Mooseheads prepare for two game homestand before Christmas break

By Garreth MacDonald

The Mooseheads have an opportunity to head into the holiday break atop their division.

Halifax enters the final weekend before the Christmas break just one point back of Moncton. With three games in hand and a pair of games coming up at home including a showdown tonight with the Wildcats, the Moose can leapfrog the Maritimes Division's first-place club.

They will be without some firepower, however. 

Raphael Lavoie and Jared McIsaac flew out to Victoria, B.C. earlier this week to vie for a spot on Canada's World Junior team.

Lavoie, who turned 18 at the end of September, was the second youngest player in attendance at Hockey Canada's World Junior selection camp and one of the first players released by Hockey Canada late last night.

Lavoie is travelling back to Halifax and could return to the lineup tomorrow night against the Charlottetown Islanders.

McIsaac is still in the mix for a spot on the national team.

He's not the only Moosehead still hoping to compete at this year's World Juniors.

Forward Ostap Safin, who hasn't played since Nov. 25 because of a lower-body injury, is skating with the Czechs at their World Junior camp in Nanaimo, B.C.

In the meantime, the Mooseheads have called up a couple of prospects from the Nova Scotia Major Midget Hockey League for tonight's game: 2018 fifth round pick Sonny Kabatay and 2018 11th round pick Nathan MacMillan.

Kabatay, who will play his fifth game of the season for the Herd, has nine goals and 14 assists in 18 games with Dartmouth, while MacMillan (11 goals, 8 assists in 22 games with the Cape Breton Tradesmen) will make his fourth appearance for the Mooseheads.

Joel Bishop, who left Wednesday's 3-2 shootout loss to Cape Breton with an upper-body injury, will not dress tonight. Bishop joins a pair of rookies on the injured list.

The team is hopeful that Cole Stewart (upper body) and Samuel Dube (blood clot) will be healthy enough to return sometime after the Christmas break.
HALIFAX (22-7-1-1) vs MONCTON (22-9-2-1), Friday at 7 p.m. on NEWS 95.7

It's Teddy Bear Toss Night at the Scotiabank Centre!

For the fourth time this season, the Mooseheads will face off against the Moncton Wildcats.

As noted above, the Moose trail the Cats by just one point so Maritime bragging rights are on the line tonight. Halifax, however, does have three games in hand on Moncton.

The last two times that these team clashed, the games required overtime. The Mooseheads defeated the Wildcats 5-4 on Oct. 17 in Moncton but fell 3-2 to the Cats on Nov. 4.

The Wildcats were the hottest team in the league in October but they have just one win in their last five games.

Overage netminder Francis Leclerc (15-5-2-0, .899 SV%, 3.34 GAA) has been steady for Moncton this season but is coming off a rough performance in a rare morning game on Wednesday in Charlottetown.

The Islanders chased Leclerc from the school day game just 5:25 into the first period, beating him three times on just six shots.

Rookie Charles-Antoine Lavallée (7-4-0-1, .894 SV%, 3.15 GAA) was solid in relief, stopping 28 or 29 shots.

Moncton's leading scorer Jeremy McKenna (25-35-57 in 34 GP) notched a hat trick, including the game-tying goal in the final minute, to help the Wildcats rally from a 4-0 deficit and force overtime.

The game was eventually settled in the seventh round of the shootout when the Islanders' Thomas Casey scored to help Charlottetown stave off an impressive early morning comeback.

HALIFAX (22-7-1-1) vs CHARLOTTETOWN (20-8-2-1), Saturday at 7 p.m. on NEWS 95.7

On Sunday, the Mooseheads edged the Islanders 2-1 to help improve their perfect record against a hardworking Charlottetown club to 4-0 this season.

With lots of speed on both sides, Saturday's meeting should be another fast-paced affair.

The Islanders will be without their top skater, however. Defenceman Pierre-Olivier Joseph, like Halifax's McIsaac, is in Victoria competing for a spot on the Canadian World Junior team.

Halifax native Matt Welsh (15-7-1-1, .899 SV%, 3.12 GAA) is turning in another MVP-worthy season for the Islanders. He's coming off a 49-save performance in Wednesday morning's 5-4 shootout victory over Moncton.  

You can catch our Dartmouth Dodge Mooseheads Hockey broadcast at 7 p.m. on Saturday live from the Scotiabank Centre on NEWS 95.7.

Be sure to tune in to the Burrito Jax Pre-Game Show at 6:30 p.m.  

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