Halifax Mooseheads continue to roll

By Phil Laugher

The Halifax Mooseheads have been rolling as of late. Halifax has managed to go 11-2-2-1 since the trade deadline, which saw a blockbuster that brought Stuart Macrae, Steeve Villeneuve, and George Davis to the Mooseheads from Cape Breton.

While they have come out flat in many recent games, the Mooseheads offensive depth has allowed Halifax to pick up at least a point in their previous twelve games, going 8-0-3-1 during that stretch. Halifax is setting themselves up for a deep playoff run at this rate, as they charge towards the conference leading Baie-Comeau Drakkar, now only three points out of the top spot, and from the first round playoff bye that comes with that title.

Halifax currently has on their roster six players who are averaging a point-a-game or better (Macrae, Bell, Benedict, Vrana, Guenette, Cyr), and another who was doing the same before being mired in a slump (Bernier). Couple that with one of the deeper defensive corps in the league, and a streaky goaltending tandem, and Halifax surely has one of the better assortments of talent in the league. Halifax boasts the second best offense (Baie-Comeau) and second best defense (Bathurst) in the league, and having one of the best road records in the league does not hurt either. Halifax may not seem so arrogant as to be potentially eyeing hotel vacancies in Quebec City around the middle of May.

More Mooseheads Honoured:

– Halifax defenseman and Boston Bruins prospect Milan Jurcina was named the QMJHL`s Defensive Player of the Week this past week. He picked up two assists and was a remarkable plus-9 in the Mooseheads` three road games last week.

Jurcina is finally rounding back into form after missing six weeks (as well as the World Junior Hockey Championships) suffering from a serious charley horse.

Minor Injuries:
– The flu moved through the Halifax dressing room on the recent road trip, as Bobby Clarke and Frederik Cabana missed time due to illness. This allowed Kyle Doucet and Colby MacIntyre to get into a game each on the last trip.

Game 54: Tuesday, February 4: Halifax 4, Victoriaville 1:

Halifax looked to continue their streak of five straight home games with at least a point, facing the Victoriaville Tigres. Guillaume Lavallee would get the start against Daniel Manzato. After a wide open (but scoreless) first period, it was Jean-Francois Cyr who broke the scoreless draw, ripping home his 24th of the season. With five minutes left, Daniel Sparre brought les Tigres back to tie the game after two. Halifax then exploded in the third period, with Brandon Benedict bursting out of a slump, scoring 90 seconds into the period, then burying his second of the period at the midway point of the 3rd. Stuart Macrae added more insurance with his 25th goal of the season, giving Halifax the victory.

Game 55: Thursday, February 6: Halifax 3, Montreal 2:

Halifax`s home show continued against the struggling Montreal Rockets, with Jonathan Boutin getting the call against Jonathan Cayer. The first period would again be wide open, and Halifax would strike first, as Stu Macrae put the Mooseheads up 1-0. Montreal would answer back two minutes later; on a goal from San Jose draft pick Ryan Clowe. Clowe would then put Halifax down by one with his second of the game with five minutes left in the period. However, AJ MacLean would tie the game before the end of the 1st, sending the teams to their rooms tied at 2. A scoreless second period would nonetheless see Halifax dominate the play. Midway through the third, Steeve Villeneuve ripped a power play point shot home past Cayer, to put Halifax up for good. The team was able to sit back on the lead, picking up their fifth straight win on the home stand.

Game 56: Saturday, February 8: Halifax 2, Sherbrooke 2:

With two games left on their nine game home stand, Halifax faced the soon-to-be-moved-to-Lewiston-Maine Sherbrooke Castors. Guillaume Lavallee would get the start for the Mooseheads, while the Castors countered with rookie Brandon Verge. Halifax would come out very flat for this game, and got behind early. Toronto Maple Leafs draft pick Nicolas Corbeil put Sherbrooke up 1-0 barely a minute into the game on the power play. Then, 2003 eligible defenseman Richard Stehlik ripped one home past Lavallee, giving the Castors a 2-0 lead before the ten minute mark. Halifax was able to turn the momentum, but was unable to cash in before the end of the 1st. At the start of the second, Jonathan Boutin took to the net for the shaky Lavallee. Midway through the 2nd, rookie defenseman Jimmy Sharrow broke Verge`s shutout, ripping the puck home five-hole for his 2nd of the year. The comeback was completed by Petr Vrana, who beat Verge (who stood on his head, stopping 36 shots). Overtime solved nothing, yet Halifax picked up another point during the home stand.

