Andrew Rankin - Metro Halifax
It was perhaps fitting that Brendan Duke scored on Friday night.
© JEFF HARPER - METRO HALIFAX
Mooseheads forward Jonathan Drouin.
The Halifax Mooseheads’ ever-reliable and underrated defenceman quietly contributed in the Herd’s dominating 7-2 victory over the Saint John Sea Dogs in front of a packed house at the Metro Centre.
It was a beauty, breaking away from defenders and deftly slipping the puck by Saint John goalie Sebastien Auger. It was also his third goal of the year, coming on the second last regular season of his career.
It arrived on the night before the Cole Harbour native and the Herd’s two other overagers, co-captains Brent Andrews and Darcy Ashley would be honoured on home ice in a pregame ceremony before taking on the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles.
“It’s pretty special to score in the second last regular season game of my career,” said Duke. “We wanted lots of movement in the offensive zone and I figured I might as well try. I saw a little opening and took advantage of it.”
His was the fifth of seven straight goals scored by the Mooseheads in two periods, before the Sea Dogs finally tallied twice late in the final frame.
Their 12th-straight win, the Mooseheads improved to 46-18-0-3, securing at least second place in the league standings. They remain two points behind league leading Baie-Comeau Drakkar and Rimouski Oceanic for top spot in the Q. Things will finally be sorted out after each squad plays out their final game of the regular season on Saturday night.
As great as a 12-game winning streak is, a grinding, ultracompetitive post season awaits, no matter which team ends up atop the league standings.
“We’re playing very good hockey,” said Duke. “But at the same time the regular season is regular season and everything comes down to playoffs. It’s a little cliché to say that, but it’s true. Of course, we’d like to finish first. We’d get home ice advantage throughout the playoffs and it’s pretty tough to come in here and play in the Metro Centre.”
Jonathan Drouin and Philippe Gadoury led the way with a pair of goals and an assist, while Nikolaj Ehlers and Brandon Vuic rounded out the scoring for the Herd. Jurij Repe and Nicolas Hebert responded for the Sea Dogs.
Mooseheads defenceman MacKenzie Weegar, added to his career year, picking up three assists for 58 points on the season to go with a plus- 57 rating.
Besides crediting his teammates, particularly Drouin and Ehlers, for boosting his stats, the Florida Panthers draft pick attributed a fine year to keeping things simple.
“I’ve just been focusing on defence first hockey and the rest just seems to sort itself out. It helps when Jo is burying pucks and Ehlers is too.”
Duke, who has played two-and-half seasons of his four-year Q career with the Herd, is preparing for Saturday and the added emotion it promises to bring.
“It’s been a big chapter of my life,” said Duke. “I’ve really grown over the past couple of years and it will be a night to think back and reflect on all of it.”