Seventh Heaven: Recapping Tuesday’s four elimination games

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First round playoff action wrapped up Tuesday night in the Canadian Hockey League with the final four series decided in exciting winner-take-all games, including one that required sudden death overtime:

Halifax Mooseheads vs. Quebec Remparts

After dropping the first two contests on home ice, the Memorial Cup presented by Kia host Mooseheads went to work in piecing together consecutive road wins to tie the series and stave off an early elimination. Halifax then knotted the quarter-final series through six games before entering the winner’s circle in Game 7 on the heels of a 3-1 victory that saw defenceman and New Jersey Devils prospect Jocktan Chainey net the eventual game-winner early in the second period.

Meanwhile, 2019 NHL Draft prospect Raphael Lavoie also picked up a point in the game, bringing his post-season totals to seven goals and six assists for 13 points to tie Rouyn-Noranda’s Peter Abbandonato for top spot in QMJHL playoff scoring.

The Mooseheads now move on to the Eastern Conference semi-final where they will face off against their Maritimes Division rival Moncton Wildcats.

Baie-Comeau Drakkar vs. Moncton Wildcats

The biggest first round upset across the CHL featured the seventh-place Wildcats knocking off the conference’s second place Drakkar in Game 7, mustering up a 3-2 decision despite getting doubled up on the shot clock 38-19.

Netminder Francis Leclerc was the star of the series for the Wildcats, allowing just two goals by Baie-Comeau captain Gabriel Fortier and draft-eligible right-wing Nathan Legare in the deciding game to wrap up the quarter-final with four wins and a .932 save percentage, tops among all playoff goaltenders.

The victory marked the second-straight road win for the Wildcats, who tied the series through six games following a 3-1 win. In all, the Wildcats concluded the series with three road wins, while also pushing the series-opening game to overtime before centre Christopher Benoit netted the game winner for the opposition.  The Wildcats have advanced beyond the quarter-final for the fourth time in the past five seasons.

Victoriaville Tigres vs. Val-d’Or Foreurs

Right-wing Olivier Mathieu played the overtime hero for the Victoriaville Tigres in Game 7 versus the Val-d’Or Foreurs, potting the game winner just 35 seconds into the extra session to seal the series for the home squad.

The win bookended the quarter-final for the Tigres, who won the first two games of the series on home ice before dropping all three road games in Val-d’Or. It also capped a comeback for the Tigres, who carried a 3-1 lead midway through the middle frame before forwards Julien Tessier and Nicolas Ouellet evened the score for the visitors.

With the victory, Victoriaville advances to the semi-final in back-to-back years, where this year they will face off against the Eastern Conference champion Rouyn-Noranda Huskies, whose season included a 25-game win streak to tie a CHL record, while also winning all four contests versus Victoriaville during the regular season.

Lethbridge Hurricanes vs. Calgary Hitmen

The Hitmen punched their ticket to the semi-final after coming out on the winning side of Tuesday’s Game 7 playing on the road against their provincial rival Hurricanes.

The 4-2 final saw centre Carson Focht lead the way for the Hitmen as he tallied both the game-opening and game-winning goals, while fellow forward Riley Fiddler-Schultz notched his first of the playoffs before captain and Arizona native Mark Kastelic sealed the game with his fifth of the postseason once Lethbridge iced an extra attacker.

The series win marks the first time the Hitmen have advanced beyond the opening round for the first time since 2015, when they ultimately lost in the conference final. The Hitmen now move on to face the rival Edmonton Oil Kings in the semi-final, and will have their work cut out for them after failing to record a single regulation win through eight regular-season meetups.

With Tuesday’s action complete the stage is set for the second round in all three leagues.  Full matchups and series previews are available for the QMJHL, OHL, and WHL.

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