Sparre sparks win

WILLY PALOV -- Halifax Herald

, Last Updated: 1:21 PM ET

All the pieces seem to have fallen into place for the Halifax Mooseheads.

They seem more at ease with a new coach behind the bench, the dreaded trade deadline has passed and they have quietly put together a four-game winning streak.

The Atlantic Division-leading Moncton Wildcats threw everything they had at the Mooseheads at the Metro Centre on Sunday afternoon, but it wasn't nearly enough as the home team skated to a decisive 4-1 win.

"It feels really good," said defenceman Franklin MacDonald. "We feel like we outplay most teams most nights but these guys have been putting up a challenge all year. We finally stuck it to them."

Daniel Sparre was again the offensive catalyst for the Mooseheads, scoring the game's first two goals to give them a firm hold on the momentum. His first goal was a spectacular display of hand-eye coordination as he swatted an airborne pass from Frederik Cabana into the Moncton net on a two-on-one. The replay on the big screen drew a chorus of 'Wows' and a loud ovation from the 7,752 impressed fans.

"That was a pretty lucky goal," said the modest Sparre, who was named the game's first star. "I probably couldn't do that again if I tried 100 times."

After Sparre staked Halifax to a two-goal lead, Moncton captain Nathan Saunders attempted to spark his team by squaring off with Halifax heavyweight Kevin Cormier on the next face-off. The move backfired as Cormier scored a convincing win in the fight to give the Mooseheads even more momentum.

They rode that to two more goals to take a commanding 4-0 lead. Jan Steber scored on a deft redirection on the power play at 12:57 of the second period and David Brine added some insurance just 32 seconds into the third. Steve Bernier picked the top corner at 6:43 of the third period to get the Wildcats on the board, but that's the only offence they could muster.

"(New head coach Al MacAdam) has different systems and the boys are really sticking to them," MacDonald said of the strong defensive showing. "It's working well so far and he's off to a good start. Hopefully the wheel will keep spinning."

Although the Mooseheads are sticking to their strong defensive ways, the most noticeable difference under MacAdam was the more aggressive play through the neutral zone. The Mooseheads were the top defensive team in the league under former head coach Shawn MacKenzie, but it's obvious MacAdam is putting more emphasis on offence.

"So far obviously it's going pretty well," said Sparre. "In the three games we've played since he took over we've been able to generate a lot of offence through the neutral zone. I think part of that is because there's that freewheeling style. I think it's working pretty well."

But as much as the Mooseheads seem to be thriving on the chance to open the game up, they are just as excited to be playing without the cloud of potential trades hanging over them. Like every year, the players heard the constant rumours the past month and never really relaxed until the deadline passed. That happened Saturday at 1 p.m. and the relief was felt by everyone.

"Every day when the trade deadline's approaching, you wake up and wonder what's going to happen," MacDonald said.

"I think the boys are a little less nervous now. Guys can go out and they know they're not going to get dealt anywhere. They can just play their game and play calm."

And speaking of feeling more relaxed, Sparre said the change in personality behind the bench also has everybody feeling more loose.

"I think part of the reason why we're able to win a game like that when we have a lead is that Al is pretty calm behind the bench, which is good," Sparre said. "I think that rubs off on a lot of the guys. He's calm and has a lot of confidence in the way we're playing. There's not too much commotion if momentum changes or they score a goal. It keeps us pretty calm."

Notes -- Mooseheads captain Petr Vrana did not play because of a minor elbow injury and defenceman Jean-Francois Brault is out with a knee injury. Both are expected back soon. Goaltender Roger Kennedy and forwards Kenzie Sheppard, Austin Corredato and Jimmy Pouliot were healthy scratches. . . . Cole Harbour's Sidney Crosby scored two goals and added three assists in an 8-5 win over the Chicoutimi Sagueneens. He now leads the league in scoring with 29 goals and 81 points in 37 games.


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