The Halifax Mooseheads finally know who they will face in their first playoff round.
A 4-1 Quebec Remparts win over the Victoriaville Tigres on Tuesday night wrapped up the last of the QMJHL's first-round series, meaning Halifax will face the Gatineau Olympiques in the second round. The Mooseheads didn't play in the first round because they received a bye for winning their division.
The best-of-seven series will open Friday night at the Metro Centre, almost two years after the Olympiques beat the Mooseheads in Game 7 of the league final on the same ice surface. But a lot has changed since then.
The Mooseheads finished second overall in the QMJHL this year with a 42-16-10-2 record, while the retooling Olympiques were eighth with a 33-28-5-4 slate. There were 21 points separating the teams during the regular season but Halifax general manager Marcel Patenaude cautioned people not to put any stock in that. "You should never read into that. Playoffs are playoffs and regular season is regular season. You start all over," Patenaude said.
"For us, we have to respect any team and get ready for them. We feel Gatineau is a respected franchise. They always have a good team in the playoffs and we have to be ready."
The Mooseheads won the season series 3-0 but Patenaude said that won't count for anything now that it's playoff time.
"I think that's one thing we learned in the past," Patenaude said. "The guys that were here two years ago for our playoffs saw that you always have to be ready for any opponent.
"It doesn't matter what they did last year or the year before, or what we did. It's all new."
And although much has been made of Halifax's two-and-a-half-week layoff, that might not be much of a factor, either. The Olympiques will be coming off a seven-day break by the time the series starts after eliminating the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles in five games.
You could make a case that they will be almost as rusty as the Mooseheads.
"(Head coach Al MacAdam) and (assistant coaches) Chris Donnelly and Patrick Dallaire did a great job during the time off. We feel very prepared," Patenaude said.
"I find all the guys are really set to go. Nobody is overly bubbly or down, they're all very good."
Patenaude also reported that the Mooseheads are injury-free.
"Everybody's ready to go," he said.
Game 2 of the series is Saturday night in Halifax while Games 3 and 4 will be in Gatineau on Tuesday and Wednesday next week.
The other second-round series will see the Rimouski Oceanic face the Lewiston Maineiacs, the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies take on the Moncton Wildcats and the Remparts play the Chicoutimi Sagueneens.