until five minutes left in the 3rd, when Jean-Francois Plourde notched his 29th goal, sending the game to overtime. The extra frame would be short-lived, as Jean-Francois Cyr ripped home the game winner 70 seconds into the period for his second of the game, extending Halifax`s undefeated streak to eight games.
Game #39: Friday, December 27: Halifax 6, Rimouski 2:
What better place to seek to extend the undefeated streak than the friendly confines of the Colisie, home of the 2002-2003 doormats the Rimouski Oceanic? Jonathan Boutin would get the start against little known Cedric Desjardins. Halifax would fall behind early again, as Marc-Antoine Pouliot put the `Nics up 1-0 halfway though the 1st. The score remained the same until early in the 2nd, when Patrick Gilbert scored his 3rd on the power play. Marc-Andre Bernier scored his 15th and 16th goals of the season before the period ended, giving Halifax a 3-1 lead after two periods. Francois-Pierre Guenette put Halifax up by three early in the third, followed by goals from Petr Vrana and Thatcher Bell, making it 6-1. Rimouski got one back on the first career goal from Pierre-David Tremblay, but that was all they could muster.
Game #40: Saturday, December 28: Bathurst 4, Halifax 0:
Could Halifax extend their undefeated streak to ten games? Surely, the division-rival Acadie-Bathurst Titan would have something to say about that. Guillaume Lavallee was in goal for Halifax, up against Adam Russo for the Titan. As per usual, Halifax would not be able to solve Russo, who often seems to step up his game for big match-ups such as this one. Michael Tessier, after throwing a huge open-ice hit, would then throw the puck into the back of the net, giving Bathurst an early 1-0 lead. Patrice Bergeron and Karl Fournier would tally in the second, extending Bathurst`s lead to 3-0 after two periods. For good measure, Remi Doucet added extra insurance for t he Titan. The Halifax undefeated streak came to an end, and the Mooseheads, despite out-shooting the Titan, could not solve Russo on this night.
Game #41: Monday, December 30: Moncton 3, Halifax 1:
Halifax looked to start up a new undefeated streak after dropping their first game (of seven) on this road trip, against the Moncton Wildcats. Guillaume Lavallee would get the call again, countered by Corey Crawford. Things went badly again in the first, as Halifax fell behind by two goals, the first from Sebastien Strozynski, and the second from Nathan Saunders, with four seconds left in the period, to put the Cats up 2-0 after 1. Derrick Kent brought Halifax back within one, with his first goal since mid-October, to make it 2-1 after two periods. It was not to be on this night, as Moncton forward Bruce Graham put Moncton back up by two goals midway through the third, and that is how this one finished.
Game #42: Sunday, January 5: Halifax 3, Cape Breton 2:
The Mooseheads nine-game road trip came to an end on WJHC Gold Medal Day, in Sydney. Halifax was lucky to not be facing superstar goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, who was, coincidentally, back in Halifax, backstopping Team Canada in the Gold Medal Game. Jonathan Boutin would get the start up against Martin Houle for the Eagles. Halifax would actually notch the first goal, with Brandon Benedict scoring to put Halifax up by one. Randy Upshall would double the lead early in the 2nd period. Future Moosehead Stuart Macrae brought Cape Breton back within one before the end of the 2nd. Thatcher Bell regained the two-goal lead early in the third, scoring shortly before Eagles goalie Houle left the game due to flu-like symptoms. Rookie defenseman Vincent Zaore-Vanie brought the Eagles back within one late, but Halifax was able to hang on for the victory.
Last two weeks
Season stats (as of January 7, 2003)
From behind the net, this is Phil Laugher, signing off for hockeysfuture.com.