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Round Robin Preview: Huskies at Storm

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The 2019 Memorial Cup presented by Kia continues Saturday as the J. Ross Robertson Cup champion Guelph Storm from the Ontario Hockey League will go head-to-head with the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies, this year’s winner of the QMJHL’s President’s Cup.

For the Huskies, it marks the club’s second shot in four seasons at capturing the CHL crown after falling in overtime to the London Knights in the 2016 championship. The Huskies enter the 2019 Memorial Cup presented by Kia after putting together a 16-4 playoff record, including a six-game series victory versus the host Halifax Mooseheads in the final round to claim the franchise’s second league championship.

It’s been a banner year for the Huskies, who in mid-March tied a CHL record of 25 consecutive wins originally set by the 1974 Sorel Éperviers, then matched by the Kitchener Rangers a decade later. In all, the Huskies wrapped up the 2018-19 campaign with a 59-8-0-1 record that saw the club set a new high-water mark in the QMJHL for wins in a season, previously held by four different teams.

The Huskies are led by 21-year-old centre Peter Abbandonato, who this season took home the Jean Beliveau Trophy, presented to the QMJHL’s leading scorer, after he collected 29 goals and 82 assists for 111 points in only 68 games.

But Abbandonato isn’t the only name to circle on the Huskies. There is also 19-year-old rearguard Noah Dobson, who just weeks after winning the Memorial Cup last season as part of the Acadie-Bathurst Titan was selected 12th overall by the New York Islanders in the 2018 NHL Draft. In search of the franchise’s first CHL title, the Huskies added Dobson prior to this season’s deadline, while the results that have followed have certainly paid off, as the budding blue-liner put up 29 points in 20 postseason appearances to finish third in league postseason scoring while also taking home the Guy Lafleur Trophy, presented to the MVP of the QMJHL playoffs.

On Saturday, the Huskies will face off against a resilient Storm squad that has aptly taken on the title of the ‘comeback kids’ after they capped a trio of playoff series comebacks en route to the franchise’s second J. Ross Robertson Cup title in the past six seasons. In began in the second round of playoff action when the Storm surged back from a seemingly insurmountable three-game deficit to the Western Conference leading London Knights before recovering from a 3-1 disadvantage in third-round action versus the Saginaw Spirit. The Storm then pulled off the feat one more time in the OHL Final, piecing together four consecutive victories against the first-place Ottawa 67’s after initially dropping the first two contests.

With the Storm, fans and scouts alike will have their latest opportunity to put eyes on budding star Nick Suzuki, the former Owen Sound Attack captain who was acquired ahead of this year’s playoff run. The Montreal Canadiens prospect has been a perfect fit with his new club as he pushed the pace in the postseason to the tune of 16 goals and 26 assists to set a Storm franchise record of 42 points in a single playoff year. For his efforts, Suzuki, who was originally selected 13th overall by the Vegas Golden Knights in the 2017 NHL Draft, was announced as the winner of the Wayne Gretzky ’99’ Award, presented in recognition of the OHL’s playoff MVP.

Of course, Suzuki isn’t the only member of the Storm whose future in the NHL isn’t too far off, as the club counts 11 players whose rights are held by an NHL club, the most of any of the four teams competing in the 2019 Memorial Cup presented by Kia. Chief among that group is right-wing and Chicago Blackhawks up-and-comer MacKenzie Entwistle, another deadline acquisition who put together a strong playoff performance for the Storm and who is in search of his first Memorial Cup ring after capturing the OHL title with the Hamilton Bulldogs a year ago. Key contributors like Arizona Coyotes prospect Nate Schnarr and captain Isaac Ratcliffe, a second-round draft pick by the Philadelphia Flyers, round out the group for the Storm.

Catch all the action between the Huskies and Storm on Saturday at 3:30pm ET/12:30pm PT on Sportsnet and Sportsnet NOW. Fans can also tune in at CHLLive.ca.

Next up: Sunday action sees the host Halifax Mooseheads take on the OHL’s Guelph Storm.

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