You know when it comes right down to it, Ryan Hillier is like a puppy, he will do something to anger you and then in the next second he is going to put a huge smile on your face when he does something really special.
In Game 5 of the Halifax Moosehead/Cape Breton Screaming Eagles series, that something special was the second period as Hillier played what we felt was the best period of his entire season. Hillier scored 2 goals including what proved to be game winning and series ending goal as Halifax finished of Cape Breton 5-2 and win the series 4-1.
For the Game's 2nd Star, it was his 7th and 8th goals of the playoffs but also his QMJHL leading 3rd game winning goal as well. It was more than scoring those goals, it was his overall play whether it was breaking up rushes, drawing power plays or hitting anything that moved.
The goals are ones you love to see, the first was on the power play as Hillier coming from behind the goal line to put a bullet past Screaming Eagle Goalie Oliver Roy's blocker. The goal gave the Mooseheads a 2-1 lead at 5:55 of the second and changed the momentum of the game.
The second goal was Hillier parked in the crease, fighting to stay there before pouncing on a rebound off a Brad Marchand shot and slamming it home with just 37 seconds remaining in the period for a 3-1 lead that. For Hillier the hard work paid off and it sent his Mooseheads into the locker room with the lead they would not give up.
During this series we got on Ryan's case for some really suspect play during Game 2 because his play was not what one expects from a future NHLer. We mean Hillier took some really bad and in one case flat out dumb penalties that could have cost his team a game. Hillier rightfully earned some bench time for his poor play.
We challenged Ryan to redeem himself in Game 3 and that Hillier did as that game was a triple overtime classic that his Mooseheads won. Hillier totally turned himself around by playing the kind of smart disciplined game his team needed out of him. Hillier was focused, strong in all areas of the game and helped not hurt his team.
For Game 4 we challenged Hillier to repeat his efforts of Game 3 even though we knew he had to be exhausted playing on back to back nights. Despite his Mooseheads losing that game, we felt Hillier responded to our challenge so for Game 5 we put down perhaps one of the biggest challenges yet.
For Game 5, Hillier's Mooseheads were going to be without their leading goal scorer in the playoffs Bryce Swan (10 goals) who was out with a concussion. We challenged Hillier to remained disciplined but to step up his game and be a leader.
2 goals later and a 2nd star tell us that Hillier did exactly that as now Hillier and his Mooseheads move on the next challenge which is the third round of the QMJHL playoffs against the Gatineau Olympiques. Now we will be honest here as we do not understand why the Mooseheads of the East Division are playing the 3rd seed out of the Telus Division rather than a typical conference final like we are used to.
We will ask and if we get a response we will share it. For now Hillier and his Mooseheads get a week off and will start their next series perhaps next Friday.
We too will take advantage of this and hopefully slip in a couple of days off as well.
As they say in Halifax, GO LOUD GO HERD
(Ryan Hillier Picture courtesy of the Halifax Mooseheads)
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