Metal pillars obstruct the views of fans. The paint peels off the back wall. The nets look like they’ve been scored upon a thousand times, so dirty is the twine. The benches are on opposite sides of the ice. That’s the Halifax Forum, a building that dates to 1927 and is currently home to the Dalhousie University Men’s hockey team. Saturday, they took on the Saint Mary’s Huskies, who play in a brand-new arena on their University campus about forty minutes walking from the Forum.
If there’s an advantage the Tigers can salvage from their building, that would be its history. Over the years, musical acts including Supertramp, the Bee Gees, and Rush have played there. Boxing, wrestling, basketball, lots and lots of hockey at levels all the way to the AHL have played there. So many dreams fulfilled. So many hopes dashed. These walls have some stories to tell.
Bingo goes on in another part of the complex. Shows, fairs, flea markets—it’s all either been at the Forum, or is there now. None of that mattered at 7pm as today’s Dal team took on their cross-town rivals.
The Huskies looked to build on their win against Dal at home last Saturday night in the second “Battle of Halifax” of the year. They also beat the Tigers to open the pre-season, also at the Forum. Saint Mary’s has just one blot on its record this year, a 9-3 loss to UNB at the end of September in the club’s regular-season opener. The Tigers haven’t been so lucky, or good, as the Huskies. They have a 1-5 record thus far this year.
The season started with hopes. Dalhousie had two new guys in as coaches, Andrew Wigginton and Ryan Falkenham. Each boasts roots in Halifax. Wigginton played for the university under the current head coach. Falkenham was Captain of the QMJHL Halifax Mooseheads in 2014-15 and helped them win the Memorial Cup in 2013.
Last week versus the Huskies, the Tigers seemed small. Not physically, though there was a bit of that perception. Just not able to get anywhere with the puck. They could go blueline-to-blueline, but there was no penetration. All their shots came through defensemen’s skates.
Saturday night, they were better. The shots would end up at 41-35, and many of the chances on both sides were right in front of the net. The goaltending was uneven at best, but the guys with the puck skated. Each team crashed in on the other’s net.
The Huskies got out to a one-goal lead in the first period in front of a scattered crowd. The second saw Dalhousie get two goals, but Saint Mary’s three. And the third period was two for the Saint Mary’s team and none for Dal, to total 6-2. The closest it got was the 3-2 moment in the second period, but Dal couldn’t build on that surge.
After the 1-0 deficit that marked the first period, Dalhousie pinned Saint Mary’s in their zone to start period two. They were helped by a turnover where a defenseman tried to flip a lazy puck out of the zone and had it land on the stick of Ashton Anderson. He went in and forced a toe save. But it was for nothing, as Saint Mary’s opened the scoring in the period on a play that began behind their blueline and saw the puck flipped into the net after a deke by Mitchell Balmas of Sydney.
The Tigers then got the game to 3-2, the second goal on a clear-in that went off the goalie’s head and bounded down behind him.
Saint Mary’s put themselves up 4-2 on a play where a defenseman for Dal put the puck right onto the stick of a Huskies player in the slot. He naturally did what hockey players do: he went straight down the gut and fired it past the goalie. This was Stephen Johnson’s tally.
Dalhousie came out hard in period three. But their captain took a penalty for roughing. Another Dal player put the puck over the glass, so Saint Mary’s had a 1:25 second five-on-three power play. They did not score on that, but they got two in the period to make the final 6-2.
In truth, no one moment stood out in a game that featured rush-rusk-rush and not a lot of solid zone time. The Dal power play was particularly bad in this regard. Pass, pass, pass. Not effective.
For Saint Mary’s, Rapaci seems worth watching. He had a goal and two assists, and is always skating. Better do it soon, though. He’s a fifth-year student, and thus in his last year of hockey at this level.
Attendance was marked at 263. Come on, Halifax. This is much better hockey than that! They serve hot dogs, fries, and beer, too, so come for that if nothing else.
Three Stars: Keith Getson, Anthony Repaci, and Mitchell Balmas, all of the Huskies. Balmas had two goals.
Saint Mary’s plays at home Wednesday night versus Acadia.
The Tigers next take on Moncton away on Friday.