Two years ago today, I wrote a Memorial Cup all QMJHL Final Preview. Obviously, the last two years have been extremely difficult for the CHL and the hockey world not being able to see this historic tournament being played.
The decision to cancel the tournament may have been a difficult one, but absolutely the right one given the pandemic.
Hopefully in 2022 the CHL will be able to crown a Memorial Cup Champion.
Here’s my preview from 2019
The Final Chapter
The Rouyn-Noranda Huskies and the Halifax Mooseheads will write the final chapter in their intense rivalry on Sunday.
These proud organizations have been building toward this moment for three seasons.
The Huskies head to head numbers versus the Mooseheads this season are dominant to say the least, but anything can happen in a one game winner take all scenario.
The Memorial Cup Final will undoubtedly be an intense battle to the very end.
How do you beat the Huskies?
A lot of great teams and coaches have asked that very question all year long.
The President Cup Champions have played inspired hockey this season and it’s evident that they don’t have very many holes in their game and systems.
From top to bottom the Huskies are extremely deep, disciplined, defensively accountable and offensively gifted.
You could say the same about the Mooseheads.
Both teams possess game breakers at every position.
Which team will come out on top and claim junior hockey’s holy grail?
The Mooseheads will have to bring their speed game and execute off the rush.
One of the Huskies minor flaws is their transition defence. Mario Pouliot’s team is extremely responsible defensively, but they do give up chances off the rush when they over commit offensively especially late in offensive zone shifts.
The Huskies have so much confidence and trust in each other that when they do make mistakes they have tremendous defensive layers to their game. Nevertheless, Eric Vielleux’s Mooseheads are an attacking team that have great depth and skill up front.
When the Huskies stay discipline and stick to their systems and defensive structure through the neutral zone they are almost unstoppable, however when they press, over commit or turn pucks over at the offensive blue line they lose coverage and their gap.
The Herd will be looking to take advantage and capitalize off those opportunities on Sunday.
The neutral zone will be a chess match and will showcase both teams unbelievably talented blue lines. Puck possession and decision making will rule the day for both teams during the final.
Harvey vs Gravel
Alexis Gravel has been spectacular this season quieting the critics along the way. Samuel Harvey or “Mr Consistency” for the Huskies has been his usual outstanding self.
Gravel’s has worked extremely hard on his deficiencies, while Harvey has looked composed, but vulnerable at times during the Memorial Cup especially when teams get him moving laterally and generate traffic in front.
Gravel’s lateral movement is much improved but he is still vulnerable to shots at his feet and when he is caught in between or hesitates when challenging and telescoping out. This plays into the Huskies highly touted offensive attack and ability to spot the open man in the soft areas of the ice.
Harvey’s technique and movement is mesmerizing. Nonetheless, Halifax will also try to hit the back door play especially when Harvey over anticipates and commits to the initial shot. Halifax will try to have someone driving the far post at all times off the rush and have an option on the back door on the man advantage.
The Herd and Huskies have great speciality teams and spectacular puck movers and play makers on the backend.
I hate to say it but the Memorial Cup might very well be decided on a power play goal.
The Mooseheads power play can beat you in many different ways, but it’s their relentless puck pursuit while on the man advantage that really sets them apart. The Herd have an uncanny ability to win 50/50 battles at an alarming rate on the power play.
Most of their chances and goals come off second chance opportunities and winning puck battles below the dots when on the man advantage.
The Huskies will have to balance and distribute their defensive minutes accordingly especially if they get into penalty trouble. The Huskies have a very deep defensive corps, but that’s one area that Mooseheads can exploit or key in on by taking time and space away with physicality and great routes to pucks.
In the Zone
The Huskies have a tendency to go through the middle when pressured. They are probably the best junior team in the country at winning pucks on the half boards in their own zone and breaking pucks out with speed and support, Halifax have their work cut out for them and will have to have one of their best performances of the year on the forecheck if they want to win Sunday’s Final.
The Mooseheads have made defensive modifications throughout the season and are very effective at making in game changes. The Huskies will bring two forecheckers at every opportunity, the Herd will have to handle the pressure and be aware of the Huskies back pressure when exiting their zone.
The team’s backend that skates out of trouble and makes quality decisions will have a definite advantage.
Nerves, Energy and Execution
Both teams are accustomed at this point playing in big games, a matter of fact they were built to play in them.
There’s no question the Herd will feed off the energy of a crazed Scotiabank Centre on Sunday night.
It might be just enough to propel them to victory.
Don’t underestimate the Halifax Mooseheads, they are a great team, and perhaps are a team of destiny.
The Huskies can’t afford to be and won’t be complacent entering their final game of the season in hostile territory.
The Memorial Cup Final will ultimately come down to individual performances and team execution.
You can throw all the stats and numbers out the window, it will all come down to the team that can handle the magnitude of the moment and exploit the small minor deficiencies and flaws in their opponents game.
Sit back and enjoy the QMJHL’s finest teams as they battle it out for junior hockey supremacy.