Rouyn-Noranda Huskies Win Their First Memorial Cup

Just three years ago…

the Huskies were just minutes away from winning the franchise’s first Memorial Cup. However, the London Knights tied it up, then Matthew Tkachuk’s goal in overtime ending the Huskies’ dream.

This year, the Huskies came together and became the best team in not just the QMJHL, but the CHL. With stars such as Peter Abbandonato and Joel Teasdale leading the offence, Samuel Harvey being a brick wall in net, and the addition of Noah Dobson at the deadline made the Huskies a favourite to make a run at the Memorial Cup, winning 59 wins during the regular season, a QMJHL record. Rouyn-Noranda worked their way through the playoffs before winning their second President’s Cup, winning a six-game series over the Halifax Mooseheads.

Stumbling Out of the Gate

The Huskies returned to Halifax a week later to begin their run towards the Memorial Cup, and took on the upstart OHL Champion Guelph Storm on the second night of the tournament. The Huskies were caught completely off guard by the offence-laden Storm. Guelph outshot, and outplayed the Huskies, eventually winning the first game for the two teams 5-2 thanks to Alexey Toropchenko’s first period hat trick.

Bouncing Back

In a tournament where going down 0-2 could be detrimental, the Huskies needed a better game against the WHL Champion Prince Albert Raiders. The two teams traded goals in the first two periods, as Cole Harbour-native Tyler Hinam, Teasdale and Felix Bibeau scored for the Huskies, but were tied at three with Prince Albert heading into the final 20 minutes. 

It was crunch time for the Huskies. Both defences limited the scoring chances, but with just under five minutes left, Dobson set up Hinam for his second of the game to give Rouyn-Noranda the lead. Less than 90 seconds later, Abbandonato potted an insurance marker to give the Huskies enough breathing room, and after Dobson’s empty-netter, Rouyn-Noranda picked up their first win of the Memorial Cup by a score of 6-3.

Not Winning Enough

Guelph lost their second game of the tournament to Halifax, that set up an opportunity for the Huskies to win their way straight to the Memorial Cup Final. The catch? They had to win by four or more goals against the Mooseheads in the finale of the round-robin. Things were looking good as the Huskies went up 2-0 in the first period with goals from Bibeau and Teasdale just 72 seconds apart. Halifax came back inspired to punch their ticket to the final, scoring three unanswered in the second period to take a lead into the third period. 

Rouyn-Noranda was able to come back in the final frame with goals from William Rouleau and Jakub Lauko to win the game, but they did not win by enough, and Halifax would get the bye to final.

Redemption

The Huskies would have to take on Storm in the semifinal. Rouyn-Noranda did not take them lightly, but the Storm did not back down either. The teams traded goals in the first period, and were knotted up at two after 20 minutes. After Cedric Ralph scored to give Guelph the lead early in the second, Hinam scored his third of the tournament to tie the game at three.

Heading into the third period, the Huskies needed a hero if they wanted to meet Halifax in the final. They found that in Felix Bibeau. Bibeau, who played a big part during the QMJHL playoffs, came up big with back-to-back goals in the third. Isaac Ratcliffe scored to make it a one-goal game late in regulation, but with Guelph looking for the equalizer, Rafael Harvey-Pinard came up with a huge block, and after the captain’s empty-net goal, the Huskies were on their way to the Memorial Cup Final.

Championship Time

Going up against a rested Halifax team, the Huskies were still the arguable favourite heading into the final, as Rouyn-Noranda had won seven of the eight meetings dating back to the regular season. Yet, the Mooseheads jumped out in front with a goal from Samuel Asselin. A goal from Raphael Lavoie in the second period made it seem like Halifax had control of the game.

However, the Huskies would not buckle under the pressure. Bibeau put Rouyn-Noranda on the board with his tournament-leading fifth goal of the Memorial Cup. Then, Teasdale tied the game just minutes later, and it was anyone’s game heading into the third period.

