It’s another daunting task they face, but the Halifax Mooseheads remain confident they can do it.
After losing both games at home against the Rimouski Oceanic to open their best-of-seven Quebec Major Junior Hockey League semifinal series, Halifax now must win two of the next three games on the road to just see the series return to the Metro Centre.
But if the last round of the playoffs told us anything about this edition of the Mooseheads, it was that quit isn’t in their vocabulary.
Trailing 3-0 in its quarterfinal series with the Quebec Remparts, the Mooseheads reeled off four-straight wins, including games 6 and 7 on the road, to move on.
“We know we can come back, but at the end of the day, we don’t want to get down 3-0 again,” Mooseheads forward Nathan MacKinnon said in reference to the importance of Tuesday’s Game 3 in Rimouski. “It’s just not worth the stress, even if we did come back, it’s not what we want to do.
“We want three up there and that’s what we’re going there to get.”
After being flat and out of sync in a 4-1 loss to open the series on Friday, Halifax played much better in Saturday’s Game 2, but couldn’t hold a lead and lost 5-4.
Four times Halifax held one-goal advantages, only to see Rimouski tie things up. That included twice in the third period as MacKinnon tallied his 12th and 13th goals of the playoffs.
“It’s definitely a mental test. We have to stay focused for sure,” defenceman Trey Lewis said of the four blown leads. “We have to make sure we bounce back even when we score. We have to keep up the strong shifts with the next one.”
The winner by Rimouski came late in the third after Mooseheads forward Alexandre Grenier was called for tripping in the Oceanic zone with just over two minutes left in regulation time.
Jerome Gauthier-Leduc’s fired a blast from the point with 56.3 seconds left in regulation time that found its way through a crowd and past Mooseheads netminder Zachary Fucale.
The goal was a tough blow for a Halifax team that felt it deserved a better fate, especially after performing so poorly in the opener.
“I thought we played much better than we did (in Game 1). A lot more energy,” said Mooseheads coach Dominique Ducharme. “It was a close game. I think we deserved it as much as them.”
McKinnon sets new mark with 13 goals
Nathan MacKinnon is now the most prolific goal scorer for the Halifax Mooseheads in a single post-season.
The 16-year-old rookie has 13 playoff goals, one more than the old record of 12 set by Jamie Brown in 1997.
“It’s definitely cool to have the record, but at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter. We lost the game,” MacKinnon said following Halifax’s Game 2 loss.
“It’s definitely exciting, but I came here to win tonight, not to get a record.”