You can call him Mr. Memorial Cup. Samuel Asselin tied for the most goals in the tournament last year with Acadie-Bathurst and he was front and centre again Friday night with a goal and an assist as the Mooseheads started off on the right foot with a 4-1 victory over the Prince Albert Raiders to open the Memorial Cup in Halifax.
Max Trepanier also starred in the win with three assists while Alex Gravel made 23 saves.
The hometown crowd of 9,926 was amped up long before puck drop and kept the good vibes going and were treated to some fast paced and hard hitting hockey in the early going. The hardest hit cam courtesy of the Raiders’ Max Martin on Keith Getson who went airborne and sideways into the boards while Martin also went down in the big collision.
The Moose found a way to kill off a pair of penalties in the opening 8:52 of the game which seemed to give them a spark.
“The PK came up huge and that’s what we talked about quite a bit going into this. Special teams is huge especially in this style of tournament,” Getson said.
Asselin was guilty of a slashing call behind the play in the Prince Albert zone but he made up for the mistake in judgement by opening the scoring at the 10:49 mark. The 20-year-old forward found some open ice and glided in toward the crease while Raphael Lavoie carried the puck behind the net before feathering a pass right on the tape and all Asselin had to do was redirect the puck past goalie Ian Scott.
The Asselin story has been an inspiring one this season. Coming into 2018-19 he had a total of 34 goals in three full years between Shawinigan and Acadie-Bathurst. This season he broke out with a QMJHL best 48 goals which came as a surprise to many, including Head Coach Eric Veilleux.
“When we acquired him (Asselin) I was told he was going to be one of the best third line centers in the league. We didn’t even plan on having him on our power play but an injury occurred and by Christmas there was no way he couldn’t be on our number one power play.”
The veteran forward set up the eventual game-winning goal for Halifax as well when he finished off a nice passing play that began with Max Trepanier dumping it off to Asselin who then fed the puck across to Xavier Parent who was staring at a wide open net and the Moose took a 2-0 lead late in the first period.
“To be honest I was going to shoot and I just fumbled the puck a little bit and I saw Parey (Parent) on the other side so I just passed it,” he said with his trademark smile during a postgame media scrum.
The Raiders showed signs of being tired after a long seven game series that only wrapped up earlier this week but they did manage to cut into the Halifax lead and make things interesting as Noah Gregor deflected a point shot that beat Alex Gravel midway through the second period to cut the score to 2-1. Gregor has an interesting tie to Nova Scotia as his father Colin suited up for the Acadia Axemen from 1991-93 where he captured a National Championship.
The Gregor goal was as close the WHL champs would get though as Jake Ryczek added the third Mooseheads goal on the power play about five minutes later and Antoine Morand capped things off with an empty net goal in the third period to give the Moose a very important opening game victory.
Ian Scott played well in defeat for the Raiders and was a busy man throughout the game. He finished with 33 saves.
The Mooseheads went 1-6 on the man advantage while Prince Albert was 0-4.
Halifax will have Saturday off before facing the OHL winning Guelph Storm Sunday at 8pm. That will be the second of back-to-back games for the Storm who are on the ice Saturday at 4:30 versus the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies. Prince Albert gets two days of rest and will play the Huskies on Monday night at 8pm. Tickets for the games are on sale now at the Ticket Atlantic Box Office, TicketAtlantic.com or charge by phone 902-451-1221.