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Mooseheads claim QMJHL title; advance to Memorial Cup

The Canadian Press

5/10/2013 9:30:36 PM

HALIFAX -- The Halifax Mooseheads are going to Saskatoon.

Halifax beat the Baie-Comeau Drakkar 5-1 Friday night in Game 5 of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League final to win its first league championship.

The Mooseheads, who joined the QMJHL 19 years ago, hosted the Memorial Cup in 1999-2000, but this is their first trip to the tournament as a champion.

Halifax general manager Cam Russell, who hoisted the President's Cup as twice as a player with the Hull Olympiques in 1986 and 1988, was thrilled with his team's performance.

"To win it is incredible, but to do it in front of the fans that have stayed here and supported us for so long is an unbelievable feeling," said Russell, a former NHL defenceman with the Chicago Blackhawks and one of the original owners of the Mooseheads.

Halifax jumped out to an early first-period lead when Stephen MacAulay beat Baie-Comeau goalie Philippe Cadorette high to the blocker side with a wrist shot.

Stefan Fournier and Jonathan Drouin added goals less than two minutes apart later in the opening frame to give the Mooseheads a commanding 3-0 lead and the result was never really in doubt after that.

Mooseheads forward Nathan MacKinnon, who was drafted by the Drakkar two years ago and then traded to Halifax in a blockbuster deal, said a loss in Game 3 in Baie-Comeau, Que., was a wake-up call for his team.

"We didn't want to split up there and we ended up doing that, but it's all worth it," said MacKinnon, a native of Cole Harbour, N.S. "Winning at home is definitely the best feeling in the world. I'm going to cherish this moment for sure."

Fournier scored his 16th goal of the playoffs -- the most in the QMJHL playoffs -- as he collected a rebound and slipped a back-hander past Cadorette for a power-play goal at 13:19 of the opening period.

For Fournier, it was a long wait for a championship.

"Five years later and never winning anything, I'm pretty ecstatic," said the five-year QMJHL veteran. "I have no words to describe how much of a dream year this was."

Drouin, who won the Guy Lafleur Trophy as the most valuable player of the playoffs, scored on a rebound after MacKinnon intercepted a pass at the Halifax blue-line and streaked in on net while the Drakkar were making a line change. He deked Cadorette, but his shot hit the post and the rebound went to Drouin who banged the puck into an open net.

Baie-Comeau chipped away at the lead with a second-period goal from Russian winger Valentin Zykov, but couldn't get any closer.

MacKinnon padded the lead with the nifty deflection with 6:08 left in the game and MacAulay added an empty-netter with 1:19 left.

It was a typical win for the Mooseheads, who rely on their depth more than stars to win games, despite having three top prospects for this year's NHL draft in MacKinnon, Drouin and goalie Zachary Fucale.

"Every player knows their job and what they have to do on the ice and that's probably the most important thing in a hockey club," said Fournier.

The Memorial Cup will be held May 17-26 in Saskatoon.