Halifax trio rejoice in Memorial Cup win

Aaron Vickers2013 Draft Center, Features

It’s a journey that took Halifax Mooseheads draft eligible trio Nathan MacKinnon, Jonathan Drouin and Zach Fucale nine months to navigate.

In the end, the destination proved fruitful.

The group helped solidified their club as the most dominant in the Canadian Hockey League this season, capping off a Quebec Major Junior Hockey League title with a Mastercard Memorial Cup championship after dispatching of the Portland Winterhawks 6-4 in the tournament’s finale on Sunday.

“We’re the best team in the Canadian Hockey League,” MacKinnon said. “I love these guys.”

The victory wraps up a season that saw the Mooseheads go 58-6-3-1 in the QMJHL regular season, 16-1 to capture the QMJHL’s President’s Cup and 3-1 in the tournament to earn the Memorial Cup.

“It feels great to finish that way,” Drouin said. “The last game of the year, you have to bring it all and that’s what we did.”

MacKinnon and Drouin had five points each while Fucale stopped 40 shots to preserve the win, the first Memorial Cup championship for Halifax in their 19 years of existence.

“It feels great to finish that way,” Drouin said. “The last game of the year, you have to bring it all and that’s what we did.”

The tournament was one final showcase for MacKinnon and Drouin before next month’s draft in New Jersey. The duo are currently ranked second and third by Future Considerations and didn’t disappoint in their final opportunity to leave a lasting on-ice memory, each turned in a memorable performance.

“For sure we wanted to show that but more importantly, we wanted to win the Memorial Cup and that was our goal,” said Drouin, whose five points all came as assists.

With a hat-trick, MacKinnon was awarded the Stafford Smythe Award as the tournament’s most valuable player.

“It’s obviously nice,” MacKinnon said. “It’s nice to be rewarded for the tournament but at the same time, the memories are going to be with these guys winning the Memorial Cup; not so much the individual (award).”

Trailing 3-0 after 20 minutes, a pair of draft eligibles brought the Winterhawks to within one.

Nic Petan put Portland on the board with a shorthanded marker at 10:36. Seth Jones — first in Future Considerations’ ranking for the 2013 NHL Draft — added another with 1:41 remaining in the frame.

“Obviously Portland was going to give a good fight and they came back, they worked hard,” said Fucale, Future Considerations’ top-ranked goaltender. “You have to earn these games. We worked so hard and that’s why we are enjoying it so much.”

But MacKinnon restored a two-goal lead at 7:36 of the third and, after the two teams swapped goals, iced the game into an empty net in the final minute of the game to ensure victory for the Mooseheads.

“I might not score a bigger goal in my life,” he said.

After MacKinnon’s goal, he fired himself into the Halifax bench in celebration. That’s when Drouin knew he’d be hoisting the Memorial Cup.

“I think when everyone was on the bench jumping, we just realized we won the Memorial Cup,” the 18-year-old said. “It was unbelievable. Best feeling ever.”

With the NHL Scouting Combine just two days away and draft next month, the trio will have little time to celebrate.

But they’ll never forget their draft eligible season.

With files from Zenon Herasymiuk