Forecheck pressure by the Huskies started to get to the Halifax defencemen. After a turnover by the Mooseheads, Abbandonato was able to fire shot passed the Mooseheads’ Alexis Gravel while falling to put Rouyn-Noranda out in front. Vincent Marleau picked up his second of the Memorial Cup just two minutes later to open the Huskies’ lead up to two. 

The Mooseheads started to press, desperately looking to get back in the game, but the Huskies’ defence proved stagnant, and Harvey made a few key saves to hold off Halifax. The seconds ticked off the clock, and the Huskies beat the Mooseheads once again by a final score of 4-2, winning their first ever Memorial Cup.

MVP

Joel Teasdale won the Stafford Smyth Memorial Trophy for Memorial Cup MVP. The Montreal prospect scored four goals with an assist for five points in the tournament.

Twice is Nice

This win also marked the second Memorial Cup for Noah Dobson, after the Islanders’ prospect won last year with the Acade-Bathurst Titan. He becomes just the fifth player ever to win two Memorial Cup with two different teams.

Head Coach Mario Pouliot, who was behind the bench for Titan’s win last year, becomes only the third coach to ever win two Memorial Cups with two different teams.

#1 Finishes #1

The Huskies were the best team during the regular season. Their 119 points in the regular season were more than any other team in the CHL, and were ranked number one in the CHL rankings in the latter of the season. They proved why they were the best team during the regular season in the playoffs on their road to clinching a spot in the Memorial Cup with winning the President’s Cup. The stars stepped up when they needed to, and the role players made big plays when called upon. Samuel Harvey had an incredible year in net, and ended his junior career on quite the high note. Not many teams have had such successful regular seasons as the Huskies had, and be able to end it with the Memorial Cup. Yet, Rouyn-Noranda fought through when faced with adversity, and made it to the finish line. 

The #1 team in the CHL finishes as the best team in junior hockey, Memorial Cup Champions.

All statistics and records from the, CHL, QMJHL and Elite Prospects.

Puck77 has an agreement with the QMJHL to use their logos as our featured images.

Memorial Cup Preview and Predictions

This is it…

After nine months of grueling work, four teams remain in the 2018-19 CHL season. In Halifax, the Mooseheads will host the three champions from the QMJHL, OHL, and WHL as the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies, Guelph Storm, and Prince Albert Raiders look to capture junior hockey glory. The tournament will see teams with vastly different styles clash, and teams who never have met will become instant rivals. Big names are given the opportunity to cement their legacy before they move up to the professional ranks, while unknowns have the chance to become legendary. With a lot of stories coming into this tournament, the 101st Memorial Cup is setting up to be quite entertaining.

Halifax at Home

This will be only the second time the Mooseheads will host the Memorial Cup. The first tournament they hosted was back in 2000, where the Mooseheads lost in the semifinals to the controversial “Brampton Boys”-led Barrie Colts. This year’s team looks to do one better, and repeat the success the team Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin led to the 2013 Memorial Cup title. Playing at Scotiabank Centre, the Mooseheads have clear home-ice advantage, and there is substance to back that up. Halifax went 25-5-4 at home during the regular season, and finished 8-3-1 on home ice during the QMJHL Playoffs. Despite not winning the President’s Cup, the Mooseheads have a great opportunity to redeem themselves in the Memorial Cup.

Raiders in Unfamiliar Territory

It was one of the most incredible seasons in the CHL. While the Prince Albert Raiders have been a competitive team for the majority of their history in the WHL, it has been a long time since they have been a contender for a championship. The last time the Raiders won the WHL Championship was back in 1985, the same year they went on to win the Memorial Cup. The Raiders had not even made it to the Ed Chynoweth Cup Finals since then, until this year. 

The Raiders started the season with an amazing 26-1 start through the beginning of December. While the Raiders cooled off by the end of the regular season, Prince Albert still finished as the best team in the WHL. With the play of Noah Gregor, Brett Leason, and goaltender Ian Scott, the Raiders were able to win their second WHL Championship. With none of the players on this roster having played at this stage of the season, you could expect some jitters early on from this team.

