Mooseheads big underdogs as playoffs begin

The Halifax Mooseheads will be big underdogs when the puck drops in their first round playoff series tonight in Quebec against the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies.

The Huskies are the defending QMJHL champions and have been one of the best teams in the league again this season.

"They have a lot of speed and might be the fastest team in the league," said Mooseheads head coach André Tourigny.

"They have depth at every position and had two defencemen who played for the world junior team, so that says a lot."

The Huskies and Mooseheads finished the regular season separated by 33 points in the league standings. The Huskies clinched a playoff spot weeks ago, while the Mooseheads secured their post-season birth just last week.

Slowing down the high-tempo Huskies will be the key in trying to pull off the upset.

"We need to possess the puck and cut their time and space and their speed, especially through the middle," said Tourigny.

Tourigny is a popular coach in Rouyn-Noranda, having coached the team for 10 seasons from 2003-2013. He coached the team to 334 wins before becoming an assistant coach in the NHL. He signed on as the head coach of the Mooseheads last year.

Stars need to step up

The Mooseheads will lean heavily on their top players, including Nico Hischier and Max Fortier, in an effort to pull off the upset. Rookie goaltender Alexis Gravel is expected to see lots of action in the Halifax net.

Goalie Blade Mann-Dixon of Antigonish is out with an injury so the Mooseheads have called up Cole McLaren to dress as Gravel's backup. The 17-year-old Annapolis Royal product played midget hockey this season for the Valley Wildcats. He made 86 saves in a quintuple overtime loss in a playoff game earlier this month.

Game 2 in the series will be played Saturday night in Rouyn-Noranda. Games 3 and 4 in the best-of-seven series will be played at Scotiabank Centre in Halifax on Tuesday and Wednesday.