Clearing the Puck! Your Weekly Look at the World of Hockey

Welcome back to Clearing the Puck for the week of May 24th to 31st! This week we take a look at the Stanley Cup Finals, a Washington Captials legend hangs up the skates and how the Hurricanes season will impact the community for years to come!

Incase this is your first time, here is the rundown. What we’re going to be doing at Puck77 is putting out a weekly recap. There are going to be observations, summaries and some cool things that we noticed around the web from the NHL and the world of hockey from the last week. There will be 10 points every Saturday morning. Included will be links to articles from our website as well as many others to help fill you in on some of the best hockey and NHL content from around the web. Without further ado, let’s dive into the week!

“The Jerks” Make a Lasting Impact

There is no doubt that the Carolina Hurricanes had a season that will be remembered by hockey fans for years. Whether its the Eastern Conference Finals run or the “Storm Surge”, the Hurricanes were a blast to watch this season. How long will the impact last? Will the ‘Canes fever persist? How much has the organization benefited from the outstanding run? How much has the community grown into becoming a “hockey market”? Sara Civian of the Athletic did an excellent job taking a look both behind the curtain and into the community for the tangible benefits of the Hurricanes season. Will the Storm Warning continue into next season? Check it out below.  

Tweet courtesy of @SaraCivian

Capitals Legend Erat Calls it Quits

Martin Erat is finally hanging up the skates. He’s been playing his last three years in Czech Extraliga for HC Kometa Brno. While Erat was a really good NHL player, what he’s most known for is the most one-sided trade in NHL history. Then Washington Capitals GM George McPhee traded blue-chip prospect Filip Forsberg for Martin Erat and Michael Latta. This was the day where Erat became a Washington Capitals legend. All jokes aside, his time with the Capitals was a bit of a disaster. So much so that Forsberg has six goals against the Capitals in his career whereas Erat and Latta scored six total in their 175 games with Washington. Forsberg is a legitimate top-six winger and has two 30-goal seasons and five with at least 25. For a better look at the entire Caps career of Erat, check out our friends over at Russian Machine Never Breaks below!  


Tweet courtesy of @RussianMachine

Quebec goes Back-to-Back!

The QMJHL has back-to-back Memorial Cup Champions. After last season when Acadie-Bathurst Titan captured the CHL’s title, the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies took the title back to the beautiful province of Quebec. The Huskies were the best team in the entire CHL during the regular season and they did what the Tampa Bay Lightning couldn’t, they won the whole damn thing. Led by Noah Dobson and Joel Teasdale, the Huskies fought through adversity in the tournament losing to the Guelph Storm and then having to go through them again in the semi-finals before facing the host Halifax Mooseheads again. Tyler Kuehl at Puck77 did an outstanding job covering the Memorial Cup and you can read his piece on the Huskies first championship here.

Embed from Getty Images

NWHL Sends NHL a Message

The landscape of women’s hockey is at a tipping point. This season, or lack there of, could be the reason that women are paid fairly for their all-world skill, at least earning enough to make a living. The NWHL is the only currently active professional league in North America and they released a statement this week that seems to have put the ball in the NHL’s court (or rink?)

Tweet courtesy of @NWHL

The full statement from the NWHL can be found in the tweet above. The interesting part of the statement came in the quote below where the NWHL seems to insinuate that they are hoping the NHL decides to step up, 

If any individuals or groups come forward and declare they are ready to start and invest in a new league where women can receive a substantial full-time salary and medical insurance, we would be ecstatic to have a conversation about a partnership or passing the torch. 