Huskies’ Second Chance

May 29th, 2016. Rouyn-Noranda met the London Knights in the Memorial Cup Final. The Huskies were less than five minutes away from their first ever Memorial Cup, but a goal from Christian Dvorak sent the game into overtime, where Matthew Tkachuk scored to give the London Knights their second Memorial Cup. Gilles Bouchard was behind the bench for that game, and Jacob Neveu, Peter Abbandonato, and Samuel Harvey were on that roster.

While the core of this year’s team has changed since that day three years ago, the few that remember the disappointment of losing in the championship game, look to change their fate this time around. The Huskies finished with the most points in the entire CHL, and have shown why throughout the playoffs. With arguably one of the best goaltenders coming into the tournament with Samuel Harvey, and a solid offence led by Joel Teasdale, Noah Dobson, and Abbandonato, Rouyn-Noranda has a good chance to get back to the Memorial Cup Final.

Cinderella Storm

The Guelph Storm were not picked by many to win the J. Ross Robertson Cup, even when they made it to the OHL Finals. Despite having the talents of Nick Suzuki, Isaac Ratcliffe, and Sean Durzi, the Storm were in tough throughout the postseason. In round two, Guelph trailed the top-seed in the West, the London Knights, 3-0. Yet, the Storm were resilient, and somehow reeled off four straight to move on to the Western Conference Finals. Going up against the third-best team in the OHL, the Saginaw Spirit, the Storm found themselves down 3-1 in the series. Once against Guelph rallied and came from behind to win the series in seven. They then trailed the best team in entire league 2-0, but came back and won the OHL Championship by winning four straight against the Ottawa 67’s, a team that had not lost all postseason.

The biggest question is can they take the “comeback kids” mentality in this tournament? They cannot allow themselves to trail, because of the round-robin format. They have three games to prove themselves. If they fall behind at all in the Memorial Cup, the clock might strike midnight on the Storm. 

Round-Robin

With the round-robin portion of the tournament only lasting five days, the schedule is important in deciding how this tournament how could pan out. The opening night on Friday sees Halifax kick things off against Prince Albert, a game that the Mooseheads have the advantage given that it is their home barn and the Raiders will not take well to the loud Halifax crowd. 

The next game will have Rouyn-Noranda play Guelph, which there could easily be 10 goals scored between the two teams. However, for the Storm, they will have to come back the next night against the rested Moosheads. That could spell trouble for Guelph following what could be a long game against the Huskies.

The Raiders will take on the Huskies on the following game. That one will be a treat as the world will get to see two of the best goaltenders in the CHL, as Scott and Harvey go head-to-head. Huskies may have a deeper offencive attack than the Raiders, but don’t think that Scott could easily steal the show that night. 

Guelph will meet a tired Prince Albert team the next night, with Halifax closing out the round-robin with a President’s Cup rematch against Rouyn-Noranda.

My Picks

The teams that may have the easiest time in their three games are the Huskies and Mooseheads, as neither have to play on back-to-back nights. That said, both will lose at least one game, as Rouyn-Noranda will beat Halifax in the final game of the round-robin, sending the Huskies directly to the final.

This would force a tiebreaker between Guelph and Prince Albert. The Storm may have played outstanding over the last month or so, but the Raiders will come away to move onto a semifinal meeting with the Mooseheads.

Halifax will come out strong, looking to take advantage of the tired Raiders. Prince Albert will give a valiant effort, but the Mooseheads will come away with the victory, and force a rematch, once again, against the Huskies.

With a day off in between the semifinal and championship game, there will be no excuse of fatigue for Halifax. It will be another tight battle as it was in the President’s Cup Finals, and just like that series, the Huskies will come away with the win, and earn the franchise’s first Memorial Cup.

All statistics and records are from the CHL, QMJHL, OHL, WHL, and Elite Prospects

Memorial Cup Team Preview: Halifax Mooseheads

The host of this year’s Memorial Cup…

has shown they have earned the right to be in the Memorial Cup. While some hosts in recent years have flamed out early in the playoffs, and have not looked like a contender in the tournament, Halifax has shown through the regular season and the playoffs that they are going to be a formidable opponent in the 101st edition of the Memorial Cup. They finished third in the entire QMJHL, and made it all the way to the President’s Cup Finals, before losing to Rouyn-Noranda in six games. Despite the loss, the Mooseheads have a lot to be excited about heading into the tournament, let’s see why.

