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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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