 

Zaitsev asks out of Toronto

Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman Nikita Zaitsev has requested a trade for personal reasons. We don’t know exactly what those are but its probably safe to assume that the criticism of his play and the pressure that comes with playing in Toronto may have understandably gotten to Nikita or his family. There have been some absolutely vicious comments made on twitter and social media in general that could have contributed to the request. While this could help Toronto out in the long-run with their salary cap situation, its unfortunate that its come to a head because of the anger of people who claim to be fans. While no one is suggesting that fans can’t be critical, attacking a player on their personal social media or their families social media is disgusting and unacceptable. Even if this has nothing to do with Zaitsev asking out of Toronto, its a good time to remind everyone that the players are people. You wouldn’t say an athletes face, so don’t hide behind your monitor or phone. Be kinder to people, we all need more kindness in the world. 

As for the hockey side of things, this could be a complicated deal and its been expressed that Toronto is unlikely to retain much, if at all. Zaitsev has term and a decent sized dollar  figure attached to him so any team acquiring him will likely need to be looking for exactly the type of defensive, penalty killing game that Zaitsev brings. Toronto isn’t in position to take back a contract of significance so where we go from here will be interesting. I encourage you to read the thread of tweets below from the king of hockey insiders, TSN’s Bob McKenzie, where he goes through the entire situation. 

Tweet courtesy of @TSNBobMcKenszie

Oilers tab Tippett to be their Bench Boss

The Edmonton Oilers finally hired their new head coach to hopefully lead them back into championship contention. Dave Tippet, former coach of the Arizona Coyotes, takes the mantle of man on the bench for the Connor McDavid led team. The hiring seems like another step in the right direction for the Oilers. Since Ken Holland became the GM, they have started to clear out the “old boys” group of the ’80’s Oilers and they’ve begun to bring in off-ice talent, not the least of which was Tippett. Firing most of their coaching staff, only retaining Glen Gulutzan, the Oilers are beginning to take the necessary steps back to respectability after years of being the laughing stock of the NHL for years despite having the best player in the world.  

Embed from Getty Images

Puck77 Final Draft Rankings!

Jack Hughes vs. Kaapo Kakko! Who’s the top ranked player on the board? Who is on the rise? Who dropped? The team here collaborated and put together NHL Draft rankings together. Submitting our lists, we combined all the rankings, averaged the numbers out and figured out exactly how the draft is going to go! No? We didn’t do that? Okay, well we at least did our homework and worked our way from 1-31 for you to consume! You can check that out here!

https://twitter.com/ThePuck77/status/1134795135982682112

Tweet courtesy of @thePuck77

Finland wins Gold!

0 NHL goals. The Finnish national team featured 0 NHL goals. The Fins were led by draft eligible Kaapo Kakko and a scrappy group of Liiga players all the way to the gold medal. Defeating Canada in the finals, the Finnish team was a great story in the IIHF World Hockey Championship. Timely goals from their captain Marko Anttila, outstanding performances in net by Chicago Blackhawks prospect Kevin Lankinen and capping of the tournament the same way that they started, beating Canada when most people expected them to win. 

Video courtesy of the IIHF Youtube account

The tournament did an excellent job putting the Finnish program among the top programs in the world. To be able to take players from Liiga and win a tournament filled with NHL players was outstanding fro the Fins. The job done by the management team, the coaching staff and the players can’t be talked about enough. Team Finland are the World Champions!

NHL Players cheering on the Raptors

The Toronto Raptors are in the NBA Finals! I know, not hockey. There were NHL players at the games though, including the former Oilers duo of Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle and a group of current Toronto Maple Leafs. So congratulations to the Toronto Raptors on winning game one of the NBA finals over the heavily favored Golden State Warriors and here is some NHL players at the game to justify talking about the Raptors in a hockey blog!

Tweet courtesy of @TSN_sports

Tweet courtesy of @MapleLeafs

A trip to the john predicts the OT Game Winner

When the third period of game two of the Stanley Cup finals came to an end, a couple of the St. Louis Blues decided to hit the washroom which is likely not a rare situation. At this point, one of the biggest bathroom rules were broken. Carl Gunnarsson decided to talk to his head coach Craig Berube at the urinal. Gross… What he said to him though was the interesting part. He told his bench boss that he just needed “one more chance”. He rang the puck off the post in the third and he felt like he missed his chance. Could he have known what was to come next? Could he have known that he would score his first playoff goal since he was a 13-year-old playing minor hockey? The veteran Swede put the game away, tying the series at a game a piece. Carl Gunnarsson could be a Stanley Cup hero if the Blues pull off the series win. 

