Petr Vrana has arrived. The Halifax Moosehead import forward followed up on his breakout four-goal game against Shawinigan on October 14th with an excellent offensive bi-weekly period. Vrana notched seven goals, four assists, in six games, including his second hat trick of the season in a blowout against the Montreal Rocket. Vrana’s physical game has also picked up, as he has been mucking it up along the boards in search of the puck, taking his hits without retaliation, and giving his hits as the opportunity arises.
Vrana has found his offensive touch centering the line of Francois-Pierre Guenette and Jean-Francois Cyr. The three forwards combined for thirteen goals and twenty-seven points in the six game stretch that saw the Mooseheads go 4-1-0-1. This line has provided a formidable offensive complement for the top line of Brandon Benedict, Thatcher Bell, and Marc-Andre Bernier. For the first time in many years, the Mooseheads can ice two top-flight scoring lines. With the third and fourth lines chipping in key goals, the offensive game has never been better in Halifax. The Halifax coaching staff has allowed its players to play a freewheeling, wide-open style of play that has brought the Metro Centre faithful out of their seats on nearly a nightly basis. The offensive burst has not come at the expense of the team’s defensive game either, as Halifax continues to boast on of the top goals against averages in the entire QMJHL.
Despite their recent successes, all is not well for the Halifax Mooseheads. Injuries are continuing to mount up for the club. Third-line center, Derrick Kent, who had recently re-discovered his offensive game, suffered a knee injury after a knee-on-knee hit from Quebec Remparts enforcer Curtis Tidball, late in a 6-3 loss. Kent will be out of the lineup from four-to-six weeks. Luckily, his injury will not require surgery, but he will likely have to wear a knee brace for the remainder of the season upon his return. Also, defenseman Bobby Clarke is still sidelined with a thigh injury suffered against Shawinigan. He should return to the lineup anytime.
Accolades build up
– Forward Brandon Benedict and defenseman Milan Jurcina were named to the Dilio conference all-star team this past week, as the representatives for the Mooseheads. Benedict was one of three overage players to be named to the team. He leads the team in scoring thus far this season. Jurcina made an immediate impact upon his return, quickly notching five goals and three assists after he was returned from the Boston Bruins NHL training camp. He is also touted by some as the best defensive defenseman in the league, thanks to his strong positional play and punishing body checks. Team Dilio plays the OHL Western conference representatives in Kitchener on November 27th.
– Jean-Francois Cyr was named the offensive player of the week in the QMJHL this past week, notching two goals, six assists, and a +6 rating in three games. He beat out Baie-Comeau forward Patrick Thoresen, Rimouski forward Jean-Francois Plourde, and Cape Breton forward Joe Maas for the distinction.
Game 16: Thursday, October 24: Halifax 5, Chicoutimi 4:
Halifax hit the road to northern Quebec, making their way up to Chicoutimi for the first game of a three-game road trip. Jonathan Boutin got the star for Halifax, against the Sags backup Simon Daoust. Petr Vrana would open the scoring midway through the 1st, scoring his seventh of the season. Halifax came out flying in the 2nd, jumping up by three on goals from Francois-Pierre Guenette and Thatcher Bell, to take a 3-0 lead after seven minutes. Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau responded with two quick goals at the halfway point of the period, before Marc-Andre Bernier put the Mooseheads back up by two. Yvan Busque notched a late goal to make the score 4-3 Halifax after 2. Philadelphia Flyers prospect Rosario Ruggeri would tie the game at 4 with 6:43 remaining in the 3rd, but Mooseheads captain Brandon Benedict would bury a late goal, giving Halifax the win.
Game 17: Friday, October 25: Halifax 5, Baie-Comeau 1:
After a late win against Chicoutimi the night before, Halifax moved onto Baie-Comeau, which was thought to be a measuring-stick game, to see how good the Mooseheads really were. The two best goaltenders in the league (statistically), Jonathan Boutin for Halifax, and Michel Bergevin-Robinson for Baie-Comeau, would be between the pipes. One would have an off night. After some early fisticuffs, Brandon Benedict opened the scoring less than three minutes into the game. Thatcher Bell put the Mooseheads up by two after seven minutes of the 1st. The goals kept coming, as Petr Vrana made it 3-0 before the eight-minute mark, thus chasing Bergevin-Robinson from the game, and sending his goals against average up a few points. Luis Tremblay brought the Drakkar one goal back midway through the second, but it was not nearly enough, as Halifax tacked on two third period goals, from Francois-Pierre Guenette, and a second from Brandon Benedict, to ice a very convincing win against top competition, in the Drakkar arena.
