Andrew Rankin - Metro Halifax
Just when it looked like the Halifax Mooseheads were headed for another disappointing loss, the Herd roared back.
Down 3-1 just past the midpoint of the second period, the Mooseheads responded by rattling off four unanswered goals to topple the Saint John Sea Dogs 5-3 at Harbour Station on Saturday night.
“We had our chances in the first, then we took a penalty early in the second and it seemed we really never got momentum, but we a had a solid third period,” said head coach Dominique Ducharme, whose team outshot Saint John 36-19 overall. “(The final frame) was an important period and our guys did a good job.”
It was the Mooseheads leading scorer Nikolaj Ehlers who stepped up when he needed to, starting the Mooseheads onslaught with a goal and assisting on the next three third period markers, finishing with five points on the night.
“The game was on the line and we dominated the period,” said Ducharme.
The Mooseheads went into Saturday’s matchup having lost five of their last six games.
Co-captain Darcy Ashley made his return to the lineup after missing five games due to a concussion suffered in a road game against the Baie-Comeau Drakkar on Dec.13. He made his presence felt with two goals and two assists. The Herd’s other overager defenceman Brendan Duke also made his return after nursing a concussion for almost a month, and picked up an assist.
“Having them back means a lot,” said Ducharme. “They’re 20 years old. They’re leaders on our team, they have experience. Obviously, they’re important guys for us.”
Ducharme is looking forward to the return of forward Jonathan Drouin and No. 1 goalie Zach Fucale, who will suit up with Team Canada on Sunday to battle Russia for bronze at the world juniors. But he said their loss, and the loss of several other key players over the last month due to injury, has served to test the mettle of the Mooseheads.
“That’s part of the season, it’s always nice to get as close as possible to having a full lineup but we had to make due without them.”
Overall. Ducharme said he’s impressed with the play of Drouin and Fucale at the world juniors. Though he was travelling with the Mooseheads and missed Team Canada’s 5-1 loss to Finland on Saturday afternoon, Ducharme said he was disappointed by the result but not completely surprised.
“We’re not the only country in the world that plays hockey; the other countries are doing good things, they are improving,” said Ducharme. “Sometimes the margin between winning and losing at that level is really thin, and that’s it. They’re not easy games; they’re difficult. It’s one game. Sometimes you can have a bad day, and you’re out.”
With the win, the Mooseheads improve to 25-15-0-1.
Luca Ciampini tallied once and added a pair of assists while Timo Meier picked up a goal to round out the scoring for the Mooseheads. Marcus Cuomo, Nicolas Hebert and Noah Zilbert responded for Saint John.
The Mooseheads hit the road to take on the Charlottetown Islanders on Wednesday at 7 p.m.