Lavoie est L’Homme

Every good junior team has at least one player that plays outstanding in crunch time. That player is the team’s go-to guy when they need a big play, and can always be counted on to put up exceptional performances night-in and night-out. The Mooseheads have had that player in these playoffs with Raphael Lavoie. Lavoie has been dynamite this postseason. Despite only scoring 73 points during the regular season, the potential first or second round pick has been at the head of the Halifax offence during their run to the President’s Cup Finals. He finished second in the entire QMJHL in playoff scoring with 32 points in 23 games. His 20 goals were the most in the playoffs, including scoring six goals in the four game sweep of Moncton back in round two. His confidence has been growing through every passing series, and while he has yet to play on such a big stage as the Memorial Cup, Lavoie seems poised to step up once again when put in the spotlight.

He Isn’t the Only One

While Lavoie has been amazing this postseason for the Mooseheads, he could not have done it all on his own if Halifax wanted to make it deep into the playoffs. Arnaud Durandeau was exceptional down the stretch, particularly in the finals against Rouyn-Noranda. The Islanders’ prospect put up seven points against the Huskies, three of which being goals. Durandeau finished the playoffs with 20 points, tied for second on the team.

The player Durandeau was tied for eighth in playoff scoring was Maxim Trepanier. Trepanier did not have the most mind-blowing numbers during the regular season, however score a career-best 47 points. In the playoffs he was extremely active in helping set up the offencive attack for the Mooseheads. Along with his 20 points, Trepanier amassed 14 assists in his 22 games, which were tied for fifth most in the playoffs.

One piece that chimed in when he needed to was Samuel Asselin. While the Mooseheads’ leading-scorer during the regular season did not post the biggest numbers in the playoffs, he was going up against the other team’s top lines and defencive pairings each and every game. Do not let the fact that he averaged below a point-per-game in these playoffs fool you, Asselin still has the ability to be a big time player, especially when the Memorial Cup is at stake.

Defencive Offence

While a defenceman’s job is to do his part to make sure the puck stays out of the net, it certainly helps when they can flip the script and help put the puck into the opponent’s goal. The Mooseheads have a trio of outstanding two-way defencemen in their lineup, Jared McIsaac, Justin Barron and Jake Ryczek. All three produced over 10 points in these playoffs, and all finished with a plus/minus of +5 or higher.

Ryczek has really matured in his second season in Halifax, as he has become much more of a complete player. The Chicago prospect tallied 13 assists in the playoffs, including five in the semis finals against the Voltigeurs. All that after only garnering 24 helpers in the regular season.

The hometown-boy Barron has excelled following a promising rookie season. He is a much more confident defender on the back end, and with that has been able to turn defence into offence. After scoring 41 points in the regular season (20 more than the year previous), Barron scored two goals along with 11 assists for 13 points in the playoffs. That also includes the five points he scored in the Mooseheads’ opening round series against Quebec. Both Barron and Ryczek were tied for fifth in defencemen scoring in the playoffs.

McIsaac has been the number one defenceman for Halifax for the past couple of seasons, and it is easy to see why. A solid defencive presence who can help in the offencive end has been exactly what the Mooseheads asked for from the Truro, NS product. McIsaac ended the playoffs third in defencemen scoring with 16 points, 14 of which being assists. When up against a solid defencive team in Rouyn-Noranda in the finals, the Detroit prospect gave his best offencive outburst of the playoffs, where Isaac assisted the Halifax attack with six helpers in the series. There is no question in the Memorial Cup, he will be tasked, as per usual, with going up against the opposition’s top lines, and be expected to be outstanding at both ends of the rink.

All statistics and records from the QMJHL and Elite Prospects.

Puck77 has an agreement with the QMJHL to use their logos as our featured images.

