The Mooseheads kick off their third round playoff series with the Drummondville Voltigeurs this weekend as they look to book their ticket to the President Cup Final for the fourth time in franchise history.
Halifax and Drummondville face off tonight in Game 1 of their best-of-seven playoff match-up at the Marcel Dionne Centre in Drummondville, Que.
While the Mooseheads were the top team in the Eastern Conference this season, they lost home ice in this 2-2-1-1-1 series to their Western Conference opponents because the final four squads are seeded based on how they wrapped up the regular season.
Drummondville (52-13-2-1) finished the year with 107 points, five points up on Halifax (49-15-2-2).
That means Mooseheads fans will have to wait until Tuesday and Game 3 to see their team back in action on home ice at the Scotiabank Centre.
This series will mark a first in the history of the Mooseheads franchise.
In the the 25-year history of the club, these two teams have never met in the playoffs.
So how did we get here?
After facing elimination in Game 6 and Game 7 on home in the first round against the Quebec Remparts, the Herd cruised past the Moncton Wildcats in Round 2, sweeping their Maritime Division rivals in four-straight.
The Mooseheads should be well-rested. They have been off since eliminating the Wildcats on April 10.
That extra time has been good news for the team.
Benoit-Olivier “Bo” Groulx has not played a game for Halifax in the postseason so far after being diagnosed with mononucleosis last month.
However, the Herd’s second-leading scorer during the regular season is travelling with the team on this trip for the first time in the playoffs and appears to be on the road to recovery.
While the Mooseheads do not currently have a timetable for his return, the fact that he is taking part in their practices — albeit while wearing a yellow, non-contact sweater — is promising.
If he is healthy enough to return to the lineup at some point in this series, that would be a massive boost for Halifax, especially at the Marcel Dionne Centre where the Voltigeurs are undefeated in the postseason.
Drummondville and Halifax met just twice during the regular season with the road team picking up the win in both contests.
Back on October 21, the Moosehads wrapped up their epic 15-game road trip to start the year with a 4-3 overtime victory in Drummondville thanks to Justin Barron’s game-winning goal 2:59 into the extra frame.
Things didn’t go quite so well for the Herd a month later when they Voltigeurs posted five goals in the first period en route to a 6-3 win at the Scotiabank Centre.
There are some familiar faces on the Voltigeurs bench.
Rookie head coach Steve Harley was an assistant coach with the Mooseheads and was part of the Memorial Cup-winning team back in 2013 while Voltigeurs’ assistant coach Ryan Falkenham is a former Halifax captain.
The Voltigeurs have lots of high-end talent throughout their lineup.
Up front, Drummondville boasts plenty of skill including Joe Veleno, 2018 Detroit Red Wings’ first round pick and the Volts’ leading scorer during the regular season.
They also have Max Comtois, a 2017 second round pick of the Anaheim Ducks and captain of the most recent Canadian World Junior team, as well as Pavel Koltygin, Felix Lauzon and the 2020 draft-eligible Dawson Mercer.
On the back end, Drummondville has two elite defencemen in Nicholas Beaudin (27th overall, Chicago Blackhawks, 2018) and Pierre-Olivier Joseph (23rd overall, Arizona Coyotes, 2017).
Goaltending will be an interesting storyline in this series.
Drummondville’s Olivier Rodrigue was a second round pick of the Edmonton Oilers in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft and the second goalie selected.
Rodrigue had a strong 2018-19 campaign for the Voltigeurs, posting a 35-9-2-1 record, a .902 SV% and a 2.43 GAA.
However, the 18-year old Chicoutimi native is dealing with a lower body injury and hasn’t played since March 6. He is back on the ice but is not expected to start on Friday.
For the first time in his QMJHL career, Anthony Morrone is the go-to guy for the Voltigeurs.
The 20-year old from Montreal is 8-2 in the postseason with a 2.12 GAA and a .898 SV%.
The puck drops at 8:30 p.m. Atlantic, live from the Marcel Dionne Centre on Dartmouth Dodge Mooseheads Hockey on NEWS 95.7.
Joe Veleno 6-6-12
Max Comtois 8-3-11
Dawson Mercer 3-7-10
Felix Lauzon 6-3-9
Gregor MacLeod 6-3-9
Pavel Koltygin 4-5-9
President Cup Playoffs Round 1: 4-1 series win over Gatineau
President Cup Playoffs Round 2: 4-1 series over Sherbrooke
DARTMOUTH DODGE MOOSEHEADS HOCKEY ROUND 1 BROADCAST SCHEDULE:
Game 1: Friday, April 19 at 8:30 p.m. live from Drummondville
Game 2: Saturday, April 20 at 8 p.m. live from Drummondville
Game 3: Tuesday, April 23 at 7 p.m. live from Halifax
Game 4: Wednesday, April 24 at 7 p.m. live from Halifax
Game 5*: Friday, April 26 at 8:30 p.m. live from Drummondville
Game 6*: Sunday, April 28 at 3 p.m. live from Halifax
Game 7*: Tuesday, April 30 at 8 p.m. live from Drummondville