Kia CHL Top 10 Spotlight: Rouyn-Noranda Huskies

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They’ve won 14 straight games and are showing no signs of slowing down. The Rouyn-Noranda Huskies are the new number one team in the CHL this week, unseating the WHL’s Prince Albert Raiders after they spent 15 straight weeks at the top of the mountain.

The Huskies are undefeated in 2019, besting other Top 10 teams in Halifax and Drummondville during their current stretch of success that dates back to January 3rd.

While they boast eight different players with over 15 goals and are among the least penalized teams in the QMJHL, their 105 goals against through 52 games is the most impressive statistic contributing to the team’s tremendous success. Team defence is a priority for Mario Pouliot’s club, but Rouyn-Noranda’s success has come from the net out.

The Huskies are within reach of setting a new QMJHL single season record for fewest goals against currently held by the 2009 Moncton Wildcats (149).

“We are privileged in Rouyn with our two goaltenders,” Pouliot told TVA Sports. “They are well supervised by our goaltending coach Dany Sabourin.

“We take a lot of pride in playing well defensively. We want to spend as little time as possible in our zone and spend more time on the attack. When we’re not as sharp, Zachary (Emond) and Samuel (Harvey) do the work and they’re very consistent. It’s one of the big reasons for our success.”

The winningest goaltender in Huskies franchise history, Harvey has carried the bulk of the load in his overage season, going 27-7-0-0 with a 1.98 goals-against average, .926 save percentage and four shutouts over 30 games. Two years his junior, San Jose Sharks prospect Zachary Emond leads the league with a 1.79 goals-against average, .930 save percentage and six shutouts to go with a 17-0-0-1 record over 20 contests.

Just in front of them, Rouyn-Noranda’s biggest trade deadline acquisition Noah Dobson (9-21–30) has been reunited with fellow 100th Memorial Cup champion head coach Mario Pouliot and has registered 14 assists through his first 12 games in a Huskies uniform. Dobson joins the Rouyn-Noranda power play alongside one of the QMJHL’s top-scoring defencemen in Justin Bergeron (12-35–47) while 2016 QMJHL Championship holdover Jacob Neveu (1-14–15) provides a big body presence on Rouyn-Noranda’s second-ranked penalty kill (84.6%).

Up front the Huskies feature the QMJHL’s top scorer in overage assistant captain Peter Abbandonato (25-59–84) along with 19-year-old speedsters Rafael Harvey-Pinard (29-34–63) and Félix Bibeau (22-28–50). NHL scouts have also kept an eye on the Huskies as they feature one of the QMJHL’s top draft eligible scorers in sophomore winger Alex Beaucage (31-33–64).

Additionally, the Huskies made a trade deadline splash with the addition of Montreal Canadiens prospect Joël Teasdale (30-28–58) from the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada. The 19-year-old has 20 points (11-9–20) through his first 13 games in black and red. Teasdale played in back-to-back QMJHL Championships with the Armada.

“We’re only looking at the process of trying to improve every day,” Pouliot noted of his team’s approach. “We don’t look at statistics. We want to improve the way we play. Seeing guys like Peter (Abbandonato) and our goalies have individual success are great rewards though.”

The Gilles Bouchard-led 2016 Huskies won a franchise record 54 games, hoisting the President Cup for the first time before coming within a goal of a Memorial Cup title in Red Deer, Alta. Three years later, the 2018-19 Huskies are eager to improve on that finish and bring Rouyn-Noranda its first ever Memorial Cup in the franchise’s 23-year history.

The Huskies hit the road this weekend, looking to build on their 14-game winning streak with a three-in-three in Québec, Blainville-Boisbriand and Gatineau on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

The KIA CHL Top 10 Spotlight takes a closer look at one team from the weekly KIA CHL Top 10 Rankings.

Past KIA CHL Top 10 Spotlight editions:
Sept. 26, 2018 – Halifax Mooseheads
Oct. 4, 2018 – London Knights
Oct. 11, 2018 – Victoria Royals

Oct. 18, 2018 – Rouyn-Noranda Huskies
Oct. 25, 2018 – Prince Albert Raiders
Nov. 1, 2018 – Ottawa 67’s
Nov. 8, 2018 – Moncton Wildcats

Nov. 15, 2018 – Baie-Comeau Drakkar
Nov. 22, 2018 – Red Deer Rebels

Nov. 29, 2018 – Drummondville Voltigeurs
Dec. 6, 2018 – Vancouver Giants
Dec. 12, 2018 – Everett Silvertips
Dec. 20, 2018 – Niagara IceDogs
Jan. 3, 2019 – Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Jan. 10, 2019 – Saginaw Spirit
Jan. 17, 2019 – Portland Winterhawks
Jan. 25, 2019 – Rimouski Océanic
Jan. 31, 2019 – Baie-Comeau Drakkar

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