HALIFAX - Understandably, Cavan Fitzgerald was a bundle of nerves before making his QMJHL debut with the Halifax Mooseheadson Saturday evening (at home, no less).
© Metro Halifax/Jeff Harper
Mooseheads backup netminder Kevin Darveau.
But, he was determined to stick to his game plan: ‚Äúkeep things simple; don‚Äôt try anything big and fancy.‚ÄĚ
The Boston native, who played his major midget hockey with the Cape Breton Tradesmen, did exactly that.
After the Mooseheads scored two unanswered third period goals to tie the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles at 3-3, Fitzgerald found the puck near the top of the hash marks and rifled it past Chase Marchand with just under five minutes remaining in regulation time.
The Metro Centre crowd of 9,624 erupted, and the defenceman‚Äôs first QMJHL goal stood as the game-winner. Nikolaj Ehlers iced the victory with an empty-netter and the Mooseheads beat their provincial rivals 5-3 in stunning fashion, snapping a four-game losing streak.
‚ÄúI just shot the puck, hoping it would go in and then everyone turned to me and it was just crazy,‚ÄĚ said a clearly pumped up Fitzgerald. ‚ÄúEveryone‚Äôs pretty pumped for me. It‚Äôs my first goal in my first game; it feels great. It was just crazy. It was like nothing I ever experienced.‚ÄĚ
And the young man playing in place of Zach Fucale, who‚Äôs currently suiting up for Canada at the world juniors, held the Herd close with one spectacular save after another.
Since Fucale‚Äôs departure, Kevin Darveau dropped four in a row, but on this night he would not be denied.
‚ÄúI felt big out there and I felt light,‚ÄĚ said Darveau, who made 42 saves in the victory. ‚ÄúI was ready today, that‚Äôs for sure. The fans really helped us. Every time I made a save you just feel you gain 10 pounds more.‚ÄĚ
But Darveau was quick to tip his hat to his new teammate, who was called up from the Summerside Western Capitals.
‚ÄúWe‚Äôre all really happy for Fitzgerald; it‚Äôs his first goal.‚ÄĚ
Outshot 37-12 through two periods, the Mooseheads looked poised for another disappointing defeat after giving up a pair of first period power play goals. But they came out in the final frame with renewed energy, capitalizing on a weak performance by Marchand.
‚ÄúIt was unacceptable the way we played in the first two periods,‚ÄĚ said Darveau. ‚ÄúWe wanted to bounce back in the third, and we did.‚ÄĚ
Again, the Herd made due with a depleted lineup with seven regulars out of the lineup, two of which are representing Canada at the world junior, while the others are nursing injuries.
Cape Breton forward William Carrier, who tallied once, said his squad simply threw the game away, but added he was already looking forward to Sunday‚Äôs rematch in Cape Breton.
‚ÄúWhen we play our game we can beat that team any time,‚ÄĚ said Carrier. ‚ÄúWe thought we had them; we just have to step up tomorrow.‚ÄĚ
Ehlers led the Mooseheads with a pair of goals, while Vincent Watt and MacKenzie Weegar added singles to round out the scoring for the Herd. Charles-Eric Legare and Julien Pelletier responded for Cape Breton.
With the win, the Mooseheads improve to 24-14-0-1.
- by Andrew Rankin - Metro Halifax