After watching his Halifax Mooseheads get off to a sluggish start, head coach Cam Russell did his best to send a message.
Russell spent second half of Friday night’s 5-2 loss to the Quebec Remparts at the Metro Centre juggling his lines and giving priority to his hardest working players, irritated after his team got down 3-0 in the second period.
It was impossible to predict who was coming over the boards, and it initially worked. Halifax cut the deficit to a goal, 3-2, before Quebec scored two power-play goals in the final 11 minutes to seal it.
“I wanted to play the guys who were competing, the guys who were skating hard and competing hard,” said Russell. “That’s why we switched some players around and gave some guys an opportunity. We did a lot of juggling. We wanted to get energy guys out there.”
Notably, 19-year-old forward Yuri Cheremetiev was dropped off the so-called Euro Line with Jan Stransky and Tomas Knotek, a unit that has been ripping it up since it was assembled four games ago.
While Russell didn’t single anyone out by name for lack of effort, he did give a pat on the back to Ned O’Brien, a seldom-used forward who was all over the ice laying the body and generating offence.
That earned him a top-line look with Knotek and Stransky.
“When guys are competing and playing hard, you want to give them the opportunity to continue to do that,” Russell said.
The Remparts went 3-for-5 with the man advantage. Kevin Marshall scored at 9:51 of the third on a Gerrad Grant trip and Kelsey Tessier tallied at 16:39 on a Gabriel O’Connor knee to snuff the comeback.
“We took a couple of stupid penalties that cost us goals,” said O’Connor. “When we play good hockey teams like that, we have to play smart, take the punches, and keep them off the power play.”
The 18-year-old O’Connor admitted he “wasn’t happy with the call” on him, saying it was a “clean hit, body-to-body.”
“But you can’t do anything about it,” he said.
Stransky and Linden Bahm scored for Halifax. Goaltender Mark Yetman made 27 saves in his sixth straight start.