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There is one more checkpoint out of the way for the Halifax Mooseheads leading up to the start of the QMJHL season.
They fell 4-3 the Charlottetown Islanders in overtime at the RBC Centre in Dartmouth on Saturday to wrap up their pre-season. Now there is less than one week left to wait until they play for real.
"Pre-season is a bit a dress rehearsal and everyone's just getting ready to go and figuring things out," said Mooseheads winger Liam Peyton. "For the new guys it's a good opportunity to get their feet wet and get ready to jump into the first big game and then the home opener. Obviously with it being against Cape Breton, that's going to add something as well. Once the real regular season gets going, every win's going to count and we're all looking forward to that."
Considering it was the final exhibition game of the year for both teams and they also had their best available players dressed, there was a noticeable difference in pace and tone. With the exception of the empty stands because of COVID-19 restrictions, there was very much a regular season feel about the game.
"Charlottetown played physical and we just had to keep up with the pace," said rookie Halifax winger James Swan. "And to be honest, I think we did a good job of that and also gave it right back to them. It's just unfortunate they got that goal at the end. But we played a pretty good game and I think we're moving in the right direction."
It was also quite clear there will be plenty of friction between the teams this year, especially since they'll play each other a dozen times during the regular season. There were numerous scrums and plenty of chirps back and forth all game.
"It's always a bit of a rivalry and now we know we're going to play the same teams night in and night out this year," Peyton said. "We know theyre are going to be a lot of solid rivalries built and I think this pre-season we've already been picking it up. We're starting to get even more competitive now that the season's about to start so it's going to be a big part of how the whole year goes."
Zachary L'Heureux scored two goals for the Mooseheads and Elliot Desnoyer had one. Oscar Plandowski, Lukas Cormier and Thomas Casey scored in regulation for the Islanders and Cedric Desruisseaux had the OT winner.
Cole McLaren made 24 saves for Halifax and Colten Ellis stopped 26 shots for Charlottetown.
"It was an exciting game for me," said Peyton, who was traded to the Mooseheads by the Islanders in June. "It's my first time being traded and playing against my former team so it took a little bit of adapting and just figuring out what it's like being on the other side of things.
"But at the same time it kind of helped a little bit because you know the style they're going to play. I'd been there for three years and now I'm in Halifax and it's been fun getting things going. It was only my second game of the pre-season so it's taken a bit of time but I'm feeling comfortable."
The Mooseheads lost defenceman Keegan Hunt in the second period after a late hit from behind by Ben Boyd on an icing play. Hunt was favouring his right leg as teammates helped him to the dressing room.
"That wasn't good at all," Swan said. "Of course you saw all of us go in and defend him. That shows you on the ice that we're really starting to gel as a team."
The Mooseheads play their first regular season game against the Cape Breton Eagles in Sydney on Friday, followed by a rematch in Halifax the next night.