The Halifax Mooseheads (photo above) won their first Memorial Cup on Sunday night, beating the Portland Winterhawks 6-4 in the final in Saskatoon.
Nathan MacKinnon had a hat-trick for the Mooseheads, including the final goal into an empty net, while Jonathan Drouin had five assists. MacKinnon is ranked second among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting for next month’s entry draft, while Drouin is ranked third.
“I might not score a bigger goal in my life,” MacKinnon, told reporters afterwards about his empty-netter. “It’s just … 22 seconds left. We won it. We’re champions. The empty netter will be in my mind forever.”
MacKinnon, who grew up in Halifax, added two assists in the final game and was named the tournament’s most valuable player after scoring seven goals and adding six assists in four games. Drouin posted 1-8-9 totals in four games. Portland Winterhawks defenceman Seth Jones, ranked No. 1 by Central Scouting, had 2-2-4 totals in five games.
This marked the third straight year a QMJHL team won the Memorial Cup, following the Saint John Sea Dogs in 2011 and the Shawinigan Cataractes last year.
The Canadiens announced Monday that they have hired Shane Churla as their chief amateur scout. The 47-year-old comes to the Canadiens after working as an amateur scout with the Dallas Stars organization. A sixth-round pick of the Hartford Whalers at the 1985 entry draft, Churla spent 11 seasons in the NHL with the Whalers, Flames, North Stars/Stars, Kings and Rangers. In 488 games, he had 26 goals and 45 assists to go along with 2,301 penalty minutes.
“Shane played a major role in our amateur scouting department and we want to thank him for his eight years of dedicated service to the Dallas Stars organization.” Stars GM Jim Nill told the Dallas Morning News. “We also want to congratulate Shane on his promotion to Montreal and wish him only the best in his future endeavors.”
In other news Monday, Canadiens prospect Dalton Thrower was traded by the WHL’s Saskatoon Blades to the Vancouver Giants. The Canadiens’ second-round pick (51st overall) at the 2012 entry draft, Thrower posted 6-21-27 totals to go with a plus-18 in 54 games with the Blades the season.
Meanwhile, Halifax captain Trey Lewis has something in common with a couple of current Canadiens: Francis Bouillon and Josh Gorges were both captains of their junior teams when they won the Memorial Cup.
Bouillon was captain of the Granby Predateurs when they became the first Quebec team in 25 years to win the Memorial Cup in 1996 with Michel Therrien as his coach.
“It’s a pretty funny story,” Therrien once recalled in an interview with Gazette sports editor Stu Cowan about the day he named Bouillon captain. “He was not the captain when we started the season. We sat down together and I asked him what it would mean for him to be captain of our team. And he was giving me all the right answers: ‘I have to lead by example, I have to work hard, I have to do this, I have to do that.’ I said: ‘You forgot something.’ He said: ‘What?’ I said: ‘You have to want to be the first guy to lift the Memorial Cup.’ That was our goal, and he did it, 25 years after Guy Lafleur (with the Quebec Remparts).”
Recalled Bouillon before this season: “That was my last year (in junior) as a 20-year-old. He brought me in his office and said: ‘I believe in this team and we’re going to have a great season. You’re going to be my captain and your job will be to help me bring the team together.’ We worked together a lot during the season. Every week I was in his office to give him feedback on how the guys were feeling, if the team was tired, what the team needs to be better. It was a great season and my best memory of Michel was when we won the Memorial Cup.”
Gorges, who was born and raised in Kelowna, B.C., was captain when the Kelowna Rockets won the Memorial Cup in 2004.
“The best memories you have of winning are of the battles you go through with the guys,” Gorges told canadiens.com. “You come out of a game and look around the room and all you see is guys that are banged up – they’ve got ice-packs on their shoulders on their knees, cuts and stitches – and you know how tired they are because you know how tired you are. Then you get up the next day to play and you look around the room and all the guys that were beat down the day before are all fired up and ready to go right back and battle some more. When you win together you become friends forever. Most of those guys that I won with on that team are all my good friends still today.”
(Photo by Liam Richards/The Canadian Press)