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Trepanier picks up three assists in victory over Prince Albert
The importance of winning your first game at the Memorial Cup cannot be overstated.
A victory guarantees at least a chance to play in the tiebreaker game but also relieves all kinds of anxiety and pressure. The Halifax Mooseheads did themselves a huge favour by beating the Prince Albert Raiders 4-1 in the tournament opener at the Scotiabank Centre on Friday.
"We talked about that quite a bit - getting off on the right foot," said Halifax centre Keith Getson. "That first win was a big one.
"Coming out and getting a good start in the tournament, that's what we wanted."
Buoyed by an electric home atmosphere, the Mooseheads jumped out to a 2-0 first-period lead. QMJHL regular season scoring champion Samuel Asselin got the crucial first goal when he drove to the net and roofed a pass from Raphael Lavoie 10:49 into the game.
Asselin then set up Xavier Parent eight minutes later to cap off a beautiful three-way passing play that also included Maxim Trepanier to make it 2-0.
The early scoring was even more pivotal considering the Mooseheads had to kill off three penalties and didn't get any of their own power plays.
"For the first 10 minutes I think we were a little slow and there were some penalties mixed in there," said Prince Albert forward Noah Gregor. "It was tough to get a real feel for things when stuff like that happens, and with them scoring two quick ones, that was tough for us."
Prince Albert flipped the script in the second period, getting offence despite having to work through four Halifax power plays. Gregor scored the Raiders' first goal of the tournament on a nice redirection at 10:46 of the second to cut the Mooseheads' lead to 2-1.
But unlike the first period, the Raiders couldn't keep the Mooseheads off the scoresheet before the next intermission. Jake Ryczek pounded a one-timer into the open side on the power play at the 15:42 mark to restore Halifax's two-goal lead.
"I think we went back on our heels a little bit after they got their goal," Ryczek said. "Max (Trepanier) gave me a great pass and I just laid into it and put it right into the middle of the net. It felt really good to go back up by two goals."
It was more of a chess match in the third period but that worked just fine for the Mooseheads, who only needed to nurse the lead to lock down the win. Antoine Morand put the game away with an empty-netter with 1:53 left.
Trepanier finished with three assists and Asselin had two points to earn the first star. Alexis Gravel made 23 saves for Halifax and Ian Scott stopped 33 shots for Prince Albert.
The Mooseheads went one-for-six on the power play and the Raiders were zero-for-four.
"The PK came up huge," Getson said. "That's what we talked about quite a bit, especially in this tournament style and playoffs. It's really important."
Another win locks the Mooseheads into at least a semifinal berth and going a perfect 3-0 in the round-robin sends them straight to the final."
"This gets us going for the tournament and now we can just prepare for the next one," Ryczek said. "It's great to get that first win.
The announced crowd was 9,926 and the energy in the building went to a level not seen at any other point this year.
"The atmosphere was great. It was lots of fun to play in," Gregor said. "It was pretty loud at the start of the game and then when they scored those two quick ones, that might have set us back a little bit.
"Everyone should have the jitters out now and we can get a couple of days rest now. That will be well needed for us and then we can get back to work on Monday."
Likewise, as much as the hype and excitement of the first game was a life highlight for many of the Halifax players, it's also useful to have that experience out of the way. It's certain the energy will stay at that level for the rest of the Mooseheads' games and now the players know how to manage it.
"It was crazy," Trepanier said. "We had goosebumps and we knew we needed to come out strong and that's what we did.
"I think we were well-prepared for tonight. We knew the fans would be there and it was awesome. We know it will be the same way now in the rest of our games."
The Rouyn-Noranda Huskies face the Guelph Storm in Game 2 of the tournament on Saturday. The Mooseheads' next game is on Sunday against the Storm.
"We can watch to see how it goes for them tomorrow and then get prepared for our game againt them," Ryczek said. "Just from looking at their playoff run, they don't quit so we've got to be ready for them."
Brock McLeod, Marcel Barinka, Denis Toner, Cole Stewart and Alexis Sansfacon did not dress for Halifax.
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