The Halifax Mooseheads saved themselves a lot of travel miles with a win on the final day of the QMJHL regular season.
The Mooseheads, who defeated the P.E.I. Rocket 6-1 in Charlottetown on Sunday, clinched sixth overall in the QMJHL standings and will face the 11th-place Moncton Wildcats in the first round starting Friday at the Metro Centre.
Going into the day, the alternative was a first-round pairing with the Val-d’Or Foreurs, 1,750 kilometres away in northeast Quebec.
“We wanted to finish strong, to play a solid game and get a win,” said Mooseheads head coach Dominique Ducharme. “All year we really concentrated on ourselves and we did again today. When you start choosing or picking the team you want to be playing, sometimes it (backfires).”
The Mooseheads finished the season with a 39-22-7 record and 85 points, their best season since Jakub Voracek and Brad Marchand helped them to an 89-point campaign in 2007-08
Andrew Ryan, Ryan Falkenham, Brent Andrews, Alexandre Grenier, Nathan MacKinnon and Cameron Critchlow scored for the Mooseheads and goaltender Zach Fucale made 36 saves for the win.
Ducharme pulled MacKinnon off the ice for the final 10 minutes because “it was getting dirty out there” and he didn’t want to risk an injury to his leading scorer.
The Mooseheads could already be without two key players when the post-season opens.
Winger Darcy Ashley, the team’s fourth-leading scorer, was assessed a five-minute major for cross-checking and a video of the play automatically goes to the QMJHL head office for review and possible suspension.
Winger Martin Frk, who missed the first three months of the season with a concussion, took a hard hit in Friday’s 3-2 shootout loss to the Bathurst Titan and missed Sunday’s game with an “upper-body injury.”
Frk, who has 28 points in his past 25 games and has been one of the team’s most dangerous offensive threats in 2012, is being called “day-to-day.”
“He’s doing pretty good,” Ducharme said. “We’re hoping for Friday (to have him back).”