QMJHL Blog: Huskies, Foreurs locked in battle

The Val-d'Or Foreurs are a tough opponent at the best of times. And though the Gatineau Olympiques executed their strategy, Val-d'Or still managed to find holes to exploit to win.

The Val-d’Or Foreurs and Rouyn-Noranda Huskies clinched playoff berths on the back of a forgettable three-in-three weekend on the road for the low-scoring and last-place Baie-Comeau Drakkar.

On Friday night, the high-flying Foreurs—owners of the league’s highest scoring offence—dismantled the Drakkar. You have to feel for goaltender Bo Taylor, who had 11 pucks get past him in an 11-2 loss. And it could have been worse. Top sniper Julien Gauthier was out of the lineup after playing in the BMO Top Prospects game in Vancouver on Thursday. The Foreurs picked up another big two points Sunday night with a 3-1 win over division rival Gatineau.

Next up, Rouyn-Noranda played poor host with back-to-back 4-0 shutouts of Baie-Comeau. Bo Taylor was in nets again for the Drakkar on Saturday, facing 49 shots from the Huskies. Taylor finally got a break on Sunday with Antoine Samuel taking over, but the rest only lasted 20 minutes. Samuel getting yanked after the first period. Taylor, acquired from Gatineau this season, ended up facing 123 shots over the weekend.

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Val-d’Or now sits in first place with 79 points with Rouyn-Noranda right there at 78. The divisional format—both teams are in the West Division—means the Huskies are in fourth place despite having 11 more points than the Shawinigan Cataractes and Moncton Wildcats.

Here are more observations from the "Q" this week:

Wildcats chased by Sea Dogs

The Moncton Wildcats have comfortably been the best team in the Maritimes Division, but the red-hot Saint John Sea Dogs have narrowed Moncton’s lead to one point. It’s a case of the Sea Dogs surging—12 wins and no regulation losses in their past 14 games—and the Wildcats slumping.

Moncton lost 4-1 to the Halifax Mooseheads, one of two teams not in a playoff position, and 2-0 to Acadie-Bathurst over the weekend. They’ve now slipped to 4-4-2 in their past 10 contests. Conor Garland had the team’s lone goal, a rare drought for a squad tied for second in goals scored with 208.

Moncton Wildcats; QMJHL; CHL; Phoenix Coyotes

Conor Garland of the Moncton Wildcats has a 29-point lead over Anthony Richard of the Val-d'Or Foreurs in the QMJHL scoring race. (Minas Panagiotakis/Getty)

Islanders making noise

With 55 points, the Charlottetown Islanders are 12 points behind Moncton (67 points) in the Maritimes Division. If goaltender Mason McDonald keeps playing like he did this weekend, there’s a chance the Islanders will take the division. Named the first star of the week by the league, the Calgary Flames prospect (34th overall in 2015) picked up a pair of wins against Cape Breton; a 26-save 4-2 win followed by a 39-save shutout in a 3-0 victory.

McDonald now has 12 wins and 15 losses on the season, but has won five of his past six starts.

Laberge the toppiest of Top Prospects

Two standout performances in the BMO CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game came from Victoriaville’s Pascal Laberge and Cape Breton’s Pierre-Luc Dubois for Team Orr. Both had three points and Laberge was named the Jim Gregory Player of the Game.

The second-overall pick of the 2014 QMJHL draft, Laberge was acquired by the Victoriaville Tigres—along with a 2016 first-rounder—for Yan Pavel Laplante and Tommy Veilleux over the trade period last season. The move’s looking pretty good.

With 28 goals and 55 points, Laplante is enjoying his best season in the "Q" as a 20-year-old for Gatineau this season. But Veilleux is no longer with the team, leaving in mid-November to join the Terrebonne Cobras (Junior AAA).

In his sophomore season, Laberge has 14 goals and 41 points, good for second in team scoring. NHL Central Scouting ranks him 31st among North American skaters in its midterm rankings.

Roy’s resurgence

January 2016 was the best month of Nicolas Roy’s QMJHL career: 10 goals 10 ten games, along with eight assists for Chicoutimi. The 18 points brings his season total up to 61. With 31 goals in 43 games, Roy is averaging 0.721 G/GP, fifth best in the league.

He’s showing why he was considered a potential NHL first-round pick last year. After a sophomore slump, the league's 2013 first-overall pick tumbled to the Carolina Hurricanes in the fourth round (96th overall). The 6-foot-4, 202-lb. center never looked comfortable last season and failed to live up to the lofty expectations. Roy looks like a totally different player in 2015-16, especially in the goal-scoring department—he had just 16 in each of his first two seasons.