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Moncton Wildcats forward Nicolas Kingsbury-Fournier and Halifax Mooseheads defenceman Patrick Kyte kick up some snow as they crash into the boards during the first period of Friday’s game at the Scotiabank Centre.
Moncton Wildcats forward Nicolas Kingsbury-Fournier and Halifax Mooseheads defenceman Patrick Kyte kick up some snow as they crash into the boards during the first period of Friday’s game at the Scotiabank Centre. - Ryan Taplin

Gravel earns second shutout of season in 2-0 victory over Moncton

First place in the Maritimes Division was on the line Friday night at the Scotiabank Centre and you could tell that mattered to the teams on the ice.

The Halifax Mooseheads and Moncton Wildcats played with some extra jump in front of an engaged crowd of 7,716, with the Mooseheads pulling out a 2-0 win to take over top spot.

“It was a huge win for us,” said Halifax winger Samuel Asselin. “They were first and we were second so I think we both wanted that game. That’s the kind of (performance) you’re looking for in a game like that. I thought it was a really good game.”

There wasn’t any scoring in the first period but the pace was high and the game had a playoff feel. The teams maintained that intensity in the second and Halifax’s Bo Groulx broke the deadlock with a gritty goal down low 3:37 into the period.

The Mooseheads kept pushing in the third period and got an important insurance goal from Asselin with 7:05 left to play. The Wildcats pulled their goalie in the final few minutes but the Mooseheads defence did not bend.

“We didn’t like our start; just four shots after the first period,” said Halifax goalie Alexis Gravel.

“That was disappointing but the coach came into the dressing room and told us to wake up. It was a huge character game because we didn’t give up. It was a tight game and we played really well defensively, one of our best this year.”

Gravel stopped 33 shots to earn his second shutout of the season and Francis Leclerc made 29 saves for Moncton.

“I felt good,” said Gravel, the first star. “We’re having a good stretch right now because the boys are playing really well defensively. We screwed up a little bit in the first but then after that we gave up even less scoring chances than usual. It was great.”

Mooseheads fans lift a giant teddy bear over the glass during the annual Teddy Bear Toss following Bo Groulx’s second-period goal on Friday night. - Ryan Taplin
Mooseheads fans lift a giant teddy bear over the glass during the annual Teddy Bear Toss following Bo Groulx’s second-period goal on Friday night. - Ryan Taplin

Mooseheads winger Raphael Lavoie arrived at the rink just as they were about to drop the puck for the opening face-off. He travelled all day from Victoria, B.C., after being cut at Canada’s world junior team selection camp. He only missed one shift with his line.

“That was crazy,” Gravel said.

“I texted him this morning and he told me he wanted to play. He tried to leave as early as possible and it shows the character of the guy. He wants the best for the team and we needed him in the lineup. I’m really happy he came. He could have easily said ‘I’m not coming’ but not only did he come, he played well. He flew all the way here from Victoria and was the third star. That says a lot about him.”

The win moves the Mooseheads (23-7-1-1) one point ahead of the Wildcats (22-10-2-1) and makes them unbeaten in regulation time in their past seven games. They are 6-0-0-1 during that span.

“There was a good atmosphere tonight,” Gravel said. “That game was for first place but it was also not against a team like Val-d’Or that we don’t play often. We’re rivals. We hate them and they hate us so it’s great to beat them.”

The Mooseheads wrap up the first half of the season with a home game against the Charlottetown Islanders on Saturday. Their first game after the break is a rematch with the Islanders on the road on Dec. 28.

“We want to finish well and we want to finish hard, like the way we played the second and third period tonight,” Asselin said. “That’s what we’re going to try to do tomorrow and then have a nice Christmas after that.”

Screaming Eagles 8, Titan 4: At Bathurst, Declan Smith, Mathias Laferriere and Alex Drover each scored twice in the win for Cape Breton.

Olivier Bourret and Mitchell Balmas had the other goals for the Screaming Eagles and Daniil Vertiy, Liam Murphy, Marc-Andre Lecouffe and Ethan Crossman were the Titan scorers.

Kevin Mandolese made nine saves for Cape Breton and Mark Grametbauer and Tyriq Outen combined to stop 26 shots for Bathurst.

Notes: Mooseheads defenceman Jared McIsaac is at the Canadian world junior team selection camp and Samuel Dube, Cole Stewart and Ostap Safin did not play because of injuries. ... It was the annual teddy bear toss at the Scotiabank Centre. The fans littered the ice with stuffed animals after Groulx’s goal.

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