The Halifax Mooseheads’ dream season is complete.
The Mooseheads withstood a second period push back and another one late in the game to beat the Portland Winterhawks 6-4 and earn their first ever Memorial Cup before 11,448 fans at the Credit Union Centre on Sunday night.
“It hasn’t sunk in,” said an elated Nathan MacKinnon , who finished the night with a hat trick and five points as well as tournament MVP honours. “There’s nothing left to play for. We did it. I wish I could go to the worlds with these guys.”
His linemate Jonathan Drouin, who also finished with five points, was beside himself with emotion after the victory.
“I had a really great game but so did my teammates,” he said. “We needed to come up big and we did. It just feels so great right now.”
But the title didn’t come easy.
Facing a three goal deficit going into the middle frame the Winterhawks proved why they’re the Western Hockey League champions with a resilient two-goal middle period, to make it 3-2 heading into the final frame.
But the Mooseheads dug deep in the final 20 minutes Appropriately, MacKinnon, the Memorial Cup’s leading scorer, came through for the Mooseheads again, giving the Herd a two goal cushion 7:36 into the final frame. Defenceman Konrad Abeltshauser added his second tally of the night about four minutes later to give Halifax even more breathing room.
Portland’s Brendan Leipsic scored with 5:28 left in regulation to make it 5-3 however, then Ty Rattie found the back of the net with just over a minute left to make it a one-goal game again.
But with the Portland net empty, MacKinnon scored with 22.4 seconds left and the celebration was on.
When the final seconds ticked off the clock, the team leaped onto goaltender Zach Fucale in front of the Halifax net.
“This is my greatest achievement and I think it is for everyone here.” Mooseheads head coach Dominique Ducharme said during the on-ice celebration. For the people in Halifax, we can’t wait to go back and share it with them.”
Boasting a record four regular season titles, three President Cups and two Memorial Cup wins, Mooseheads forward Stephen MacAulay dedicated his latest to his mother Jean who passed away last March.
“I wish she was here,” he said. “I love her and I know she is here with me.”
For Fucale, one of the quiet leaders of the Mooseheads who stood tall for the Herd when it counted, the title meant everything to him.
It didn’t hurt that his 18th birthday’s on Tuesday.
“This is the best birthday present I could ever get, obviously,” said a joyous Fucale. “This is crazy with all the guys, I’m so happy. ”
Lost among the Drouin/MacKinnon frenzy was the performances of two of the Mooseheads’ outgoing veterans: Abeltshauser and co-captain Stefan Fournier, who scored 25 and 31 points respectively in the Herd’s playoff and Memorial Cup drive.
“It’s hard to find words for this but I’m just so happy that my career finished on a good note,” said Abeltshauser. “I tried my best to help this team and franchise and today I got a couple of lucky bounces.”