Tweet courtesy of @StLouisBlues

Thank you as always for joining me this week to clear the puck and find the news for the week! Tune in next week when we finally have some more Stanley Cup games and we could even have a champion! Until next week, have fun with the draft coverage coming up, enjoy the hockey in the Cup final and GO RAPTORS!

Stats and information courtesy of Hockey Reference, Elite Prospects, the IIHF, the NHL and the CHL

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.

Clearing the Puck! Your Weekly Look at the World of Hockey!

Welcome to Clearing the Puck for the week of May 12th-18th! This week we will look into the struggles of Jack Hughes, the referee’s having a hard time when the Cup final starts and we say goodbye to our favourite “Jerks”!

What we’re going to be doing at Puck77 is putting out a weekly recap. There are going to be observations, summaries and some cool things that we noticed around the web from the NHL and the world of hockey from the last week. There will be 10 points every Saturday morning. Included will be links to articles from our website as well as many others to help fill you in on some of the best hockey and NHL content from around the web.

World Championship Recap

The IIHF World Championships have been an absolute blast. The tournament has had great stories such as the team from Great Britain and there have been resurgent performances like tournament leading scorer and maligned Toronto Maple Leaf William Nylander. The Swedish forward is tied for the tournament lead with 10 points and he’s done it in just four games. Hart Trophy favourite and team Russia star Nikita Kucherov is also tied at 10 points in four games as well, whereas Michael Frolik and Jacob Voracek, both of the Czech Republic, produced the same in five games.

As for the standings, team Germany is the big surprise. The undefeated Germans have been lead by Leon Draisaitl (3G, 1A) and Dominik Kahun (4A) up front, 2019 draft eligible Mortiz Seider (2G) on the back end and the outstanding play of goaltender Matthias Neiderberger (.956 Sv%). The German hockey program has had a great last two years as they unexpectedly won the silver medal at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics. They have established themselves as a rising international power in hockey.

The stories at the World Championships are endless. The drama of comeback wins, shocking collapses and underdog teams giving the favourites a run for their money. Daily recaps by Puck77’s own Frederik Frandsen can be found here!

Hughes Struggles, Kakko Dominates

The debate about who goes first overall in the 2019 NHL Draft isn’t getting any easier. The consensus number one heading into the year, Jack Hughes, has struggled mightily at the World Championships as he’s been put in a position he’s not familiar with, the bottom-six. In this position, the young American has been inconsistent and hasn’t looked particularly dangerous in the games four games that he’s played. He has generated chances and flashes the tools that made him the top-ranked prospect heading into the season.

Meanwhile, Kaapo Kakko has had his way with opposing goalies at the tournament. He was leading the tournament in goal scoring with six, heading into Friday’s action. He has put up outstanding performances throughout the tournament, but he may have scored his sixth goal more beautifully than any other.

Tweet courtesy of @StevenEllisTHN

The struggles of Hughes and the success of Kakko has driven a conversation as to who goes first overall. While many claim recency bias, the reality is that every game counts. Every game will be evaluated and every time the players go head-to-head, the games mean more. Many high profile prospect/draft aficionados have changed their tune including one of the best in the business, Cam Robinson of Dobber Prospects.