Game 18: Sunday, October 27: Quebec 6, Halifax 3:
Halifax looked to sweep the three game road trip as they moved into Le Colisie in Quebec City to face the Remparts. Jonathan Boutin would get his third straight start, against Kevin Lachance. Things would not start well for Halifax, as Nashville prospect Timofei Shishkanov opened the scoring at the fourteen-minute mark. Marc-Andre Bernier would answer back a minute later, but Karl St-Pierre would put the Remparts back on top 2-1 after the 1st. Quebec would blow the game open in the 2nd period, as David Masse buried a shot a minute in. Robert Pearce put Quebec up by three goals at the midway point of the period. Halifax would then get two quick ones, the first from Petr Vrana, and the second from Jonathan Labelle, to make it 4-3. New York Rangers draftee Shawn Collymore would stretch the lead back to two goals before the end of the period. Michael DiLorenzo would start the 3rd, but the game was too far gone at this point, as Robert Pearce put the game out of reach with his second goal of the game. Things would deteriorate late, as Derrick Kent was injured by a knee-on-knee hit from Curtis Tidball. Randy Upshall then challenged Tidball, sending both to the rooms. Quebec held on for the win.
Game 19: Wednesday, October 30: Halifax 7, Montreal 1:
Halifax looked to bounce back from a disappointing loss against the Remparts, as they set up shop for a three-game home stand. Jonathan Boutin would be back between the pipes after being pulled in his last start. Jonathan Cayer would start for the Rocket. Things would start badly for the Mooseheads, as Montreal sniper Brett Lutes opened the scoring two minutes in, chipping one past Boutin. But it was all Halifax after that. Marc-Andre Bernier tied the game up before the eight-minute mark, and Thatcher Bell would give the Herd a 2-1 lead in the last second of the 1st. The floodgates would open after that. Petr Vrana would show great effort in putting the Mooseheads up by two goals in the first minute of the 2nd. Francois-Pierre Guenette notched another goal before the five-minute mark, and Vrana would get his second of the period with two minutes left in the 2nd. Midway through the 2nd, Thatcher Bell was ejected for a nasty looking hit from behind on Brett Lutes, who would be all right and finish the game. It was 5-1 Halifax after 2. Petr Vrana completed the hat trick four minutes into the 3rd, making it 6-1, and late in the period, Kyle Doucet put the icing on the cake with a beautiful individual effort, dodging a Cayer poke-check to tuck the puck into the net for the dominating victory.
Game 20: Friday, November 1: Halifax 4, Hull 3:
After such a dominating performance two nights before, Halifax looked to continue its winning ways against the Olympiques. Michael DiLorenzo would get the start against his old team. Eric Lafrance got the start for Hull. Thatcher Bell would open the scoring midway through the 1st after a mad scramble. 23 seconds later, Philippe Dupuis would tie the game up. Dupuis scored his second of the period less than two minutes later, to take a 2-1 lead into the intermission. Brent Roach would put Hull up by two early in the 2nd, but that was the end of their scoring. The Halifax second line took over for the remainder of the game. First, Jean-Francois Cyr brought Halifax within one. Francois-Pierre Guenette tied the game two-and-a-half minutes later. Petr Vrana put Halifax up to stay at the midway point of the 2nd, and that was all the scoring they would need.
Game 21: Saturday, November 2: Val dOr 5, Halifax 4 (OT):
This was a big game for the Mooseheads. The #2 team in the country, the Val dOr Foreurs rolled into town for what would no doubt be a barnburner. Jonathan Boutin got the start for Halifax, while backup Denis Berube would start for the Foreurs. Pierre Morvan would open the scoring for Val dOr late in the 1st, sending them into the break up by one. Remy Tremblay would double the lead six minutes into the 2nd. Rookie Frederik Cabana would bring Halifax one back a minute later, with Kyle Doucet extending his point streak to three games with an assist on the play. Artem Kozitsyn would put Val dOr back up by two with ten seconds to go in the 2nd, making it 3-1. Jean-Francois Cyr scored a beautiful shorthanded goal at the eight-minute mark of the third, but the optimism was squelched by Kozitsyn, who scored his second of the game to make it 4-2. As fans began filing out of the Metro Centre, Marc-Andre Bernier brought the few remaining in attendance out of their seats with two-and-a-half minutes left in the 3rd, making it 4-3. With Boutin pulled, Thatcher Bell would play hero, and tied the game with 34 seconds left, sending this one to OT. In overtime, Halifax took the play to the Foreurs, out-shooting them 4-1 in the shortened frame, however, Val dOrs one shot would give them the win. Alexandre Picard was carrying the puck out of the Halifax end, when he was met with a nasty two-handed s lash from David Rodman. As Picard hit the ice, the puck came to Pierre-Luc Laprise, who came in on a breakaway, and he put the puck top shelf. A few of the remaining fans littered the ice with debris in disgust at the non-call, but the game was already in the books. Halifaxs hard work gave them a point for the overtime loss.
Last two weeks:
Halifax hits the road for a short two-game road trip to Rouyn-Noranda and Val dOr, before returning home for a five-game home-stand against some top-flight squads. They sit at an overall record of 11-4-4-2, for 28 points.