One historically successful team will do battle with a club rich in its own history when the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies host the Shawinigan Cataractes in the opener of their first round President Cup Playoffs series on Friday night.
The Huskies broke a 45-year-old QMJHL record by earning 59 wins during the regular season, while their .875% winning percentage was good for second on the all-time list. A 119-point campaign earned the Huskies team its third Jean-Rougeau Trophy in franchise history as the top team in the regular season.
The Cataractes went 14-49-2-3, earning a single point on the last day of the regular season to secure the final available playoff spot in the “Q” over the Saint John Sea Dogs. The 86-point spread between the two clubs sets a new league record for point differential between two clubs in a playoff series.
The Huskies are making their eighth straight appearance in the playoffs. Last year they were defeated in round one by the Sherbrooke Phoenix, four games to three. That represented the first time since 2012 that the team failed to advance to at least the Quarter Final round. During that span, the Huskies claimed the President Cup title in 2016. Their only other appearance in the QMJHL Final came in 2008, where they were defeated by the Gatineau Olympiques in five games.
Currently celebrating, along with the league itself, its 50th Anniversary season, the Cataractes are participating in the postseason following a one-year hiatus. Their last appearance, in 2017, saw them fall to the Val d’Or Foreurs in a six-game, first-round encounter. Shawinigan’s last series win came in 2016, when they defeated the Saint John Sea Dogs in five games during the league Semi-Final. They would go on to lose to the Huskies in that year’s President Cup Final. That would mark the third championship round appearance for the Cataractes, having reached the final in 1971 and 2009. Though they are still chasing their first league title, they did earn a Memorial Cup title as the host team in 2012.
The Huskies swept the season series between the two clubs, four games to none. Their last matchup, in Shawinigan on March 6th, saw team captain Rafaël Harvey-Pinard record a hat trick and a pair of assists in an 8-3 Rouyn-Noranda win. This win, the 25th straight for the Huskies, tied both a QMJHL and CHL record.
The Huskies’ high-octane offense was truly a team effort as evidenced by their eight 20-goal scorers. Led by the league’s leading scorer, Peter Abbandonato (111 points, including a league-leading 82 assists), the club finished second in goals for. Their back-end features standouts Justin Bergeron (57 points) and New York Islanders 2018 first rounder Noah Dobson, who recorded 52 points, including 36 in 28 games since arriving in Rouyn-Noranda from the Acadie-Bathurst Titan in January. Dobson was one of three key acquisitions made by the Huskies during the season, joining Joel Teasdale (from Blainville-Boisbriand) and Louis-Filip Côté (from Quebec), all of whom recorded at least one point per game after being dealt to the Huskies. In net, Samuel Harvey (35-8-0-0) and Zachary Emond (24-0-0-1) shut the door on countless shooters as the club set a new league record for fewest goals allowed in a season (138).
Slovenian winger Jan Drozg paced the Cataractes with 62 points while rookie Mavrik Bourque, the third overall selection in the 2018 QMJHL Draft, led the club with 25 goals. Second-year defenseman Leon Denny recorded 41 points, placing him in a tie for 15th among all “Q” blueliners. Rookie winger Valentin Nussbaumer picked up 38 points on the season while also representing Team Switzerland at the 2019 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship in Vancouver and Victoria, BC. Between the pipes, 16-year-old rookie Antoine Coulombe made 41 appearances for the Cataractes, the most of any first-year netminder in the league.
This will be the fifth playoff battle between the two squads. The first three encounters saw domination by the Cataractes, who defeated the Huskies in the 2001 Quarter Finals, as well as first round series in 2006 and 2012 by an aggregate of 12 games to one. The Huskies would exact a measure of revenge in the aforementioned 2016 President Cup Final.
How the two teams match up:
||14-49-2-3 — 33 points
||59-8-0-1 — 119 points
|Past 10 Games
|Leading Rookie (PTS)
|Leading Scorers (PTS)