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It will be an all-QMJHL championship game at the Memorial Cup on Sunday.
The Rouyn-Noranda Huskies beat the Guelph Storm 6-4 in Friday's semifinal at a sold out Scotiabank Centre to send them to the final against the host Mooseheads.
"I think that's great," said Rouyn-Noranda forward Peter Abbandonato. "A lot of people say our league isn't as strong as the other leagues so it's fun to show them tonight we're a strong league like the OHL and WHL.
"It's going to be great to play in the atmosphere in the final. Even though it'll be a visitor atmosphere for us, it's going to be electric and a lot of fun."
The desperation from the Huskies and Storm was on display from the moment the puck dropped and stayed that way throughout the night. Both teams put extra effort into every check and didn't let up at any point. In the end, the Huskies outskated and outlasted the Storm in the do-or-die game.
"We knew we had to be sharper mentally," said Rouyn-Noranda forward Felix Bibeau. "We needed to have more confidence in ourselves and I think tonight we made some great plays. We had confidence with the puck and that was really important. It was an amazing game to play and to watch, I guess. I think the fans here had a great time and it was a really fun game to be a part of."
Unlike some elimination games, this was no chess match. Both teams kept attacking from start to finish and tried to pressure the other side into making defensive mistakes. There was no shortage of quality scoring chances and both goalies had to come up big to keep it close.
"We both had some ups and downs and we both had our chances with the momentum," Abbandonato said. "But we played them hard for 60 minutes and you saw at the end of the game their top guys were getting tired. We were grinding them and finishing our hits. It just shows the kind of team we are."
The teams traded goals at a furious pace in the first two periods, with neither team ever holding a lead for longer than a couple of minutes. It was 2-2 after the first 20 minutes and 3-3 after 40, setting the stage for a dramatic third period.
Bibeau emerged as the hero when he scored twice to deliver the win.
"Obviously it was huge," Bibeau said. "Both of my goals, my linemates did a great job and I shot the puck in the net at the end but it all started with them. I have to give them a lot of credit."
Despite the two-goal cushion provided by Bibeau, the Huskies had to weather one last push by the Storm. Isaac Ratcliffe scored his second of the night with his team's net empty and 1:13 left on the clock but that turned out to be Guelph's last gasp. Rafael Harvey-Pinard clinced the win when he blocked a shot and went in alone to seal the win with an empty-netter with 2.9 seconds left.
"If he doesn't block that shot they might score and the game might go to overtime and then you never know," Bibeau said. "It was a huge play and that's why he's our captain and our leader."
Joel Teasdale, Tyler Hinam and Alex Beaucage also scored for the Huskies and Jack Hanley and Cedric Ralph had the other Guelph goals.
Anthony Popovich finished with 33 saves for Guelph and Samuel Harvey stopped 34 shots for Rouyn-Noranda.
"The first time we played them I think we were impressed by them and for a lot of guys that was the first game in a tournament like this," Abbandonato said. "A lot of our guys didn't have that experience under their belts and we got caught watching their skills and the way they were moving the puck. Tonight we were well prepared."
As is always the case in the Memorial Cup, the ending was abrupt for the Storm. They played more than 100 games this year and survived a long, hectic run in the OHL playoffs before it all came to an end.
"It's been a fun ride and I'm going to miss it a lot," said Hanley, a graduating overager. "I don't think it's even set in that it's over. It's upsetting but at the end of the day I'm proud of our team.
"We overcame a lot and made some history. That'll be nice to look back on and just being part of this team was really special."
For the Huskies, the national championship is still within reach. They'll catch their breath on Saturday and then go back to the emotional and physical well one more time on Sunday night.
"I think it's going to be an NHL atmosphere here," Bibeau said. "We're going to enjoy it because at the end of the day that's why we play hockey. We're going to try and have fun but we'll need to stay calm because the crowd's going to be behind them."
The Huskies got the best of the Mooseheads 4-3 in the round-robin and beat them in six games in the QMJHL final. This will be eighth meeting between the teams in the past month.
"We're starting to get a little rivalry between us but we'll try just to put that behind us," Abbandonato said. "Even if there's a lot of tension between the teams, we'll just put it on the ice and play whistle to whistle, and just have some fun at the end of the day."