After falling in six games in the QMJHL’s President’s Cup Final, the host Halifax Mooseheads got back to their winning ways at the 2019 Memorial Cup presented by Kia, toppling the Western Hockey League’s Prince Albert Raiders in a 4-1 final in round robin action.
Here are five key takeaways from the tournament opener:
Lavoie impresses from in tight
Mooseheads right-wing Raphael Lavoie entered the CHL championship round as a must-watch player, ranked 20th among North American skaters in NHL Central Scouting’s final report. The Chambly, Que., native didn’t disappoint in Game 1 as he flashed his quick playmaking abilities with a pinpoint pass to set up linemate Samuel Asselin with the game-opening goal midway through the first period. Lavoie went on a tear in the QMJHL postseason, finishing second in the playoff scoring race with 32 points, including an incredible 20 goals. The Mooseheads will be difficult to beat if Lavoie can carry over his playoff performance into the year-end tournament.
Xavier lights the lamp
Lavoie wasn’t the only draft-eligible skater to find the back of the net Friday, as left-wing Xavier Parent, ranked 209th among North American skaters per Central Scouting, buried one into a wide open cage to give the home team a 2-0 lead and what would be the eventual game winner. After a modest 2018-19 campaign in which he finished with 15 goals before adding another four tallies in the playoffs, getting offense from Parent is an added bonus for the Mooseheads.
Penalty parade burns Raiders
After beginning the tournament opener with a trio of power plays, the Raiders took four straight penalties of their own in the second frame. The squad denied the first three opportunities, but wasn’t successful in stopping the Mooseheads on their fourth consecutive man advantage as defenceman Jake Ryczek built his team’s lead to 3-1 shortly after the Raiders pulled within one just prior in the middle frame. The Mooseheads had the second-best efficiency on the man advantage during the regular season, scoring at a clip just above 28%. Prior to Game 1, Raiders coach Marc Habscheid underlined the importance of his club starting on time, and surely spending much of the second period on the penalty kill interrupted the team’s game plan.
Asselin still has it
There was no let up from Asselin, the Mooseheads’ regular-season leading scorer, who hoisted the Memorial Cup with the Acadie-Bathurst Titan in 2018 and has his sights set on doing so again this spring. The undrafted 20-year-old was Halifax’s most productive player during the regular season, finishing with 48 goals and 38 assists for 86 points in 68 games, while he continued to demonstrate that offensive dominance Friday as he wrapped up the night with a two-point effort, counting one goal and one assist en route to first-star recognition. Through the 2019 postseason, Asselin was a key contributor for the Mooseheads as he collected nine goals and eight assists in 22 appearances.
Gravel shuts the door
He didn’t see plenty of pucks as he wrapped up the night with a tidy 23 saves, but Mooseheads netminder and Chicago Blackhawks prospect Alexis Gravel came up big when he had to, including a diving stick save in the dying seconds of the middle frame that maintained a 3-1 lead for Halifax entering the second intermission. Gravel was a rock in the postseason, coming up with 14 wins and a .917 save percentage in 23 games, while replicating performances similar to Friday night will come along way to helping the host Mooseheads capture their first Memorial Cup title since 2013.