Memorial Cup Team Preview: Prince Albert Raiders

As good as they were…

in the regular season, the Prince Albert Raiders were tested in the WHL Playoffs. After an easy series with Moose Jaw, the Raiders ran into some very tough competition down the stretch. After Kirby Dach and Saskatoon gave Prince Albert their first taste of adversity, Prince Albert followed that up with a tough six game series against Edmonton in the conference finals. Then, in the Ed Chynoweth Cup Finals, they met with the second-best team in the WHL, the Vancouver Giants. The Giants gave the Raiders everything they had, forcing the series to go the distance after being down 3-1. In overtime in game seven, Noah Gregor found Dante Hannoun to score the game-winning goal, giving Prince Albert their first Ed Chynoweth Cup since 1985. That was the last and only time the Raiders ever won the championship and made it to the Memorial Cup, where they beat the Shawinigan Cataractes to win the tournament. This year’s team has shown that they deserve to be here at this point of the season, let’s see why.

Four-Headed Beast Leads the Offence

Scoring has not been an issue all season for the Raiders, even more so in the playoffs. Four of the top five playoff scorers came from the Prince Albert lineup, led by Brett Leason. The Calgary native had a hot start to the regular season, but cooled off following the World Juniors Tournament. Leason found his touch again in the playoffs, and ended up leading the Raiders in playoff scoring with 25 points. He had nine points in both the second round and the finals, and had three games where he tallied three points or more. Leason looks to enter this summer’s draft, and his performance this season has certainly given him the right to get a call from a GM in the NHL.

At points where Leason faded during the season, Noah Gregor stepped up for the Raiders. After finishing right behind Leason for second in team scoring, Gregor had an incredible postseason. The San Jose prospect scored well above a point-per-game average, scoring 24 points in the playoffs, and had a big series in the finals, especially when it mattered most. In game seven, Gregor potted two goals in regulation, before assisting on the game-winner in overtime. The Beaumont, AB native has shown veteran leadership all season long, and looks to make his last shot at junior hockey glory count.

The player Gregor set up for that championship-clinching goal, Dante Hannoun, was another over-aged centre that played a big role for the Raiders. Ever since being picked up from Victoria at the trade deadline, Hannoun has meshed well with the Prince Albert roster, and was looked upon to score big goals in their postseason run. The Delta, BC native scored 14 goals in the playoffs, which was most in the playoffs, and his 24 points tied him with Gregor for third among WHLers. 

While the over-agers were playing some of their best playoff hockey of their careers, one rookie made quite the first impression in his first postseason in the WHL. Aliaksei Protas showed that he was ready for the big stage throughout Prince Albert’s run. The Belorussian only scored 40 points during the season, but in the playoffs Protas shined scoring 22 points for the Raiders. 15 of those points came in the final two series, including seven points in the seven-game final. Protas has shown throughout the playoffs that, despite this being his first time around the block, he is fully capable of playing a big role on such a veteran-laden roster. 

Ian Scott is Looking Good as Usual

A team can score as many goals as they want, but if they do not have someone watching their back, making sure the other team does not, then it would be all for naught. Thankfully for Prince Albert, they do not have that issue in the slightest with Ian Scott between the pipes. The Toronto prospect has been the best goaltender from day one in the WHL, and earned the Del Wilson Memorial Trophy for WHL Goaltender of the Year. In the playoffs, Scott really shined. He led all WHL goaltenders with a 1.96 GAA and .925 SV%, including five shutouts. The Calgary native had to be big when the Raiders were tested the latter stages of the playoffs, especially when it mattered most. Scott held off a stellar Vancouver attack in the finals, garnering two shutouts. Even though Scott’s overall numbers slowed down after the Raiders incredible start to the season, his calm demeanor and consistent play has back-boned this Prince Albert team. Going up against some of the best teams they have faced all season, the Raiders are going to need Scott to be at his best in the Memorial Cup.

All statistics and records are from the WHL and Elite Prospects.