Tweet courtesy of @Hockey_Robinson

Puck77 Mock

Speaking of the draft and prospects, we have an exciting experiment! The team at Puck77, with help from many others such as Steven Ellis of the Hockey News, Jesse Marshall of the Athletic Pittsburgh and CJ Turtoro of SB Nation among many others, has been live tweeting a the #Puck77Mock! What we’re doing exactly is performing a three round mock draft of the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. Each person gets a team and then selects for that team. Follow along as the third round has started and you can follow along on the Puck77 twitter page! Watch for the article that’s sums it all up this week!

https://twitter.com/thepuck77/status/1128355104661417986?s=21

Tweet courtesy of @thePuck77

Rouyn-Noranda, Prince Albert, Guelph are the Champs!

The Memorial Cup field is set. The host team, Halifax Mooseheads, will be joined by the champion of all three CHL leagues. The powerhouse Rouyn-Norada Huskies of the QMJHL, the newbie Prince Albert Raiders of the WHL and the Cinderella Guelph Storm are all set to convene in Halifax. The field is a good mix of teams with scoring, goaltending and coaching spread out over the four-team field.

For a view at each team, we have in-depth looks on each team from the Puck77 junior hockey writer Tyler Kuehl below, for a quick look and Tyler’s prediction, we have his Tournament Preview here.

Huskies Preview

Raiders Preview

Storm Preview

Halifax Preview

The tournament began last night as the host Halifax was very unwelcoming as the defeated the Raiders on the strength of a three point night from Maxim Trepanier. There was also this massive hit.


Tweet courtesy of @Sportsnet

Ben Bowns is a British Legend!

One of the best stories of the entire IIHF World Hockey Championships has been the entire team of Great Britain. Whether it’s the outstanding sweaters or the wild, party-having fans in the stands, it’s almost impossible to not cheer for this team. Of the players on the roster, the one that fans and analysts have dialed in on is goaltender Ben Bowns! Between some outstanding saves and the amount of fun the entire British team is having, one of the biggest stories of the tournament has been the play of Ben Bowns.

Tweet courtesy of @IIHFHockey

While his stat line isn’t anything to ride home about (.883 Sv% and a 6.01 GAA), the team has been vastly overmatched against teams like Canada and the USA and Bowns has still managed to steal the show. The moment that out him on the map may have been an absolutely stunning save of top prospect Jack Hughes. It was a doozy!

Tweet courtesy of @IIHFHockey

6 More Years of the Shanaplan!

The first five years of the “Shanaplan” have produced a team that went from cellar to true contender. Gone are the days of Phil Kessel and Dion Phaneuf. Further more, gone are the days of P.A. Parenteau and Byron Froese. The Toronto Maple Leafs now have Auston Matthews, William Nylander, Mitch Marner and John Tavares. The Leafs now have a competitive team that is consistently a playoff contender and they were one of the best teams in the NHL the last two years.

Tweet courtesy of @MapleLeafs

One of the interesting things about Brendan Shanahan’s deal is that he is in for the long haul. It also suggests that he is possibly he’s around for another coaching hire if/when the team decides to move in from Mike Babcock. He’s also going to be around when Matthews deal is up meaning he will be able to secure the future of the franchise at least one last time. His deal is also done the same year that Tavares’ deal is done. Brendan Shanahan is going to be here for this current core’s best years.

The WNHL! Could it be?

The landscape of women’s hockey is changing. This, we all know, is because some of the top women in the game have banded together to agree not to play in any league in North America until a sustainable league is in place. That news came out at the beginning of May and the release is below.

Tweet courtesy of @HilaryKnight

This week, the newest little tidbit of information comes from the great Katie Strang of the Athletic. She came out with an article this past weekend laying out what a possible WNHL could look like assuming the NHL were to step in. The NHL starting a league of their own, using many of the existing infrastructure that they use for the men’s game, seems like the best course of action. If you are able to, it is behind a paywall, check out Katie’s great piece here.

Hand-pass?

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. The San Jose Sharks benefitted from some poor officiating throughout the playoffs. First it was the five-minute major penalty to Cody Eakin with the phantom or the offside review that caught Gabriel Landeskog an inch offside as he exited the ice. Both of those happened in series deciding game sevens. The latest error was only in game three. Are the referees making progress?

