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Mooseheads Season Over
By Willy Palov - Sports Reporter
The Chronicle Herald
There will be no miracle comeback this time.
The Halifax Mooseheads fell 3-2 to the Rimouski Oceanic in overtime in front of 10,595 fans at the Metro Centre on Sunday afternoon to end their dream playoff run. Robbie DeFulviis scored the winning goal to clinch a 4-2 series win for the Oceanic in the third-round best-of-seven.
“All season long we battled a lot of adversity and injuries," said Halifax winger Travis Randell. “Being a young team and doing what we did, we made a lot of fans. Nodoby knew what to expect from us at the beginning of the year so it was nice to turn some heads. The buzz is definitely back in the city and it was nice to be a part of that."
The Mooseheads rallied from a 3-0 hole to win their secondround series against the Quebec Remparts. But despite one of their gutsiest efforts of the year, the Mooseheads couldn’t pull it out this time.
“It's definitely the closest group I've every played with," said Randell, who spent five seasons in a Halifax uniform.
“Every year is like family but we went through some tough times and we got even closer after that Quebec series. Battling back from being down 3-0 was like our whole season — we had to battle through a lot the whole year. Seeing us where we are now and getting the fans back into it here in Halifax, that part feels great."
The Oceanic set a furious pace to start the game, firing 10 shots on goal in the first four minutes and taking a 1-0 lead after outshooting the Mooseheads 18-4 in the first period. The Mooseheads didn’t get their first shot on the Rimouski net until the 11-minute mark.
Oceanic forward Peter Trainor opened the scoring at 16:04 of the opening period.
By the time Alex Grenier tied the game for Halifax at 7:27 of the second period, the Oceanic had a 25-6 edge in shots. When Konrad Abeltshauser put Halifax ahead 2-1 on the power play 2:18 later, the Oceanic still led 26-8 in shots.
“Once we got that first one we started to pick things up," Randell said. “It’s just hard when the games are so close.
But we know that we battled all playoffs long and the guys never ever quit. I’m proud of each and every one of them."
The Oceanic put huge pressure on the Mooseheads in the third period and were finally rewarded with 4:13 left when Scott Oke banged in a rebound to tie the game at 2-2.
That set the stage for De-Fulviis’s big moment, which was delayed a few minutes after the referees needed to review the play to be sure the puck went in.
“That was nerve-wracking," DeFulviis said. “We were all on the ice celebrating but I had a pretty clear view of it skating behind the net. I just wanted to put the puck on net and fortunately I did and good things happen when you do that.
“All the credit to Halifax on the other side. They’re a young group of guys but give them next year and a few years tocome, they're going to be one hell of a team in this league. We saw that this year and that’s just the beginning for them."
The Mooseheads tried to use the absence of captain Cameron Critchlow as motivation. The team hung his No. 11 jersey from the score clock at centre ice and showed video clips of him throughout the night.
Critchlow was serving a one-game suspension for a controversial game misconduct call during a fight with Rimouski's Jonathan Lavoie in Game 5.
“I think everybody gave it their all tonight," said Grenier. “We gave everything in our heart and I think everyone was playing for Critch.
“He inspired us. He was a great captain all year and he’s our leader. He works so hard and did so many great things for us."
A handful of Rimouski players, including De-Fulviis and captain Jean-Philippe Mathieu, went out of their way to the far end of the rink to shake Critchlow’s hand and give him an embrace.
“We felt sorry for him," Mathieu said. “He’s a 20-year-old and it’s not fun to see that — a good player like that, playing his last year in the Q having to stand and watch his teammates play. It’s sad so we wanted to show him our respect."
Critchlow said the gesture meant a lot to him, as did the countless messages from the fans and the support of his teammates.
“I’m pretty humbled by the respect people showed," Critchlow said. “I guess people look up to me in a way but I looked up to a lot of those guys in the room too. Every one of them is special.
“I guess that shows that no matter what level you’re playing at, there’s respect among the players.
I’m an older player in the league and it was nice of them to do that. But they played well and they did a good job to win the series.
Kudos to them and we wish them luck in the final. We wish we could be there but that’s just the way it goes. We had a hell of a run and I can’t be prouder of the guys in that locker room."
Zachary Fucale finished with 42 saves for Halifax and Jacob Gervais-Chouinard stopped 19 shots for Rimouski.
Mooseheads centre Nathan MacKinnon recorded two assists to set a new franchise record for points in a single playoff season.
He finishes with 28 points, one more than F.P. Guenette collected in 2003. The Oceanic will now face the Saint John Sea Dogs in the championship series. The Sea Dogs advanced with a 4-1 win over the Chicoutimi Sagueneens in the other semifinal.
Notes: Alex Cote took Critchlow’s place in the Halifax lineup. Forward Luca Ciampini did not play for Halifax because of an upper body injury and defencemen Mitchell Shewfelt and Josh Desmond were healthy scratches.
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