Game 57: Sunday, February 9: Halifax 5, Bathurst 4:

The last game of the nine-game home stand saw the always tough division rivals the Bathurst Titan, come to town. The Mooseheads saw a respite in the fact that Moosehead-killer goaltender, Adam Russo, was not in the lineup. Guillaume Lavallee would get the call against unproven Christian Lantin. Once again, Halifax got behind early, as Nicholas Laplante scored two minutes in. Bathurst captain Olivier Filion added to the lead with six minutes left in the period, sending the teams 2-0 to the break. Milan Jurcina scored his first goal since mid-December, ripping a howitzer top shelf past Lantin. WJHC invitee Jonathan Ferland put Bathurst back up by two goals at the 14-minute mark. With two minutes left, AJ MacLean buried his 9th of the season, making it 3-2 Titan. Halifax exploded in the 3rd, when Thatcher Bell scored his 30th of the season a minute into the 3rd. Stu Macrae and Steeve Villeneuve then buried goals a minute apart midway through the period, putting Halifax up 5-3. Nicholas Laplante scored a goal with the Bathurst net empty, but it was not enough, and Halifax emerged triumphant. The anticipated heavyweight tilt between the #1 and #2 enforcers in the league, George Davis and Jonathan Tremblay, never occurred. Both paired off early in the 1st, but Davis tripped and fell over Tremblays stick before either could throw a punch. At the end of the longest home stand of the season, Halifax picked up at least a point in all nine games, going 6-0-1-2 during those games.

Game 58: Thursday, February 13: Halifax 8, Drummondville 4:

What better way to continue a hot streak than by heading to the rink of the Lebel conference doormats, the Drummondville Voltiguers? Jonathan Boutin would get the call against 6`5 goaltender Pierre-Olivier Girouard. Despite Girouard`s best efforts, Halifax would get to him early and often. Thatcher Bell started the avalanche of goals with his 31st early in the period. Benoit Duhamel would tie the game late in the 1st. Shots after 1: 15-1 Halifax. Girouard fell apart in the 2nd, as Marc-Andre Bernier scored his first goal in seven games. A minute later, Evgeni Nourislamov tied the game. A minute after that, it was Petr Vrana notching his 30th of the season, spelling the end of Girouard`s night. Bernier would continue to light it up, making it 4-2 with six minutes left in the middle frame. Brandon Benedict would add more icing on the cake before the end of the period, making it 5-2. The onslaught continued in the third, with goals from Derrick Kent and Alexandre Picard. Drummondville got two quick ones back, from Alexandre Demers and Kevin Mailhiot, but Randy Upshall put Halifax back up by four shortly thereafter, ending all notions of a comeback. Halifax had now registered a point in ten straight.

Game 59: Friday, February 14: Halifax 3, Shawinigan 3:

Halifax entered the second game of the road trip against another lowly team, the Shawinigan Cataractes. Guillaume Lavallee would get the start against his former team, facing Michel Bergevin-Robinson. Francois-Pierre Guenette would break a six-game goalless drought less than a minute into the period, and that was the only goal of the period. The 2nd saw Shawinigan score early and often, picking up three goals, from Charles Gauthier, Karl Morin, and Mathieu Gravel, making it 3-1 after two. Halifax was able to rally in the third to tie the game, with markers from Stu Macrae and Brandon Benedict. Overtime would solve nothing, but the streak would continue.

Game 60: Sunday, February 16: Halifax 2, Sherbrooke 0:

Halifax wrapped up the short road trip against the Sherbrooke Castors. Guillaume Lavallee would face Castors starter Drew MacIntyre. Halifax would put forth yet another dominating performance. After a scoreless first period which saw Halifax outshoot the Castors 17-3, it was Petr Vrana who put the Mooseheads up 1-0 four minutes into the 2nd. Vrana would strike again with two minutes left in the period, as Halifax peppered MacIntyre with 26 shots that period. There was no scoring in the third, and Halifax goaltenders garnered their sixth shutout of the season. Yet, props go to Drew MacIntyre, who stopped a whopping 56 Halifax shots in the losing cause. Thanks for the help, defense.

Bi-Weekly stats, as of 02/17/03:

Macrae, Stuart74480
Bell, Thatcher72686
Benedict, Brandon74268
*Vrana, Petr74264
Cyr, Jean-Francois71562

Season stats, as of 02/17/03:

Bell, Thatcher5331417251
Guenette, Francois-Pierre6029427118
Cyr, Jean-Francois5724477136
*Vrana, Petr6031346526
Benedict, Brandon22406263
Bernier, Marc-Andre6024285239
Picard, Alexandre603283154
Macrae, Stuart1810132314
xGilbert, Patrick413202347
Jurcina, Milan3912921&l t;td>80
Kent, Derrick408132140
MacLean, AJ57991841
Upshall, Randy5861218146
*Cabana, Frederik554101469
Clarke, Bobby4931114137
*Sharrow, Jimmy592121442
xLabelle, Jonathan41381148
Villeneuve, Steeve18381130
*Doucet, Kyle3464108
Preston, Jordie57461087
xCouch, Michael4226876
*MacIntyre, Colby22101232
x*Veinot, Nathan1601179
Lavallee, Guillaume190110
Boutin, Jonathan4101117
*MacDonald, Richie30002
xWojcik, Adam30002
xGillis, Bruce300010
*Churchill, Jason400 00
xDiLorenzo, Michael110000
Davis, George1300045

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