Mooseheads win Good Friday classic

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Timo Meier scored halfway through double overtime to give the Halifax Mooseheads a 4-3 extra-time victory over the Shawinigan Cataractes on Good Friday at the Halifax Forum.

The Mooseheads now lead the best-of-seven series 3-2 and have an opportunity to eliminate the Cataractes at Centre Gervais Auto on Sunday afternoon.

Over 4,800 Haligonians were treated to a wild affair between two of the youngest and brightest clubs in the QMJHL. Fans piled into the the hallowed Forum as early as four hours before puck drop with a few arriving even earlier to see Game 5 of what is becoming one of the more interesting first-round series in the CHL playoffs.

The home side got on the board first. In the opening minute of the second period, Nikolaj Ehlers scored his first goal of the playoffs to give the Mooseheads their first lead of the evening. Ehlers slapped a rebound by Cüpper sending the Forum into a frenzy. Earlier today, Cataractes head coach Martin Bernard referred to the Mooseheads superstar as the “king of divers” when speaking to Steve Turcotte of La Presse. The Winnipeg Jets prospect silenced his critics tallying his league-leading 10th point of the postseason.

Midway through the middle period, Timo Meier poked in his fourth of the playoffs giving the Mooseheads a two-goal lead. Meier, 18, was assaulted after the goal by Cataractes defenceman Dylan Labbé prompting a violent post-goal scrum in which Austyn Hardie incurred a double-minor penalty. Ehlers drew an assist on Meier’s even strength goal for his second point of the evening and 11th of the playoffs. Former Summerside Capital, Cavan Fitzgerald, was given the secondary assist.

The visiting squad cut the Mooseheads lead in half in the latter part of the second period. Dennis Yan scored his team-leading fourth of the playoffs moments after time expired on a Meier minor penalty.

Shawinigan tied the game at 2-2 several minutes into the third period on a bizarre play. The puck appeared to have left the playing surface however referee Maurice Leblanc failed to blow the play dead. With players on both clubs standing still in confusion, Alexis D’Aoust found Yan uncontested in front of the net to even the score. The goal stood after being subjected to a review.

The Cataractes took the lead for the first time since Game 3 on a five-on-three power play. Not long after Meier took a high-sticking minor, Ehlers was penalized for a slash on Christophe Lalonde much to the disdain of the boisterous crowd. Yan scored immediately giving his side the lead and earning his second career hat-trick.

Halifax tied the game in the final four minutes of regulation with a power play goal of their own. With Halifax, N.S. native Nicholas Welsh in the penalty box, Danny Moynihan fired a wrist shot by Cüpper knotting the game up at 3-3. Moynihan shares the team-lead in goal-scoring with five goals through five games. Ehlers and Philippe Gadoury picked up the assists on Moynihan’s power play marker.

Both regulation and the first overtime were insufficient forcing another overtime period.

The two teams – exhausted – traded wonderful chances and thrilled fans with end-to-end rushes resulting in countless opportunities.

Then, at 10:55 p.m. local time, Meier scored the biggest goal of his young career. After collecting the puck in the Mooseheads zone, Danny Moynihan weaved his way through the neutral zone before entering the Cataractes end of the ice. As the 20-year-old centre curled behind the Shawinigan net he threw the puck into the slot for a teammate. In one motion, Meier slapped the idle puck by Cüpper ending the marathon game.

Through five games, the Swiss import has five goals and three assists for eight points. Meier’s stock continues to rise game-by-game as the 2015 NHL Entry Draft looms. The 209-pound winger has already matched his postseason point total from last year in seven fewer games.

The two goaltenders continued to impress in Game 5. Cüpper was outstanding turning aside 48 Mooseheads shots. The 20-year-old netminder has a spectacular 0.923 save percentage in the first round of the playoffs. Eric Brassard was awesome in goal for the Mooseheads. The former Québec Rempart faced a jaw dropping 63 shots on Friday night stopping 60 of them. Brassard leads all QMJHL goaltenders in the playoffs with a save percentage of 0.930 per cent. The Longueuil, Que. native has stopped 200-of-215 shots he’s face in the opening round of the postseason.

The war continues on Sunday in Shawinigan, Que. The two clubs will meet at 4 p.m. EDT at Centre Gervais Auto for Game 6 of their best-of-seven series. The Mooseheads are one win away from advancing to the second round of the QMJHL President’s Cup playoffs for the fourth year in a row.

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