For the first time in franchise history, the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies can call themselves the best major junior hockey team in Canada.
The top ranked club in the Canadian Hockey League this season capped off their campaign in style Sunday at the Scotiabank Centre in Halifax as they picked up a 4-2 win over the host Mooseheads in the Memorial Cup final.
“We’re from a small city but we have a big heart,” Huskies forward Peter Abbandonato said to Sportsnet’s Rob Faulds after the game.
“This team has a lot of character and it comes through at clutch times. We stuck together all game and we encouraged each other to come away with the win.”
After moving from Saint-Hyacinthe in 1996, the closest that the Huskies had came to winning a Memorial Cup was in 2016 when they fell in a 3-2 overtime affair against the London Knights in Red Deer.
Although they trailed the Mooseheads 2-0 midway through the game, the Huskies showed why they were the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League champions in the second half as they scored four unanswered goals.
“We really started to put the pressure on in the second period to tie things up and we just talked about keeping our focus up while we were in the dressing room,” Huskies forward Felix Bibeau said.
Abbandonato led the way in his final major junior hockey game with a goal and an assist, while Justin Bergeron had a pair of helpers.
Vincent Marleau, Joel Teasdale and Bibeau also scored for the Huskies, who received a 23-save showing from Samuel Harvey.
“The chemistry that our team had was awesome and I’m proud to be able to have played with these guys,” said Teasdale, who was named the tournament’s most valuable player.
General manager and head coach Mario Pouliot became the first man to win back-to-back Memorial Cups with different teams, as he was behind the bench for the Acadie-Bathurst Titan at last year’s tournament in Regina.
“All of our players grew up playing together and it takes a special group to win the league and the Memorial Cup,” Pouliot said.
New York Islanders defensive prospect Noah Dobson was also a member of the Titan team last year as he joined the select group of players to win two straight Memorial Cups.
“When I got here in January, I knew how special this group was,” Dobson said. “We’re like 20 brothers out there and we’ve made memories that will last a lifetime.”
It was a bitter defeat for the Mooseheads, who were trying to win their second Memorial Cup in franchise history, as they fell to a Huskies side that beat them in the QMJHL final earlier this month.
“Obviously after a year like this and a tournament like this, it’s very disappointing for the players and the fans,” Mooseheads head coach Eric Veilleux said in a post-game press conference.
“I couldn’t be more proud of the work that our team did. It’s a tough loss, but we have to admit that we were playing a very solid team. They weren’t first overall all season for no reason and we have to give a lot of credit to them.”
Samuel Asselin had a goal and an assist for the Mooseheads, who got their other goal from Raphael Lavoie and a 31-save performance from Alexis Gravel.