Penalty kill helps Mooseheads earn at least semi berth at Memorial Cup

Rob Faulds spoke with Samuel Asselin after the Halifax Moosheads beat the Guelph Storm in Game 2 of the Memorial Cup.

Once again, the penalty kill bailed out the Halifax Mooseheads — barely.

Three penalties in the first period appeared as though it would be a major hurtle for them to overcome.

But strong play from goaltender Alexis Gravel along with a short-handed goal from Rafael Lavoie on Sunday night helped the host Mooseheads beat the Guelph Storm 4-2 to earn at least a spot in the Memorial Cup semifinal.

It was the second-straight game where Halifax (2-0) went on the penalty kill three times in the opening period. Gravel had to come up with 15 first period saves as Halifax escaped without allowing a goal.

Another penalty early in the second — an elbowing call on Ostap Safin — put the Mooseheads down a man, but this time the offence kicked into high gear with Lavoie’s goal.

Halifax finished the game 5-for-6 on the penalty kill, but will need to be more disciplined if they are to be successful in the tournament.

The Mooseheads will also need to get their power play going. They were 0-for-6 against the Ontario Hockey League champions and have converted just once on 12 opportunities through two games.

Here are some more takeaways from the victory:

Lavoie breaks through

Lavoie, a prospect for this June’s NHL Draft, broke through in a big way with his first goal of the tournament.

A nice toe-drag past Guelph’s Owen Lalonde followed by a nice shot over goaltender Anthony Popovich gave Halifax a 2-1 lead.

The Chambly, Que., native has had several opportunities during the first two games to find the back of the net on the penalty kill.

Finally, he was able to convert.

The six-foot-four, 198-pound right-winger led the QMJHL with 20 post-season goals and finished second with 32 points.

Down and Durzi

Storm defenceman Sean Durzi has been very impressive through two games at the Memorial Cup.

The Los Angeles Kings prospect — acquired in the Jake Muzzin trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs — picked up three assists in Guelph’s opening game win over Rouyn-Noranda. He continued his strong play on Sunday by scoring both of Guelph’s goals.

Durzi found the back of the net late in the first with a nice slap shot to tie the game 1-1. He would get another early in the third period with a wrist shot from inside the blue line on the power play to cut his team’s deficit to 3-2.

The 20-year-old was acquired by the Storm (1-1) in a January trade which also involved Nick Suzuki and Zach Roberts. He moves the puck well and always seems to be in on the action.

Asselin strikes again

Talk about clutch.

Samuel Asselin, who has been dynamite over the last two Canadian major junior championships, gave the Mooseheads insurance in the third period with a goal past Popovich.

Asselin’s original shot handcuffed the Storm goaltender, but he collected his own rebound and saw it trickle into the net.

It was the sixth-straight Memorial Cup game Asselin scored in. He even got a smooch on the helmet from Lavoie afterwards for his effort.

A rowdy crowd of 10,036 at Scotiabank Centre had their cowbells out and gave their team a standing ovation in the final minute of play to drive them home.

They’ll get to see their Mooseheads play to start next weekend — and maybe even witness a championship game next Sunday.

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