A pair of league champions in the QMJHL’s Rouyn-Noranda Huskies and OHL’s Guelph Storm will face off in Friday’s Semi-Final at the 2019 Memorial Cup presented by Kia as they look to punch their ticket to the Championship Final versus the host Halifax Mooseheads.
Both teams posted a 2-1 record through the round robin, with one of Guelph’s wins coming in a 5-2 decision over the Huskies on Saturday in which right-wing and St. Louis Blues prospect Alexey Toropchenko led the way with a natural hat-trick in the opening frame, while fellow forwards MacKenzie Entwistle and Nick Suzuki also found the back of the net en route to the victory.
As for the Huskies, despite defeating the Mooseheads on Wednesday, the club’s path to the Championship Final must go through the Semi-Final after Halifax took the three-way deadlock for first place on a goal differential tie-breaker. Against the Mooseheads, the Huskies came away with a 4-3 win that saw the team pour on the offensive pressure in the third period as they outshot the Mooseheads by an 18-2 margin while getting goals from left-wing William Rouleau and fellow forward and Boston Bruins draft pick Jakub Lauko who scored with just 55 seconds remaining to seal the comeback victory.
The Huskies also got strong performances from their top players in left-wing and Montreal Canadiens signee Joel Teasdale, whose 34 points led the QMJHL in playoff scoring, as well as 21-year-old centre and Jean Beliveau Trophy recipient Peter Abbandonato, as the two connected on a pretty give-and-go late in the first period to build Rouyn-Noranda’s lead to 2-0. Defenceman and 2018 Memorial Cup champion Noah Dobson also impressed as, despite scoring, he directed seven shuts toward Mooseheads netminder Alexis Gravel.
Meanwhile, the Storm, who took in Wednesday’s contest between the Mooseheads and Huskies, are led by centre and Canadiens prospect Nick Suzuki, who has been one of the team’s top performers in the year-end tournament, following up on his jaw-dropping showing in the OHL playoffs when he put up 16 goals and 26 assists for 42 points in just 24 games to set a Storm franchise record for points in a single playoff run, while also taking home the Wayne Gretzky ’99’ Award as the league playoff MVP after helping Guelph capture its second J. Ross Robertson Cup in six years.
This year’s edition of the year-end tournament has also seen formidable play from Storm blue-liner Sean Durzi, a Los Angeles Kings prospect who leads the tournament in scoring with seven points, counting two goals and five assists. The Mississauga, Ont., native picked up the two tallies in Guelph’s 4-2 loss to the Mooseheads on Sunday as he bested Gravel with two shots from the point.
Should the Storm win Friday, it will mark the third time the club has advanced to the Championship Final, and its first appearance following a 6-3 loss to the WHL’s Edmonton Oil Kings in 2014. Counting this year, the Storm have competed in the Memorial Cup six times, but have never hoisted the trophy. As for the Huskies, the club has qualified for the Memorial Cup on two occasions, counting 2019. The team advanced to the Memorial Cup Final three years ago but ultimately suffered a 3-2 overtime loss to the OHL’s London Knights.
Catch all the action between the Huskies and Storm on Friday at 7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT on Sportsnet and Sportsnet NOW. Fans can also tune in at CHLLive.ca.
Next up: The Championship Final of the 2019 Memorial Cup presented by Kia gets underway Sunday between the host Halifax Mooseheads and the winner of Friday’s Semi-Final between the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies and Guelph Storm.