The latest incident with the officials came in overtime of game three of the Western Conference Finals against the St. Louis Blues. After breaking into the offensive zone, Timo Meier got the puck to the slot, came up to the St. Louis defence and went down to his knee. The puck went up into the air and Meier batted it to the slot where it was picked up by Gustav Nyquist. It was at this point where the referees should have blew the play dead. Instead, Nyquist passed the puck to Erik Karlsson right in front of the net and he squeaked it through Jordan Binnington‘s pads. The Blues immediately became infuriated and called on the referees to reverse the call but it wasn’t reviewable and the blatant hand pass was upheld.

Tweet courtesy of @SpittingChiclets

Boston deserves a Championship, it’s been 4 months

Can you sense the sarcasm? The city of Boston currently holds both the World Series Champion Boston Red Sox and the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots. Now the Boston Bruins have made the Stanley Cup finals. The Bruins have been dominating. They almost can’t be stopped and the Hurricanes had no answer. Who knows, maybe the San Jose Sharks or St. Louis Blues can take the red hot Bruins down.

Tweet courtesy of @GopherState

The fact that Boston has felt the need to go out and win three of four major North American sports Championships is both annoying and impressive. The Bruins have an outstanding opportunity to win the Stanley Cup as NHL champions after sweeping the Hurricanes and now getting some much needed rest while the Western Conference Finals finish up. As much as fans around both Canada and the United States would hate to see a 13th championship parade in Boston since 2001, it would be an impressive and nearly unprecedented run for a classic sports town.

Goodbye to the Lovable Jerks

One of the saddest moments of the week was saying goodbye to everybody’s favourite “Jerks”, the Carolina Hurricanes. Their Cinderella run came to an end in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Bruins. Many hockey fans jumped on the bandwagon after a season’s worth of post-game celebrations, aptly coined, the Storm Surge. The celebrations caught fire around the league as people adored the team for The analytical superstar Hurricanes were a possession monster all season long.

Their goaltending duo of Petr Mrazek and Curtis McElhinney were solid all year, both providing good play. The defensive core is in good shape as they are all tied up with good contracts. Offensively, they struggled at times but their youth provided some pop. Sebastian Aho, Andrei Svechnikov and Teuvo Teräväinen are all key young contributors that can continue to grow. To finish off this week, with the elimination of our fun little team from Raleigh, I present to you the Sportsnet Storm Surge Compilation.

Catch You Next Week

Thank you as always for taking the time to Clear the Puck with us here at Puck77, your home for hockey news and analysis for fans by fans! Come back next Saturday morning for the next instalment of Clearing the Puck! Until next time, enjoy all the hockey from the Memorial Cup, NHL Western Conference final and IIHF World Hockey Championships!

Stats and information courtesy of Hockey Reference, the NHL, the IIHF and the Athletic.

Feature image courtesy of Nikos Michals

 

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: Rouyn-Noranda Huskies

After a stellar regular season,

and exceptional run through the playoffs, the best team in the QMJHL has earned its spot in the 101st Memorial Cup. The Rouyn-Noranda Huskies, after finishing with the most points among the three leagues in the CHL, qualified for the Memorial for the second time in franchise history by simply making it to the President’s Cup Finals against the host Halifax Mooseheads. However, that was not enough for the Huskies, as they claimed league bragging rights when they won their second President’s Cup by ousting the best team in the Eastern Conference in six games. Let’s look at what to expect from Rouyn-Noranda heading into the Memorial Cup.

