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Mooseheads punch ticket to Memorial Cup final with narrow loss to Huskies


The math worked out for the Halifax Mooseheads on Wednesday night.

Even though they lost 4-3 to the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies in the Memorial Cup round-robin finale at the Scotiabank Centre, they earned a bye to Sunday's championship game because of the tiebreaker formula. The Huskies and Guelph Storm will meet in Friday's semifinal.

"It doesn't matter how we got to the finals, we're there now," said Halifax centre BO Groulx. "We're just going to get some rest now for the next couple of days and get ready. Once we know who our opponent is, we'll get ready for them."

Heading into the game, there were dozens of possible scenarios on the table. Various combinations of wins, losses and goals for and against could've sent either Halifax, Guelph or Rouyn-Noranda to the final. The simplest solution was a Mooseheads victory but the other path was to squeak into the final with a one-goal loss with a total score that was no higher than 4-3.

"We didn't know at the start of the game what score we could lose by but at the eight-minute mark of the third period the coach told us when it was 3-3 we had to try and keep it tight," said Halifax winger Arnaud Durandeau. "He told us not to try to score too much, which is hard to do as a hockey player. We found a way to make it to the final and we're happy."

With so much riding on the outcome, another part of the challenge for everyone involved was maintaining a level head. The Mooseheads were a tad out of sorts in the opening period, falling behind 2-0. But they collected themselves in the intermission and turned the game around with three goals in the second period.

"The first period we came out a bit on our heels," Durandeau said. "We were a little nervous but I think we bounced back very well in the second period and the third period."
With the circumstances the way they were, the Mooseheads went into a defensive shell with the 3-2 lead in the third period. They didn't make much of an attempt to generate offence and tried to hold their ground in their own end. 

The Huskies tied it at 3-3 midway through the period and the Mooseheads white-knuckled it the rest of the way. The Huskies wound up outshooting them 16-2 in the final period and gave the Mooseheads a real scare with a goal in the final minute. 

Had the Mooseheads surrendered one more to make it 5-3, they would have lost their bye to the final and been forced to play the Huskies again in the semi.

"I think it probably would've been nice to score one in the last second, but whatever," said Rouyn-Noranda winger Tyler Hinam. "They've had a good tournament so far and they earned their way to the finals and hopefully we'll see them there."

While some in the rink may have been confused by the Mooseheads' celebration after the loss, the players knew what it meant and didn't hold back. This is the second time in franchise history Halifax will play for the Memorial Cup trophy. The 2013 team won the championship in Saskatoon.

"We were on our heels a little bit at the end and, for sure, it's awkward (to celebrate a loss)," Durandeau said. "You never want to lose a game but those are the rules here are at the Mem Cup. ... We knew even if we lost 4-3 we were going to the finals so that was our main goal."

Groulx, Durandeau and Antoine Morand were the Mooseheads scorers and Jakub Lauko, William Rouleau, Felix Bibeau and Joel Teasdale had the other Huskies goals. Samuel Harvey stopped 24 shots for Rouyn-Noranda and Alexis Gravel made 34 saves for Halifax.

By the third period, the only way the Huskies could advance was to get the score to at least 8-3.

"We were familiar with our situation," Huskies forward Peter Abbandonato said. "We knew how many goals we needed to win by and we did some calculations. We knew we had to win by a lot so after the second period we knew it was attainable but the odds weren't very good we could do it. We just tried our best to keep working hard and build off the third period for our next game."

Old tensions between the QMJHL finalists also bubbled up at different points in the game. There were plenty of heavy hits and more scrapes after the whistle as the night wore on.

"It's two good teams playing against each other and we want to win the Cup," Durandeau said. "They already won one so we want to win our own Cup. We're excited for the finals."
Alexis Sansfacon, Cole Stewart, Marcel Barinka, Brock McLeod and Denis Toner did not dress for Halifax. 

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