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Last-minute trades don’t always work out.
Sometimes late additions upset team chemistry and a roster that looks good on paper flops in the playoffs. Other times a couple of deadline pieces fit the puzzle perfectly and make a good group great. That’s how it worked out for the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies this year, but the risk came with careful calculation by head coach and general manager Mario Pouliot.
Heading into the QMJHL trade period, Pouliot had the league’s first-place team but felt a few finishing touches would push it over the top. He narrowed his focus to three players he knew enough about to feel comfortable pursuing aggressively.
Pouliot started by reacquiring Louis-Filip Cote, a forward who was originally drafted by the Huskies but had to be sacrificed in a deal with the Quebec Remparts in 2015-16 to load up for that year’s successful championship run. Because Pouliot and his staff knew exactly what they were getting in the two-way centre, pulling the trigger was easy.
The next target was robust winger Joel Teasdale, who went to back-to-back finals with the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada in 2017 and 2018 but never won. He already had a reputation as a hard-edged player and Pouliot double-checked with Teasdale’s former coach, Joel Bouchard, before committing to the move. It also helped that Pouliot coached against Teasdale’s Armada in last year’s final and saw first-hand the different ways he contributes.
The veteran forward was a physical menace for the Huskies in this year’s championship and finished as the league’s top playoff scorer with 34 points in 20 games.
“It’s unbelievable,” said the Montreal Canadiens prospect. “I’ve been waiting for this for a long time. It’s three years in a row that I’ve been in the final and it’s incredible the feeling you get when you win, especially with this group.
“I got lucky when I was traded here but at the same time I feel like I deserved it a little bit. I work hard every single day and this is a team that’s recognized for having a good work ethic. It feels good that they wanted me because of that part of my game.”
The trade that brought it all together was also the most comfortable for Pouliot. He had to sacrifice a truckload of assets to pull off a complicated three-way manoeuvre with the Chicoutimi Sagueneens and Bathurst Titan to engineer a reunion with star defenceman Noah Dobson.
Pouliot and Dobson won the President Cup and Memorial Cup together a year ago with the Titan and the familiarity made the acquisition a slam dunk in the coach/GM’s mind. Dobson went on to finish tied for third in league playoff scoring with 29 points in 20 games and was named MVP after the Huskies clinched the title at the <QL>Scotiabank Centre on Saturday.
“You don’t get to win championships very often so I’m pretty fortunate to have the opportunity to win in back-to-back years,” said Dobson, who is from Summerside. “Hats off to Mario for going out and making a trade for me. I was really happy to join this organization.”
The trick now will be for the Huskies to extend their momentum into the tournament. They don’t play their first game until Saturday night against the OHL’s Guelph Storm, which gives them enough of a break to rest but also keeps them idle for more than a week.
“We just have to prepare the same as we did for the final and we’re going to be OK,” Teasdale said. “We know what we need to do and I know we’ll be ready, that’s for sure.”
The first game of the tournament is on Friday when the Mooseheads host the WHL’s Prince Albert Raiders, who defeated the Vancouver Giants 3-2 in overtime of Game 7 on Monday night to win the Western league title. The Huskies and Mooseheads will do battle at least one more time. They meet in the round-robin next Wednesday and could face each other again in the playoff round.
“That was a tough series against them,” Teasdale said. “They played great and it wasn’t easy. They were physical and they were fast. They’re good offensively and they were good in every game. We have to give them that.”