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Year of the Moose : Mooseheads looking for higher compete level after suffering first loss of season

The Herd will look to get back in the win column Friday night after suffering their first loss of the season on Wednesday
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(Photo credit: David Chan Photography)

The Halifax Mooseheads will look to get back in the win column Friday night after suffering their first loss of the season on Wednesday.

The Mooseheads take on the Sagueneens this evening at the Georges Vezina Centre in Chicoutimi, the team's sixth-straight game on the road to start the year and the second of a three-game road trip through la Belle Province. 

Tomorrow, Halifax travels to Baie-Comeau for the first time since ousting the Drakkar in five games during the opening round of last spring's Quebec Major Junior Hockey League playoffs.

The Mooseheads are coming off a 6-2 loss to the Quebec Remparts at the Videotron Centre in Quebec City on Wednesday evening. The Remparts' top line of Louis-Filip Côté, Philipp Kurashev and Aleksei Sergeev had their way with the Herd, scoring five of their team's six goals and combining for 12 points.

Antoine Morand and Samuel Asselin answered back for Halifax.

Mooseheads head coach Eric Veilleux's assessment of his team's performance was blunt.

"Poor," Veilleux said after Friday's morning skate. 

"A very poor effort. We got outworked and that just can't happen. Soft plays. I thought we were hesitant. That's just not the way to play a hockey game."

"The compete level has to be higher."

It was a disappointing evening not only for a team that saw its four-game win streak to begin the year snapped but also for a number of scouts in attendance who had hoped to see potential 2019 NHL first rounder Raphael Lavoie in action. 

Lavoie, who has three goals and an assist through four games this year, was held out of action on Wednesday. He's currently listed as day-to-day with an upper-body injury and is questionable for tonight's contest.

The 18-year old Chambly, Que. native who had 30 goals and 33 assists during his sophomore campaign last season, joins a growing list of Mooseheads on the injured list. 

Ostap Safin, acquired from the Saint John Sea Dogs in a trade last month, saw limited action against the Wildcats in Sunday's 4-2 victory in Moncton. 

Safin's travelling with the team but did not play on Wednesday. He's considered day-to-day with a lower-body injury while Samuel Dube, Kyle Petten, Joel Bishop, and Jared McIsaac continue to recover back in Halifax.

Halifax (4-1-0-0) vs Chicoutimi (3-2-0-0), Friday at 8:30 p.m. on NEWS 95.7

The puck drops at 8:30 p.m. Atlantic tonight on NEWS 95.7 live from the Georges Vezina Centre in Chicoutimi.

There will be a lot more open ice out there this evening than there was the last time these two clubs faced off in Quebec. 

With construction underway at the Sagueneens' home area, the teams met at the Palais des Sports in nearby Jonquière on March 3. The 185-foot-by-85-foot rink was a far cry from the Olympic-sized surface in Chicoutimi.

That should be good news for a speedy and creative Mooseheads teams but the Sagueneens certainly have some firepower of their own.

This will be Halifax's first opportunity to get a look at Chicoutimi's 2018 Q Draft first rounders Hendrix Lapierre and Theo Rochette. 

Lapierre, the first-overall selection last June, leads the team in scoring with seven points (a goal and six assists) while Rochette, the highly-touted seventh-overall pick, has a goal and an assist after the first five games of his rookie campaign.

The Sagueneens have enjoyed some quality goaltending so far this season from Alexis Shank (2-1) whose .951 save percentage and 1.35 goals-against-average are the second-best in the league next to the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada's Emile Samson. 

Chicoutimi can also rely on Toronto Maples Leafs 2018 seventh rounder Zachary Bouthillier. He has a 1-1 record and has seen limited action but was brilliant at times for Chicoutimi during 2017-18 season.

Fans in Halifax may remember his 43-save performance against the Mooseheads last February when he helped lead his team to a 4-3 overtime victory over the Herd. 

Chicoutimi was outshot 46-17 in that game.

Of course, the Mooseheads have had some solid netminding of their own so far this season. Alex Gravel has started all five games for Halifax and has a .910 save percentage and a 3.00 goals-against-average. 

Gravel's four wins tie him with Rouyn-Noranda's Samuel Harvey for the most in the league.

With that busy workload, you can expect that back-up Cole McLaren, an Annapolis Royal native who was selected in the eight round of the 2016 draft, might see his first QMJHL start before the team returns home from Quebec on Sunday.

Halifax (4-1-0-0) vs Baie-Comeau (5-0-0-1), Saturday at 5 p.m. on NEWS 95.7

On Saturday, Halifax will make the trek back to Baie-Comeau for their first visit since March 30 when the Mooseheads shut out the Drakkar 4-0 to take the opening round Q League playoff series in five games.

In recent years, the Drakkar have become the team's biggest rival outside of the Maritimes Division and the Harvey Leonard Centre faithful don't exactly roll out the welcome mat for the Mooseheads.

That intense atmosphere, combined with talented rosters on both sides, should make for an exciting final match-up on this trip through Quebec.

Gabriel Fortier, the younger brother of former Mooseheads captain Max Fortier, is wearing the C this season for the Drakkar. The younger Fortier was drafted in the second round by the Tampa Bay Lightning last June and is one of several offensive weapons that the Drakkar are employing up front.

Nathan Légaré, Ivan Chekhovich and Yaroslav Alexeyev join Fortier in the Q scoring race's top ten.

Baie-Comeau (5-0-0-1) sits atop the Q standings and is the only team in the QMJHL that has not lost a game in regulation yet. 

The Drakkar's lone defeat came against the Armada in a shootout decision with Justin Blanchette in goal back on September 29. Blanchette and former Cape Breton Screaming Eagle Kyle Jessiman have been splitting the starts for Baie-Comeau through the team's first six games.

The puck drops at 5 p.m. Atlantic. You can catch that game and every Mooseheads game all season long on NEWS 95.7.




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