The Halifax Mooseheads had a hard enough time stopping Gatineau Olympiques stars Claude Giroux and Paul Byron on home ice. As they head to Gatineau for the next three games, that job is about to get much more difficult.
The Olympiques, coming off back-to-back overtime wins over the Mooseheads at the Metro Centre, have a 2-0 lead in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League best-of-seven semifinal.
Giroux and Byron have five of Gatineau’s six goals, and the Olympiques will try to use the last line change to get favourable matchups at Robert Guertin Arena.
“It’s definitely an advantage — we have our matchups, as you guys can see out there,” Olympiques goalie Ryan Mior said. “I think everybody’s been great getting the changes (in Halifax) and we haven’t been getting in trouble (with too-many-men penalties). It takes a little pressure off of that (at home).”
The Mooseheads generally haven’t matched forward lines with the Olympiques, but have tried to get at least half of the top pairing of Andrew Bodnarchuk and Guillaume Monast on the ice against the speedy and skilled duo of Giroux and Byron.
But even the Herd’s finest have struggled.
Bodnarchuk, the team’s top blue-liner, was on the ice for both overtime winners, getting beaten by Byron 1-on-1 in Game 1. He also turned the puck over in Game 2 to Giroux, who proceeded to dance past Monast and roof the winner.
“Gaps have to be better on them,” Mooseheads head coach Cam Russell said. “We can’t give them as much space as we’ve given them, and we’ve got to be physical. They’re not big guys, and we have to continue to hit them and wear them down.”
>> Ryan Hillier, Halifax’s top regular-season goal-scorer, will return for Game 3 after missing Sunday’s game with a knee injury … Forward David Bouchard will likely sit out Game 3 after taking a brutal knee-on-knee hit on Sunday.