Jared McIsaac hardly missed a beat.
The Mooseheads’ top blue liner made his season debut on Thursday night in Charlottetown. It had been six months to the day since he last played a meaningful game for the team.
Banged up at the Detroit Red Wings’ rookie camp in early September, the 36th overall selection at last June’s NHL Entry Draft missed the first seven games of the 2018-19 Q campaign.
But for McIsaac, whose off-season included a pair of stints with Hockey Canada’s national teams at both the 2018 IIHF World Under-18 Championship in Russia and the World Junior Showcase in B.C., a Red Wings summer development camp, the aforementioned Detroit rookie camp, plus the combine, draft and the media circus that goes along with all of it, there was a bit of silver lining with the injury.
“The past month has kind of been, I guess, a blessing in disguise if you will,” McIsaac said.
For the Truro native, the downtime was an opportunity to not only rest and recover, but to get stronger.
While his team was away on last week’s road trip through Quebec, McIsaac was on the ice every day, preparing for his return.
“I took that month [off] to really make sure that I’m ready and I want to be a big-time player this year.”
Halifax’s eighth-straight start on the road turned out to be the coming-out party for the second overall pick from the 2016 Quebec Major Junior Hockey League Entry Draft.
And it didn’t take long for him to get his name on the scoresheet.
After drawing a holding penalty on the Islanders’ Kevin Gursoy 4:27 into the first period, McIsaac promptly picked up his first point of the year.
It took just nineteen seconds for Halifax to convert on the man advantage and for McIsaac to earn a secondary assist on Jordan Maher’s second goal since becoming a Moosehead, a redirected shot off of Justin Barron’s stick that deflected past Islanders’ netminder Matt Welsh.
“[We had] good puck movement on the power play,” McIsaac noted after the game.
“A good shot from Justin, a good tip in front, and I think that’s going to be our motto all year on the power play: ‘just get shots through and create chances in front.’”
The Mooseheads never looked back after that power play marker.
Samuel Asselin potted a pair of goals in just over three minutes before the first period expired.
With Islanders’ captain Pierre-Olivier Joseph in the box for roughing in the second frame, Raphael Lavoie struck with his first goal of the night, part of a four point evening and a hat trick performance.
The Chambly, Que. native now has seven tallies on the season in seven games and finds himself in a six-way tie for second in the Q in goals.
Antoine Morand also had a four point evening, picking up helpers on each of Lavoie’s three goals and chipping in a single tally of his own to make it 4-1 for the Herd just 43-seconds into the middle frame.
The former Acadie-Bathurst Titan star now leads the team in scoring with 12 points in six games and has registered at least a point in every game he’s played as a member of the Mooseheads.
Fellow Anaheim Ducks prospect Benoit-Olivier Groulx also found the back of the net on Thursday night for the first time this season, deflecting a point shot from McIsaac into the Islanders’ goal.
The 54th overall selection from June’s NHL draft added a pair of assists to go along with it.
McIsaac, meanwhile, finished the game with two helpers.
“I’m in my third year and obviously, I want to be the go-to guy,” McIsaac said.
“I’ve played in pretty well every situation in the past two years and I want to keep doing that and really push the pace as a back end leader this year. We’re going to be a defensive-first D-core and that suits me well. And after the defence is done, [we’ll] enjoy the offence.”
And they certainly did on Thursday, racking up eight goals in the 8-2 victory.
“It will be a little scary for other teams if we [continue to] play that way,” netminder Alex Gravel said after the game.
“We’re going to do well.”
Despite the lopsided score, the Mooseheads only outshot Charlottetown 39-37.
Gravel was sharp throughout the game, particularly in the second period when he faced 19 shots.
The win gives the Chicago Blackhawks’ sixth rounder a league-leading fifth victory on the season.
Halifax (6-2-0-0) vs Saint John (2-5-2-0), Friday at 7:00 p.m. on NEWS 95.7
The Mooseheads will look to keep the wins coming tonight when they face off against the Sea Dogs at Harbour Station.
The two clubs last met back on September 21, the first game of the year for both teams. Halifax came away from that one with a 5-4 overtime victory thanks to Patty Kyte’s game-winning goal 1:55 into OT.
The Mooseheads had four call-ups in the lineup for that game so they will be icing a much different looking squad on Friday as they take on a very young Sea Dogs team that is building for the future.
The Sea Dogs received special exemption from the league to dress five 16-year olds on a regular basis this season including 2018 second overall pick William Villeneuve, Jeremy Poirier, Joshua Lawrence, Charlie Desroches, and Nova Scotian Brady Burns (son of long-time Acadia Axemen men’s hockey coach Darren Burns).
Typically, teams are allowed a maximum of four.
The Sea Dogs are coming off a 5-3 win over Cape Breton on Tuesday, just their second victory of the season.
Buckle up. There should be lots of speed on display in this one.
Halifax (6-2-0-0) vs Acadie-Bathurst (3-4-0-0), Sunday at 3:00 p.m. on NEWS 95.7
On Sunday, the Mooseheads will take on Acadie-Bathurst in a matinee match-up on the road. It’s the first of nine meetings between the two teams this season.
It will be a homecoming of sorts for Maher, Morand, and Asselin. The trio captured the Memorial Cup with the Titan back in May and should receive a very warm welcome from fans at the K.C. Irving Regional Centre.
The Titan, who emptied the cupboards to make their impressive run last year, are trying to re-stock and re-tool this season.
While many players have been shipped out, the team still boasts one of the league’s best in defenceman Noah Dobson.
Dobson, a New York Islanders’ first rounder from the June draft, has five points in five games since returning from the NHL club’s pro camp.
Pomquet’s Logan Chisholm leads the team in scoring with one goal and nine assists through the first seven games.
You can listen along with all of the play-by-play action from this game and every Mooseheads game throughout the 2018-19 season on NEWS 95.7.