HALIFAX — Winning a national championship for his hometown was something Jacob Neveu always wanted to do.
The Rouyn-Noranda Huskies defenceman came close in 2016 when reaching the final of the Memorial Cup before losing to the London Knights in overtime.
He sat on the bench Sunday in uniform with a full cage on, limited to screaming encouragement after suffering a broken jaw in Game 2 of the league final.
It didn’t matter to him that he had no voice left or what role he played Sunday night as the Huskies beat the host Halifax Mooseheads 4-2 to win their first Canadian major junior championship in franchise history.
“I’m from Rouyn-Noranda, so bringing the Cup home for the first time is something real special,” he said.
Peter Abbandonato and goaltender Samuel Harvey were the other holdovers from that 2016 team. Abbandonato was able to get some redemption by scoring the winner in the final.
Abbandonato, who overcame mono during the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League playoffs, said he couldn’t be prouder of himself, Neveu and Harvey.
“We stuck together. We were drafted here and we’re the proudest guys to wear this logo on our chest,” he said.
“I hope we have a good time tonight.”
And how is he planning on celebrating?
“I dunno, maybe have a few beers.”
Here are more takeaways from the Memorial Cup championship game…
A repeat for Pouliot, Dobson
Defenceman Noah Dobson became the 13th player in Memorial Cup history to win consecutive titles with different franchises after also winning in 2018 with the Acadie-Bathurst Titan.
He said both championships are significant to him in their own way.
“It doesn’t get old, that’s for sure,” Dobson said. “It’s a pretty special feeling. I’m just really grateful to play on so many great teams.”
Mario Pouliot became the first head coach to win back-to-back titles with different teams, after also winning last year with Acadie-Bathurst.
He joined Rouyn-Noranda as head coach and general manager shortly after the 2018 Memorial Cup and led the Huskies to a QMJHL record 59 regular-season wins. A 25-game winning streak tied a CHL record and they lost just once in regulation between January and the end of the season.
Pouliot said the feeling of capturing consecutive championships is tough to describe.
“Honestly, I feel fortunate to be here a second time and winning a second time is kind of rare when you have the chance to win one cup,” he said.
Rouyn-Noranda’s big third
Abbandonato kickstarted a big third period by giving Rouyn-Noranda a 3-2 lead, dancing around Halifax defenders before sniping one over goaltender Alexis Gravel’s shoulder.
The Huskies kept the pressure up throughout the period and got another goal two minutes later.
Vincent Marleau jumped on a big rebound to make it 4-2 Huskies.
Mooseheads captain Antoine Morand, who won last year with Acadie-Bathurst, said he didn’t know how Rouyn-Noranda scored four unanswered goals.
“I thought we had a good start. Took the lead 2-0 and started playing on our heels,” he said. “Gotta give them credit. They never gave up, they worked super hard.”
The two teams were meeting for the 10th time this season and the Huskies had the advantage in the majority of the matchups. Rouyn-Noranda needed six games to beat Halifax in the President Cup final and also defeated them during the Memorial Cup round robin.
Halifax head coach Eric Veilleux said the champions deserve a lot of credit.
“We were playing a very solid hockey team,” Veilleux said. “They were well coached, they played well, they had a great season, they weren’t first overall the whole season for no reason.”
Gravel made some big saves to keep Halifax in the game in the first period despite the loss.
Over 12 minutes into the frame, he had a nice glove save on Abbandonato. He stopped Montreal Canadiens prospect Joel Teasdale with a point-blank, left-pad save shortly after.
Gravel would then get the shaft of his stick on a dangerous shot by Rafael Harvey-Pinard with just over two minutes left. He wasn’t done with the Huskies captain, however, as he robbed him with Halifax on the power play.
He finished with 31 saves.
The Teasdale effect
Teasdale said he has aspirations of playing for the AHL’s Laval Rocket next season and he certainly made a good case in the final.
He was creating plenty of scoring opportunities and tied the game at 2-2 in the second with a wrap-around past Gravel.
The 20-year-old earned Memorial Cup MVP honours after finishing the tournament with four goals and one assist.
Asselin’s memorable Memorial Cups
Samuel Asselin’s strong play at Memorial Cups continued Sunday.
The Mooseheads forward scored with 44 seconds left on a power play for his third of the tournament and eighth overall at Memorial Cups.
Asselin had five goals last season in helping the Titan capture a national title and has been buzzing throughout the event.
Dale Hawerchuk, Luc Robitaille and Pat Falloon all scored eight times during a single Memorial Cup, but Asselin’s success over multiple tournaments is an impressive feat.
Lavoie shows off to scouts
Raphael Lavoie is hoping to hear his name called in the first round of next month’s NHL Draft and helped his case with a nice goal in the final.
The Mooseheads had just killed off a penalty when Benoit-Olivier Groulx came out of the box and caught a Huskies defenceman off guard.
Lavoie found the loose puck and went in alone on Harvey, deking him out and sliding it under his pad to give Halifax a 2-0 advantage.