After more than a month of training camp, tryouts and exhibition games, the Halifax Mooseheads launched the 2017-18 regular season with a win, beating the Saint John Sea Dogs 4-1.
Maxime Fortier scored two goals, and Filip Zadina and Xavier Parent scored one each, while Daniel Hardie scored the lone goal for the Sea Dogs.
The Mooseheads played in Saint John Thursday night with a lineup full of young talent.
"I'm sure they are sick of listening to us at practice and going over video and systems and things like that," said rookie head coach Jim Midgley earlier in the week. "They just want to get out there and play."
Like his youthful team, Midgley was excited to finally get the season started.
After several years as an assistant coach, he was tapped as the man for the head coaching job.
He's hoping the team can continue to build on a strong finish to last season.
The Mooseheads announced Thursday that veteran forward Maxime Fortier is coming back for his fourth season as captain. Fortier led the team in scoring last season with 87 points (32 goals and 55 assists) and enters the year eighth all-time on the franchise scoring list with 195 points.
"I think our team grew a lot last year in the playoffs even though we lost in the first round," said Midgley. "We learned a lot about what it takes to win in this league and some young guys really stepped up and played some key roles for us and I think it really was a step in the right direction."
'Some of the best in the league'
With some high draft picks from a few years of subpar teams, Midgley's troops should continue to rise up the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League standings this season.
Three players — Jared McIsaac, Benoit-Olivier Groulx and European import Filip Zadina of the Czech Republic — are projected first-round draft picks in the 2018 NHL entry draft. Goaltender Alexis Gravel is being pegged as a second round pick.
"This year we've got a bunch of young guys and once they mature as players they'll be some of the best in the league," said Connor Moynihan, who is entering his fifth season with Halifax. "I think this season is really going to be fun."
Moynihan, a 20-year-old, 6-5", 210-pound forward from Boston, is one of the veteran players who will be counted on to provide leadership among the young squad that is expected to peak in the 2018-19 season.
"It's crazy how time flies because when I came here I was one of the youngest guys and I just turned 16, and now I'm the oldest guy," said Moynihan, whose older brother Danny also played for the Mooseheads. "I've seen a lot of great players come and go and I've made some great friends."
Comparisons to earlier star team
Many Mooseheads fans are already comparing this year's team to the 2011-12 Mooseheads. That club was also loaded with young emerging stars, including forwards Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin and goaltender Zach Fucale.
They went on to win the Memorial Cup championship in the 2012-13 season.
The Mooseheads will play their first three games on the road before playing their home opener Sept. 30 against the Acadie-Bathurst Titan.