QMJHL Playoffs: Second Round Preview
After a couple of interesting series, including three game sevens, the second round is set. Some teams that were expected to make it to this point almost did not, while a couple of clubs surprised many by making it this far. This makes up for four matchups that are sure to watched closely, because, as we saw in round one, anything can happen.
(1) Halifax Mooseheads vs. (7) Moncton Wildcats
Moncton turned things around and was able to upset Baie-Comeau in a seven-game thriller, and are the lowest seed to make it to the second round. The Wildcats were led by Jeremy McKenna once again, with 11 points in the series, and four multi-point games. Mika Cyr was huge in this series. Moncton’s four wins came in the four games where Cyr got a point, and he had 10 in the series, including the game-winning goal in game seven. Gabriel Sylvestre was an important piece on the blueline, with five assists, and was never a minus in a single game in the series, finishing with +6 rating.
The Mooseheads are coming into the second round after surviving a seven-game series against the Quebec Remparts, where Halifax went down 2-0, and needed to win games six and seven to advance. Raphael Lavoie led the league in scoring in the first round with 13 points, and his seven goals were also the most among fellow QMJHLers. Only games one and seven saw Lavoie held to less than two points. Maxim Trepanier missed most of the last two months of the season with concussion-like symptoms, but still averaged a point a game in the regular season. After missing game one, Trepanier put up six points in six games.
With the Mooseheads hosting of the Memorial Cup, they may not feel the pressure to win, which was noticeable in their series against Quebec. The Wildcats had to scratch and claw (no pun intended) to slow down one of the best offences in the league, thanks to the play of the d-core and netminder Francis Leclerc. While Moncton only won two games in the regular season against Halifax, the desperation they played with in the first round could be the difference in this round two matchup.
Halifax right now is going through the motions, and the Wildcats want it more. It’ll be close, but Moncton in seven.
(3) Rimouski Oceanic vs. (5) Cape Breton Screaming Eagles
Rimouski was the lone team to move on in the minimum number of games, as they took care of Chicoutimi in four games, including a marathon game two where D’Artagnan Joly’s scored his lone goal in the series in the fourth overtime. Alexis Lafreniere was exceptional as always, averaging two points a game in this series, leading the team. Lafreniere’s linemate, Jimmy Huntington, scored seven points in the series, with three-point performances in games one and three. Colton Ellis was solid in goal for the Oceanic, only giving up 11 goals on 148 shots, including making 53 saves in the game two overtime win.
Cape Breton is coming off upending Charlottetown in a six game series where the Islanders went up 2-0, before the Screaming Eagles reeled off four straight victories. Three of which were one goal games, with the series-clinching game six ending in overtime after Egor Sokolov’s fourth goal of the series. The man who tied that game to send it to overtime, Mitchell Balmas, was stellar throughout the series. With five goals and six assists, his 11 points were tied for the third-most points in first round scoring. Kevin Mandolese was clutch in net for Cape Breton. After allowing eight goals in the first two games, the Ottawa prospect only allowed nine the rest of the series.
These two teams play vastly different styles. Rimouski likes to open up and use their offence to dictate the game, whereas Cape Breton will do their best to grind their opponent down to win. Rimouski, of course, will be rested heading into game one, as they have not played since March 27th. The teams only met twice in the regular season, with the Screaming Eagles pulling out two, one-goal, victories.
Rimouski’s rest will hurt them at first, but the Screaming Eagles will fall off late in the series. Oceanic in seven.
(1) Rouyn-Noranda Huskies vs. (4) Victoriaville Tigres
Victoriaville punched their ticket to the second round in the most dramatic way possible. After winning game six to force a game seven against Val-d’Or, Olivier Mathieu’s second goal of the series 35 seconds into overtime won the Tigres the game and the series. Simon Lafrance and Dominic Cormier led the Victoriaville offence in the first round, with each scoring nine points. Lafrance was clutch for the Tigres, as he had two points in both games six and seven. Similar to Lafrance, Cormier managed to earn three multi-point games in the seven games.
The Huskies had their struggles against the Shawinigan Cataractes, as Shawinigan won their first game since February 9th in game two, then won again in game four. However, routs in games five and six by the Huskies put any thoughts of an upset to bed. Peter Abbandonato was the dominant playmaker in Rouyn-Noranda’s first round as he was in the regular season. With 11 assists in the six games, his 13 points tied Lavoie for most in round one. Noah Dobson showed that he is back to form, as he scored 10 points from the blueline.
While the Huskies had issues with lowly Shawinigan in the first round, do not expect them to overlook another opponent, especially a scrappy team like Victoriaville. Rouyn-Noranda won all four games in the regular season, but the Tigres put up good efforts at home, with both games only being decided by a single goal. Tristan Cote-Cazenave was clutch for the Tigres against Val-d’Or, but he does not measure up to Samuel Harvey, who, despite losing twice, was still one of the better netminders in the first round with a 1.90 GAA and .912 SV%.
Huskies will not take the Tigres lightly, Rouyn-Noranda in five.
(2) Drummondville Volitgeurs vs. (3) Sherbrooke Phoenix
After being stunned in game one against Blainville-Boisbriand, Sherbrooke settled down and ran through the next four games to move passed the Armada into round two. Samuel Poulin led the charge for the Phoenix offence, scoring nine points in the five-game series. Felix Robert produced well for Sherbrooke, as he scored eight points in the series, including a three-point night in game three. Dakota Lund-Cornish was exceptional in net, only allowing 10 goals on 134 shots with a shutout in a bounce-back game two win.
The Volitgeurs had an easy time beating the Gatineau Olympiques in the first round in five games. Joseph Veleno was ever impressive, with a hat trick in game one, and three more points in game five on his way to nine points against Gatineau. Maxime Comtois was also a solid goal scorer for Drummondville, as he potted four goals in the series. Anthony Morrone had the easiest workload compared to the rest of the league, but he only allowed nine goals in the series with a shutout to boot.
This series will come down to effort. It may sound cliché, but if the Phoenix want any shot against the talented Voltigeur lineup, they are going to have outwork them for an entire seven-game series. It will be tough, especially since Drummondville swamped the Phoenix in the six regular season meetings. The Voltigeurs won all six games, outscoring 33-9 in the process.
Too much offence for one team to handle, Drummondville in five.
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