The Rouyn-Noranda Huskies and Halifax Mooseheads will play for a national championship later this month. What remains uncertain is who will enter the Memorial Cup as the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League champion.
As the host team, the Mooseheads get an automatic berth in the four-team event. When Halifax reached the QMJHL final, the Huskies booked their Memorial Cup ticket too.
Even though their berths are secure, both clubs remain determined to enter the Canadian playdowns on a roll as Quebec league champions.
“One thing we worked for all year long was to get a chance to win a President Cup and we are there right now,” said Mooseheads coach Eric Veilleux. “You’ve got two teams battling for the big trophy and we’re one of them. That’s the approach we’re going to have.”
Halifax is coming off a 2-1 overtime victory in Game 6 of their league semi-final against the Drummondville Voltigeurs. Xavier Parent scored the winner at 2:22 of overtime.
The Huskies, meanwhile, are fresher after a four-game sweep of Rimouski, outscoring the Oceanic 20-9 in the series. Rouyn-Noranda has won 10 straight playoff games since opening with two first-round losses to the Shawinigan Cataractes.
“We have a really good tight group,” said Huskies coach Mario Pouliot. “Our team chemistry is really good.”
Game 1 in the best-of-seven final goes Thursday at the Iamgold Arena. Game 2 is also in Rouyn-Noranda on Friday before the series shifts east for Games 3 (Monday) and 4 (Tuesday) at the Scotiabank Centre.
Mooseheads forward Raphael Lavoie had 73 points over 62 regular-season games but has been even stronger in the playoffs. He leads all players with 17 goals in 17 playoff games and is tops with 27 points in the post-season, one more than Huskies forward Joel Teasdale.
“They have depth everywhere,” Pouliot said. “They have speed, they have good offensive players and they have a really good mix. It’s going to be a really tight series for sure.”
The status of Rouyn-Noranda forward Peter Abbandonato remains uncertain due to a bout of mononucleosis. He had a league-leading 111 points in the regular season and has 21 points in the playoffs.
The Mooseheads will try to solve Huskies netminder Samuel Harvey, who leads the league with a 1.67 goals-against average, .928 save percentage and three shutouts in the playoffs.
“The more shots, the better,” Veilleux said. “There’s no secrets to that. You shoot 15 times then you’re going to have a certain number of chances to win. You shoot 30, well, there’s a chance you’ll have more than if you shoot 15. And if you shoot 45, there’s probably more again.
“So that’s the approach we’re going to have.”
The Ottawa 67’s and Guelph Storm will meet in the Ontario Hockey League final while the Prince Albert Raiders will take on the Vancouver Giants for the Western Hockey League crown. The winners will join the Huskies and Mooseheads in the four-team field at the May 17-26 Memorial Cup.
“We have our ticket to go there but we are not thinking about that,” Pouliot said. “We’re just thinking about the Mooseheads and the first game on Thursday night.”
Rouyn-Noranda last won the QMJHL title in 2016. The Huskies went on to drop a 3-2 overtime decision to the London Knights in the national championship.
The Mooseheads won the President’s Cup in 2013 and went on to win the Memorial Cup that year.
The Acadie-Bathurst Titan won the Quebec league title last year. They shut out host Regina 3-0 in the national final.