Two of the league’s most decorated teams this season will duke it out when the Rimouski Oceanic travel to Iamgold Arena this Friday to open its President Cup Semi-Final series against the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies.
The Huskies, after winning a QMJHL-record 59 games during the regular campaign, needed to regain their bearings during a first-round encounter with Shawinigan. After splitting the first four games of the series, Rouyn-Noranda took the next two games from the Cataractes to advance to the league Quarter-Finals, where it subsequently swept the Victoriaville Tigres in four straight contests. Over the course of their current six-game winning streak, the Huskies have outscored their opponents by a 36-8 margin.
This is the second time in four years the Huskies have reached the third round of the President Cup playoffs. Their last appearance, in 2016, resulted in a six-game series win over the Moncton Wildcats. The club would then go on to capture its first QMJHL championship in five games over Shawinigan.
The Oceanic has gone 8-1 during the postseason so far. After sweeping the Chicoutimi Saguenéens in the first round, it split the first two games of their Quarter-Final series versus the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles. Undaunted, the squad ventured to Sydney for three straight battles in enemy territory, went 3-0 over the course of those games and punched its ticket to the Semis for the first time since 2015.
The last time the Oceanic reached this pinnacle in postseason play, it swept the Val d’Or Foreurs in four games to reach the President Cup Final. The franchise eventually captured its third league title that spring by downing the Quebec Remparts in double overtime of the series’ seventh game.
This marks just the second time the two clubs have faced one another in postseason play. In 2008, the Huskies, en route to their first-ever President Cup Final appearance, swept the Oceanic 4-0 in the league Quarter-Finals.
The Huskies won all four contests against the Oceanic during the regular season, scoring five goals in each of the games. Their most recent encounter took place on February 17th in Rouyn-Noranda, when two goals and an assist from Huskies captain Rafael Harvey-Pinard would play a key role in his club’s 5-1 triumph over Rimouski.
If there is one aspect of the game these two groups have in common, it is most definitely dynamic offenses. In fact, seven of the top ten scorers in the league through the first two rounds reside on either the Huskies’ or Oceanic’s roster.
In Rouyn-Noranda, that offense has been driven by regular season scoring champion Peter Abbandonato, who is also topping the postseason with 21 points, including a league-leading 17 assists. Also among the QMJHL’s top five scorers entering the Semi-Final round is winger Joël Teasdale, who sits in fourth place with 17 points and Noah Dobson, who claims fifth spot – and first overall among blueliners – with 15 points. Also leading the way for the Huskies is veteran netminder Samuel Harvey, who currently tops the circuit in GAA (1.43), save percentage (.934%) and shutouts (three).
The Oceanic boasts recently crowned 2018-19 QMJHL MVP Alexis Lafrenière, who sits third in playoff scoring with 18 points. He is the only player in the league who currently holds a spot among the top five in goals (seven) and assists (11). Center Jimmy Huntington and winger Olivier Garneau sit tied for eighth in the postseason scoring derby with 13 points apiece, while overage defenseman Charle-Édouard D’Astous finds himself ranked second in scoring among rearguards with 12 points. Between the pipes, Colten Ellis ranks just behind his counterpart Harvey with a 1.83 GAA, .930% save percentage and one shutout.
Much like the other Semi-Final series between Drummondville and Halifax, this one will feature a rematch between Team Canada teammates from the most recent IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship. Both Dobson and Lafrenière donned the red and white at the event in Vancouver and Victoria, BC last winter. As well, the two organizations were heavily acknowledged at the recent QMJHL Golden Puck Awards, taking home nine awards and six All-Star positions between them.
Despite the accolades that have been thrown their way, the time has come for the Huskies and Oceanic to sharpen their focus on the two rewards that both clubs have been building towards all season long – both the President Cup and a ticket to Halifax’s Memorial Cup tournament.
How the two teams match up (reg.season):
||44-20-4-0 — 92 points
||59-8-0-1 — 119 points
|Leading Rookie (PTS)
|Leading Scorers (PTS)