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There was plenty of friction in Saturday's QMJHL game at the Scotiabank Centre.
The Halifax Mooseheads and Moncton Wildcats scrapped their way through another chapter in their longstanding rivalry, with the Mooseheads coming out on top 5-1 in front of 9,717 fans.
"We feel really good about that one," said Halifax defenceman Denis Toner. "We're starting to see guys caring more about each other all the time. We had great team chemistry from the start but now we're sticking up for each other and that proves a lot. We have guys playing injured and when you see things like that, you build momentum off that."
It was a pretty standard meeting between the teams through the first half of the game, with the Mooseheads building a 3-1 lead. But then the tension went up a notch in the back half of the second period when a series of fights broke out.
By the time the dust had settled, the Mooseheads were down to three defencemen for a long stretch. They lost Patty Kyte to a game misconduct in the first round of brawling and then Justin Barron and Walter Flower had to serve 10-minute misconducts after the second installment. Overage centre Samuel Asselin spent a bit of time on the blue line to spell the overworked Jared McIsaac, Alexis Sansfacon and Toner.
"We were only three D for 10 minutes so (coach) Eric (Veilleux) asked me if I can play back there," Asselin said. "They had confidence in me and that shows a lot.
"I was D in some games when I was younger but it was never my position; it was just a few shifts here and there like in midget AAA. It was pretty fun for me tonight.
"You see guys like Toner and Sansfacon step up tonight. They're not used to playing big minutes like that and they did a really good job keeping their composure."
Even during their shorthanded stretch, the Mooseheads increased their lead to 4-1 and then further stabilized themselves after the manpower emergency. It was a good display of control for their third win in a row.
"It was definitely challenging," Toner said. "It also happened against Rouyn-Noranda and you've got to expect that at this time of year. Things get messy, guys get injured and games are intense. Moncton's our rival so obviously things are going to happen and you're going to have to play short. I thought we managed it well."
Bo Groulx notched the game's first two goals and Asselin, Arnaud Durandeau and Raphael Lavoie were the other Halifax scorers. Jakob Pelletier had the Moncton goal.
"We jumped on our opportunities and we played smart," Toner said. "We were just waiting for them to give us opportunities to score and obviously when you're short you play quite simple - chip pucks out and chip pucks in. That's what we did and it paid off."
Alexis Gravel stopped 24 shots for Halifax and Francis Leclerc made 24 saves for Moncton.
The win helps the Mooseheads (32-10-2-1) pull even further ahead in the Maritimes Division standings. They are now nine points up on the second-place Wildcats (26-15-3-3) and 10 ahead of the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles.
"Tonight proved a lot for us," Toner said. "As individuals but also a team, seeing guys step up in different ways showed a lot. We've had guys who haven't played a lot, including me, and everyone played a lot of minutes. It proves everyone can play on this team and it's going to be good for the rest of the season and playoffs."
The Mooseheads don't play again until they go to Moncton next Saturday for a rematch.
"It's going to be intense again," Toner said. "Moncton is one of our biggest rivals and it's always good hockey when we play against them. We're going to have to be ready."
Notes: Marcel Barinka, Ostap Safin, Jocktan Chainey, Jake Ryczek and Maxim Trepanier did not dress for Halifax. ... Saturday's game between the Screaming Eagles and Bathurst Titan was cancelled because of an electrical issue at Centre 200. It will be rescheduled. ... Halifax went 2-for-3 on the power play.