Not Their First Rodeo

The Huskies’ first taste of the Memorial Cup was in 2016. A team led by Francis Perron and Timo Meier made it all the way to the final, before falling to the London Knights in overtime. Three players remain from that 2016 team. Stay-at-home defenceman Jacob Neveu played in each of the 25 games during the Huskies’ postseason run. A young Samuel Harvey backed up Chase Marchand that year, and looks to better his predecessor in this year’s tournament. Peter Abbandonato was a rookie that season and did not play a huge role for the Huskies then, but is one of the top guns for Rouyn-Noranda heading into this edition of the Memorial Cup. Speaking of which…

Abbandonato is Doing Fine

The Laval-native finished the regular season with an incredible 111 points, leading the QMJHL, and scored 21 points in the first two rounds of the playoffs. However, Abbandonato missed the entire semifinal against Rimouski with mononucleosis. Obviously the Huskies did not feel the need to take a chance with one of their best playmakers. The decision paid off for Rouyn-Noranda, as they were able to move passed the Oceanic in four games, and after missing game one of the finals, Abbandonato came back against Halifax in game two and made an impact for the Huskies in the finals. He scored six points in his five games in the series, including goals in games four and five. He also assisted on William Cyr’s goal in game five that ended up being the game-winner, putting the Mooseheads on the brink of elimination. With the week off between the finals and the Memorial Cup, that will give the over-ager plenty of time to rest up to make sure he is 100% before the tournament.

Joel Teasdale: Postseason Monster 

The biggest move the Huskies made at the trade deadline was the acquisition of Joel Teasdale from Blainville-Boisbriand. The move paid dividends as Teasdale made an immediate impact as the Montreal prospect scored 42 points in his 29 games with Rouyn-Noranda. The playoffs proved that Teasdale could be a big-game player as well. The Lavaltrie, QC-native led the QMJHL in playoff scoring with 34 points. After scoring nine points in the semifinals against Rimouski, Teasdale scored eight points against Halifax. The biggest part of Teasdale’s game is consistency. While his hands and quick release make him an incredible talent, it is his play in the big moments in these playoffs that have made him a formidable presence for the Huskies.

All-Around Scoring

While having Teasdale and Abbandonato clicking offencively is important, they are not the be-all end-all for the Huskies’ attack. Felix Bibeau has been excellent for Rouyn-Noranda this postseason, finishing second in team scoring in these playoffs with 29 points, including a seven-game goal streak that carried from the team’s second round series against Victoriaville through game two in the finals, where the Mercier, QC native scored 10 goals in that stretch. 

Rafael Harvey-Pinard has been another asset who has been exceptional throughout the playoffs. After scoring a career-high 85 points during the regular season, Harvey-Pinard put up 27 points for the Huskies, including a team-leading 14 points in the President’s Cup Finals. The Jonquiere, QC product had a trio of three-point games in the series, including a hat trick in game five. 

The scoring is not just coming from the forwards either. The blueline of Rouyn-Noranda has helped chipped in throughout the postseason. Justin Bergeron has a solid playoffs in both ends of the rink. Finishing with a plus/minus of 28, the Magog, QC native has been a point-a-game player for the Huskies, as he has scored 20 points in 19 games.

Noah Dobson has been the most notable offencive defencemen in these playoffs. It took him some time to get adjusted to the new club following the trade that brought him to Rouyn-Noranda from Bathurst during the World Junior Championships. He has stepped up in a big way this postseason, as he leads all defencemen in scoring with 29 points, including nine points against Halifax in the finals.

Harvey-ing a Good Time

A team does not dominate in the regular season and win a championship without a good goaltender, and the Huskies have themselves a great goaltender in Samuel Harvey. Harvey was by far the best goaltender in the ‘Q’ this season, and is a candidate for the CHL Goaltender of the Year award as well. The Alma, QC product was outstanding in these playoffs for the Huskies, only giving up 40 goals in the 20 games, and his 1.97 GAA was the best in the postseason. His .924 SV% was second-best among goaltenders, and made some big stops in the finals, despite giving up 17 goals in the series. While this will be his first Memorial Cup as a starter, Harvey is playing confident, and being the veteran that he is, he is ready to handle the big stage.

All statistics and records from the QMJHL and Elite Prospects.

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