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What you need to know about COVID-19: August 4, 2020
Momentum is on the Halifax Mooseheads' side at the moment.
They started the roll in Saturday's double overtime win in Drummondville and carried it into Game 3 of their third-round series with the Votigeurs. The Mooseheads made very few mistakes in a 2-1 win in front of 7,328 fans at the Scotiabank Centre on Tuesday to put them ahead 2-1 in the best-of-seven semifinal.
"We did a really good job right from puck drop," said Mooseheads defenceman Jared McIsaac. "I think we've done a real good job of managing our distractions energy-wise and the coaches have done a really good job all year with us and I think it's paying off now."
After letting the Voltigeurs dictate the play in the series opener, the Mooseheads pledged to themselves they would reverse the roles. They turned that tide over the course of a thrilling Game 2, then kept their hold in Tuesday's swing game.
From start to finish, they projected an authority over the Voltigeurs and are now halfway to a berth in the league final.
"We played pretty good defensively," said Halifax head coach Eric Veilleux. "I thought in the third period we were maybe on our heels a little bit but ... I thought our structure was pretty good.
"We did play a pretty solid game where we stayed focused and stayed calm, even after their goal. Everybody was even keeled and everybody was focused on what the next shift was going to be like. I thought we did play pretty good."
Samuel Asselin and Keith Getson scored first-period goals to put the Mooseheads ahead 2-0 and they held that lead until the final minutes. Maxime Comtois cut it to 2-1 with 2:21 left and the Voltigeurs pressed hard the rest of the way but the Mooseheads survived.
"I thought for whatever reason we didn't have a very good start," said Drummondville head coach Steve Hartley. "I thought we lacked a little jump and I thought we were flat-footed a lot, especially on the two goals. But I like that we put ourselves in position in the third period to have a push to try and tie the game up. Unfortunately we fell a bit short."
Alexis Gravel made 34 saves for Halifax and Anthony Morrone and Olivier Rodrigue combined to stop 26 shots for Drummondville. Morrone made his third straight start of the series but Rodrigue replaced him after Halifax's second goal. Rodrigue hadn't played in several weeks because of a groin injury so the switch was a calculated risk on Hartley's part.
"It's something that we've talked about as a staff," Hartley said. "I felt maybe just the momentum change, I thought it was a good opportunity to get him back in the game. He made some big saves that kept that game at 2-0 and gave us a chance to make a comeback."
Centre BO Groulx returned to the lineup after missing Halifax's first 13 playoff games with mononucleosis. He played on a line with Arnaud Durandeau and Maxim Trepanier.
"The past few weeks have been pretty rough for myself, especially the first two weeks. I thought I was dying," Groulx said. "The third week I felt really good and I was itching to come back, just being around the boys. I knew I couldn't play for at least a month so now it feels good to be back on the ice with the guys.
"For sure I was trying to get my legs under me in the first period but my teammates helped me a lot. Durandeau has a lot of speed and Trepanier is a very skilled and smart guy. They made it easier for me and we're going to be better in Game 2."
Like every series, the hardest hockey starts now. The Voltigeurs are a team that put up 107 points during the regular season, second only to the record-setting Rouyn-Noranda Huskies. And the truth is they also played well in Game 3, just not as well as the Mooseheads.
"We're just trying to take it one game at a time and (follow) the midnight rule of putting it behind us at midnight," McIsaac said. "We'll look forward to the next game. Every game is a pivotal game no matter where you are in the series. We're just trying to focus on each game."
Game 4 is in Halifax on Wednesday and Game 5 is back in Drummondville on Friday. If necessary, Game 6 will be in Halifax on Sunday and Game 7 in Drummondville next Tuesday.
"We wanted to build momentum here with our fans so we knew they were going to be crazy coming into this game," Groulx said. "We hadn't played in front of them for a long time so hopefully we start the game the same way tomorrow. I think we'll be ready tomorrow."
Marcel Barinka, Denis Toner, Alexis Sansfacon, Samuel Dube and Cole Stewart did not play for Halifax.