Game One: Thursday, September 11: Halifax 2, Gatineau 3:
The Halifax Mooseheads tenth season began on the road in the home of the 2003 QMJHL champions, the Gatineau Olympiques. Both teams were heavily depleted, with many key players away at NHL training camps. Jason Churchill got the call for the Mooseheads, while Gatineau countered with rookie Gabriel Bouthillette. It was Halifax who got on the board first, with the overage defenseman ripping home a powerplay goal before the halfway point of the first period. The score remained the same until halfway through the second period, when Gatineau exploded for three goals in five minutes, with Scott Brophy, Nick Fugere, and Yannick Charron notching their first goals of the year. Second-year forward Kyle Doucet brought Halifax back within one on a breakaway shorthanded goal, but it was not enough, as Halifax fell to the defending league champions in their opening game.
Game Two: Friday, September 12: Halifax 1, Val d’Or 6:
Halifax continued on their opening three game road trip in Val d’Or to face the always-dangerous Foreurs. Rookie Maxime Trottier got his first taste of QMJHL action for the Mooseheads against Francois Thuot for the Foreurs. Halifax stumbled out of the gate, falling behind early on a goal from Sebastien Bisaillon. The Foreurs scored two more goals in the second period, from Francois Gagnon and Shawn Collymore. Matthew Augustine put Halifax on the board shortly before the close of the second period. Two quick Foreurs goals early in the second from Erick Lajoie and Patrice Bilodeau squelched any comeback hopes for Halifax. Mark Hurtubise rounded out the scoring for Val d’Or.
Game Three: Saturday, September 13: Halifax 4, Rouyn-Noranda 8:
Halifax looked to come away with a win in the final game of the road trip, but faced a very dangerous Huskies team from Rouyn-Noranda. Jason Churchill was back in goal for Halifax, while the Huskies countered with Philippe Roberge. Rouyn-Noranda got on the board in the first minute from a goal by Yannick Tifu. Former Mooseheads forward Giulio Scandella put the Huskies up by two at the 12-minute mark. Rookie Justin Saulnier brought Halifax within one before the end of the first period. Jan Steber’s first QMJHL goal tied the game early in the second, but from then on, the Huskies dominated, putting up three of the next four goals, including Scandella’s second goal and one from Dominic Deblois and Jeremi Lapierre. Kenzie Sheppard brought Halifax back within two at the end of the second. The deficit was cut to one with Sheppard’s second goal of the game four minutes into the third, but the Huskies put Halifax away with three straight goals a second from Tifu, and a pair from Eric L’Italien, to put an end to the game and to hand Halifax a pointless opening road trip.
Game Four: Thursday, September 18: Halifax 2, Bathurst 2:
Halifax played their first home game of the year against fellow rebuilding team, the Acadie-Bathurst Titan. Jason Churchill was back in goal again, up against Fabio Luongo, the brother of Florida Panthers goaltender (and former Titan goaltender) Roberto Luongo. Bathurst broke out to the early one goal lead on a pretty play by rookie antagonist Mathieu Roy. Rookie David Brine brought Halifax into a tie late in the second period with a howitzer past Luongo. Halifax picked up only their second lead of the season early in the third on a fluky goal from Randy Upshall. Hopes of a win faded with three and a half minutes left as Jason Vaillancourt squeaked the puck past Churchill to tie the game. The game ended 2-2.
Game Five: Sunday, September 21: Halifax 2, Moncton 5:
After a single game at home, Halifax embarked onto the road again, taking the three hour drive up to Moncton to face the Wildcats, who were seeking their first win of any kind since the first round of last year’s playoffs. A returning Jonathan Boutin was between the pipes for Halifax, against 16-year-old rookie Jean-Christophe Blanchard for the Wildcats. After some defensive miscommunication, Moncton forward Bruce Graham scored an unassisted shorthanded goal barely three minutes into the game to put the home side up early. Overage forward Derrick Kent responded for Halifax later in the period on the powerplay. Kent’s goal was countered by a similar powerplay marker from Wildcats overage forward Mathieu Betournay, to give Moncton a one-goal lead at the intermission. The special-teams theme continued early in the second as Kent tied the game with his second powerplay goal a minute into the middle frame. Then Bruce Graham completed his hat trick with two more quick powerplay goals, giving Moncton a 4-2 lead. Defenseman Francois Caron rounded out the scoring for the home side in the third period. Halifax began the season winless in five games.
Season Statistics: (as of September 22, 2003)
– Colby MacIntyre: suffered a broken jaw in practice after blocking a shot (return indefinite)
– Justin Munden: underwent off-season shoulder surgery (return indefinite)
– Czech forward Petr Vrana was named the youngest captain (18) in Mooseheads history. The feisty New Jersey Devils draft pick notched 37 goals, 83 points in his break-out rookie season.
– Defenseman Jimmy Sharrow and goaltender Jonathan Boutin recently participated in the Traverse City Prospect tournament. Boutin was 1-1 in two appearances for the Tampa Bay Lightning, while Sharrow picked up an assist for Atlanta. Both obtained invites to the main training camps, before being returned along with Vrana for Sunday’s game against Moncton.
– Defenseman Steve Villeneuve, who was offered a tryout for the Montreal Canadiens, was assigned to the AHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs training camp.
Around the QMJHL:
– Rimouski Oceanic rookie phenom Sidney Crosby was named the Offensive Player of the Week last week. The Nova Scotia native notched five goals, nine points in four games, including a hat trick in his first game. Gatineau goaltender Gabriel Bouthillette was named the Defensive Player of the Week, posting a 4-0-1 record with a 2.36 goals against average in five appearances.
– Gatineau overage forward Jean-Michel Daoust leads the league in scoring, with 16 points. Rouyn-Noranda forward Giulio Scandella is second with ten points in four games. Daoust’s teammates Maxime Talbot (2-8-10 in 3 games), Renaud des Alliers (7-2-9 in 7 games), and Crosby round out the top five.