Memorial Cup Team Preview: Guelph Storm

Out of the four teams…

on their way to Halifax for the 101st Memorial Cup, not many would have predicted the Guelph Storm to be making travel plans to the Maritimes. While this team was all-in to make a deep postseason run, nobody believed they were actually going to make it this far, given their path to the OHL Championship. However, against all odds, the Storm were able to win their fourth J. Ross Robertson Cup to earn a spot in the Memorial Cup for the fifth time in the franchise’s history. The last time they made it to the tournament was back in 2014, where they lost in the finals to the Edmonton Oil Kings. Let’s take a deep look at this underdog club.

The Gamble Paid Off

Guelph had a roster filled with a lot of talented players that were of the 1999 birth year at the start of the 2018-19 season. With the players such as Dmitri Samorukov, Isaac Ratcliffe, and Nate Schnarr to name a few, the Storm looked like a team that could have some success come Spring time. With the team sitting fourth in the Western Conference at the Holiday Break, General Manager George Burnett knew that Guelph needed more depth if they wanted to be a contender against the best in the West. Burnett made big moves acquiring the likes of MacKenzie Entwistle and Nick Suzuki up front, and were able to get Sean Durzi and Markus Phillips to help bolster the back end. It looked risky at the time, as the Storm lost a lot of draft picks and prospects, and still only finished fourth in the West. Yet, they were able to mesh at the right time, and the pickups at the deadline proved to be well worth the risk.

Blueline Depth

Defencively, Guelph became a lot stronger down the stretch and in these playoffs. Samorukov, who has played all of his three seasons with the Storm, had career-best numbers. He finished the regular season with 45 points, and a plus/minus of +36. In the postseason, the Edmonton prospect put up 28 points, and finished with a +18 rating. The two pickups at the trade deadline, Phillips and Durzi, played key veteran roles for the Storm. Durzi, despite being hurt for the latter of the regular season, played big minutes in the playoffs. He played in all 24 playoff games, and finished tied for the third-best plus/minus in the playoffs with a +16. The Los Angeles prospect also helped set up the offence from the back end. Of the 27 points Durzi produced this postseason, 24 of which were assists, second among all OHLers behind Nick Suzuki. Now that you mention it…

Suzuki’s Swan Song

Nick Suzuki has been arguably the biggest trade deadline acquisition in the entire CHL. A first-round pick that is primed to play for the Montreal Canadiens next season, Suzuki scored 45 points in the first 30 games of the season with Owen Sound. After being traded to the Storm, the London native stayed consistent, scoring 49 points in the final 29 games of the regular season. The playoffs saw the best of Suzuki. In 24 games this postseason, he was only held off the score sheet three times, twice in the Storm’s second round series against his hometown London Knights. That series against the Knights was where Suzuki cemented his junior legacy, scoring 13 points against the number one seed in the Western Conference. While Suzuki was consistent in scratching his name on the score sheet, he was also as consistent in putting up multiple points night-in and night-out, as he amassed 12 multi-point games for Guelph en route to the OHL Championship.

What Pressure?

There is no team coming into this Memorial Cup that has been through what the Storm have been through in these playoffs. Sure, they walked passed Kitchener in four games of the first round, but that was as easy it got for Guelph. The second round they met the second best team in the OHL in London. The Storm quickly found themselves down 3-0 to the Knights, and looked to be done like dinner. Yet, the Storm refused to lose, and won four straight to upset the Knights. They then met the Saginaw Spirit in the conference finals, the third-best team in the OHL. Once again, the Storm saw themselves on the brink of elimination, this time down 3-1. The Storm shut down the Spirit’s top guns, Samorukov and Ratcliffe scored some big goals, and they were able to win three straight to make it to the finals where they met the best team in the OHL, the Ottawa 67’s. Despite being down 2-0 to a team that had not lost all postseason, the Storm staked their claim as giant killers, as they handled the 67’s the remainder of the series, and won the J. Ross Robertson Cup in six games (Yes, DiPietro got hurt in game two, but regardless). 

This team has gone up against the best in the OHL for the majority of the playoffs, have faced adversity, and thrived on it. They will now go up against the best in the country. The experience this team has, as a whole, will help them going into this tournament. It does not matter how badly they are outmatched, they will not back down from the challenge, which could give them the opportunity to win the Memorial Cup.

All statistics and records are from the OHL and Elite Prospects.