Halifax/Hull QMJHL Finals Game One

By Chris McCluskey

“I don’t know whether to eat this pizza or throw it,”
commented bitter Acadie-Bathurst Titan defenceman
Marc-Olivier Vary as he watched the outdoor
celebrations following an intense seven game
quarter-finals against the Halifax Mooseheads. This
was the scene in the QMJHL’s most Eastern city as
their popular home team was flying high with success
attributable to the hard, team-oriented work ethic of a team worthy to challenge for the
President’s Cup in the QMJHL finals.

However, possibly due to the fatigue that comes along
with playing two straight seven games series, the
energy once apparent as one of the big reasons they
made it this far seems to have progressively dwindled.
The Moose did an effective job of shutting down
league M.V.P. Joel Perreault of the Baie-Comeau
Drakkar in the conference finals, while driving
notorious loose-cannon coach Richard Martel to fits.
This most notably included the thrashing of a
stationary bike under the stands at Metro Centre
following game six.

The strain of playing on average a game every two days
for the past month seems to have finally caught up to
the Mooseheads, who showed signs of being tired late in
the Baie-Comeau series and haven’t put together an
inspiring home performance since game four on April
23rd. The once feared club, sporting the richest pool
of CHL players available for the upcoming 2003 draft,
must once again find the commitment and motivation
they used to beat the Screaming Eagles, Titan, and
Drakkar in taking on the surprising Hull Olympiques.

The Q’s most Western club is certainly on a high
having achieved a berth in the finals. They only suffered
one loss and had the playoffs’ top three scorers. Having played five fewer games, the
Olympiques looked more prepared and energized than the
favored Mooseheads who looked as if they were just
recently assembled following a long off-season and
were still becoming accustomed to one another’s
tendencies.

“It feels great!” commented a smiling Eric LaFrance
without a hint of overconfidence following the 4-1 win, “I can’t wait until tomorrow
night!” LaFrance has been one of the playoffs’
biggest surprises thus far, proving as an overager he
can carry a team
as well as any of the most prominent netminders in the
league.

“It feels soooo good!” chimed in the always excited
Maxime Talbot who contributed a goal
and an assist to give him a league leading 36 points
in 14 playoff games. “We’re going to have to be ready
again tomorrow night though,” the Pittsburgh Penguins
draft choice added. He was looking ahead to game 2,
acknowledging the fact it will be the most important
game he will play to date.

It is this attitude that the Mooseheads lack. The
Halifax club seems to have lost its perspective and
must realize they are playing in championship games in
order to turn things around. It’s true players are
suffering from bruises, such as once highly touted
dynamic forward Thatcher Bell’s nagging back ailment,
but the depth the club has to its disposal still makes
them the favorites in this one. However, the
Olympiques are truly a close club that has bought into
a system that has carried them far beyond the
expectations of anyone. But you would never think the warrior
club saw themselves going to the finals from talking
to them or observing the atmosphere in their dressing
room where there isn’t one trace of cockiness or
assumption. They simply have the heart and dedication
the tired Mooseheads lacked last night and the key to
the rest of the series is whether they will once again
go to the net and play with the desperation that led
them to upset the league favorite Baie-Comeau Drakkar
and move on to the QMJHL Cup Finals. It’s only game
one and there’s still plenty of time to turn it
around.

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