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Round Robin Preview: Mooseheads at Huskies

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Wednesday action at the 2019 Memorial Cup presented by Kia closes out the round robin schedule with a rematch between a pair of QMJHL rivals in the host Halifax Mooseheads and President’s Cup champion Rouyn-Noranda Huskies, who captured the league title over the Mooseheads in a hard-fought six-game series.

The Mooseheads return to the ice following a two-day layoff and a 4-2 victory over the OHL’s Guelph Storm that pushed Halifax to a 2-0 record that combined with a 4-1 decision over the WHL’s Prince Albert Raiders in the tournament opener. The Mooseheads will now try for the round robin sweep versus the Huskies to punch their ticket to the Memorial Cup Championship on Sunday.

Through two games, the Mooseheads have impressed in outscoring their opponents by an 8-3 edge, with 20-year-old left-wing Maxime Trepanier leading the way with one goal and four assists. The team is also getting strong offensive support from the likes of centre Samuel Asselin, who led the club in regular season scoring with 86 points, as well as captain Antoine Morand, who like Asselin is searching for his second-straight CHL championship after winning it all with the Acadie-Bathurst Titan last spring. Through games, the pair has collected two goals and one assist a piece.

If the Huskies are to win Wednesday, they will also need to shut down Mooseheads right-wing Raphael Lavoie, who is scoring at a point-per-game pace and has had a bevy of chances through two contests. The Chambly, Que., native is a projected top pick for this summer’s NHL draft, with the final report from Central Scouting ranking him 20th among North American skaters.

Still, it’s not only about offense for the Mooseheads, as between the pipes netminder and Chicago Blackhawks prospect Alexis Gravel has looked nearly unbeatable, surrendering just three goals against through two games, while coming away with a combined 56 saves.

As for the Huskies, the team has split its first two games at the 2019 Memorial Cup presented by Kia, falling to the Storm on Saturday but then rebounding two nights later as they found the win column versus the Raiders. The Huskies were one of the most impressive clubs during the 2018-19 campaign, which saw the team rattle off a 25-game win streak to tie a CHL record originally set in 1974 by the Sorel Éperviers.

Behind the bench, the Huskies are led by first-year coach Mario Pouliot, who guided the Titan to the Memorial Cup last season and who this year looks to capture his second-straight title, the latest accomplishment in a decorated season for the Huskies that saw the team set a single season franchise win record with 59 victories. After winning two of the past four President’s Cups, the club now hopes to cap off the year with a franchise-first Memorial Cup victory.

Also leading the way for the Huskies is budding blue-liner Noah Dobson, who alongside Pouliot last season hoisted the Memorial Cup as part of the Titan. It’s been a hectic year for the 19-year-old, who just weeks after winning the CHL championship last spring was selected in the first round of the 2019 NHL Draft by the New York Islanders. He was then part of Team Canada at the 2019 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship, then joined the Huskies ahead of this season’s QMJHL trade deadline.

Up front, the Huskies are one of the most dangerous teams offensively. Rouyn-Noranda wrapped up the regular season with 320 goals, good for second-best league-wide, with 21-year-old centre Peter Abbandonato leading the way with 29 goals and 82 assists for a league-leading 111 points to capture the Jean Beliveau Trophy. With only one point through two games at the 2019 Memorial Cup presented by Kia, the product of Laval, Que., could be poised for a breakout.

Catch all the action between the Mooseheads and Huskies on Wednesday at 7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT on Sportsnet and Sportsnet NOW. Fans can also tune in at CHLLive.ca.

Next up: Semi-Final action at the 2019 Memorial Cup presented by Kia gets underway Friday.

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