The inevitable was finally realized on Friday night.
After an historic season and a 16-1 playoff run, the Halifax Mooseheads finally disposed of the Baie-Comeau Drakkar with a 5-1 victory and won the President Cup for the first time in franchise history before 10,595 ecstatic fans at the Metro Centre.
“I can’t describe this feeling,” said Mooseheads co-captain Trey Lewis, who’s been through thick and thin during his four years with the Herd. “You know what, I came to camp as a 16-year-old just coming off knee surgery and I was cut and the next year after I made the team and we had a really rough year. Just to see how far we’ve come it feels so good. It feels surreal.”
In his fourth and final year with the Herd, fan favourite Konrad Abeltshauser was beside himself, gladly letting eager fans share in his celebration as they streamed on the ice.
“It almost feels like a movie,” said the San Jose Sharks draft pick. “If it was a movie it would be a picture-perfect ending to my junior career. There definitely were some tears and hard times but it shows if you never give up you can accomplish your dreams.”
They accomplished their dream in style, essentially winning the title in the first period after scoring three-straight goals in a span of 10 minutes, compliments of Stephen MacAulay, Jonathan Drouin and Stefan Fournier.
After a huge two-goal game, MacAulay, who’s won three President Cups and a Memorial Cup in his five year junior career, dedicated his latest title to his mother Jean, who passed away in March.
“She passed away, but she’s been with me every day,” said MacAulay. “I’ve thought about her so much this series. She’s with me right now.”
As expected the Drakkar weren’t going to go down without a fight.
Valentin Zykov made it a two-goal game with 6:50 left in the second frame.
But led by Zach Fucale’s 33 saves, the Mooseheads weathered the storm with smothering defence.
Nathan MacKinnon helped seal the deal with his 11th tally of the playoffs with just over six minutes to go in the contest. MacAulay put the finishing touches on the scoring with his second of the night into the empty Baie-Comeau net with 1:19 in regulation.
From there, it was party time in Halifax. As the final seconds ticked off the clock, it was the loudest the Metro Centre has ever been, with everyone standing on their feet cheering.
When the game ended, Fucale threw his glove and blocker into the air and was swarmed by his teammates just inside the blueline.
“It’s all about all 25, 26 guys; I really mean that,” said Fucale, who was a rock between the pipes for the Mooseheads all postseason long. “We did it together, we needed everyone to buy into the system. I’m so proud of everyone: staff, fans, coaches. I could not be any happier.”
After the game-ending handshakes, the Mooseheads, sporting their championship hats, waved in unison to the crowd for the record-setting support they received all season.
Then it was the trophy presentations. First the playoff MVP award went to Drouin, as he led the team in playoff scoring.
Then came the big one – the President Cup. Co-captains Lewis and Stefan Fournier were presented the Cup from QMJHL Commissioner Gilles Courteau.
The pair hoisted it into the air and then shared the trophy with their teammates.
With the series win, the Mooseheads have punched their ticked to the Memorial Cup starting next Friday in Saskatoon.
“It’s a feeling I can’t explain,” said MacKinnon. “But it’s what we play for.”