Series preview: (5) Cataractes vs. (12) Mooseheads
For the first time in 18 years, the Halifax Mooseheads and Shawinigan Cataractes face-off in the President’s Cup playoffs.
As it was in 1997, the Cataractes are the top seed and thus favoured in the best-of-seven series. Led by head coach Martin Bernard, Shawinigan finished 11 points ahead of the Mooseheads in the final standings.
The stingy Cataractes allowed just 214 goals against in 68 games – only the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada and the number one seed Rimouski Océanic allowed fewer. German import Marvin Cüpper was as advertised this season leading all goaltenders with a save percentage of 0.912 per cent. The overage netminder ranked second in saves (1681) and third in shutouts (4). Despite his sparkling numbers, the 20-year-old has struggled against the Mooseheads. In late November, Cüpper was chased after allowing six goals in just over two periods. In the second-and-final regular season meetings between the two teams, in February, Cüpper conceded five goals. Nikolaj Ehlers led the Mooseheads’ offence with six assists in the two games while Meier scored four goals. The Mooseheads took the November game by a score of 6-3. The Cataractes answered with a 6-5 victory three months later at Scotiabank Centre.
Halifax has relied heavily on their European duo heavily since November. Danish-born Ehlers and Swiss-born Meier combined for 191 points this season. The two, second-year players lead a top heavy Mooseheads offence. Besides the aforementioned imports, Danny Moynihan and Philippe Gadoury are the only Mooseheads who scored more than nine goals this year. The offensive quartet have scored over 63 per cent of the Mooseheads goals this season.
The Cataractes had a dozen players score more than nine goals this season not the least of which was Anthony Beauvillier who scored a team-high 42 goals. The NHL draft-eligible sniper led the QMJHL with 337 shots this year. Beauvillier, 17, is complimented by the tenacious veteran Christophe Lalonde. The former Moncton Wildcats captain has enjoyed considerable success against the Mooseheads in past seasons. Lalonde has an impressive 12 goals and eight assists for 20 points in his last 17 games against Dominique Ducharme’s squad.
While both teams come into the playoffs with green defencemen and solid goaltending, the Cataractes have an impressive amount of offensive depth while the Mooseheads will have to rely on rookie Maxime Fortier and defensive specialist Ryan Falkenham for secondary scoring. Halifax may have the best player or even the best couple of players in the series but the Cataractes are too deep and too well balanced.
Prediction: Cataractes in 6.