The Memorial Cup, a four-team round-robin tournament to determine the champion of the Canadian Hockey League, features the winners of the Ontario Hockey League (Guelph Storm), Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (Rouyn-Noranda) and Western Hockey League (Prince Albert Raiders), and the host Halifax Mooseheads of the QMJHL. The event is being held at Scotiabank Centre in Halifax, Nova Scotia, from May 17-26, and features several NHL-drafted prospects and some eligible for the 2019 NHL Draft.
In the first game of the Memorial Cup, Halifax defeated Prince Albert 4-1 on Friday.
Here are three things we learned on the first day:
1. Gravel in command
Halifax goalie Alexis Gravel (Chicago Blackhawks), a sixth-round pick (No. 162) in the 2018 NHL Draft, made 23 saves, including all 10 shots in the first period, to set the tone in the tournament opener.
The 19-year-old goalie went 14-8 with a 2.73 goals-against average and .917 save percentage in 23 QMJHL playoff games, losing a six-game series against Rouyn-Noranda in the QMJHL's President's Cup. Gravel was the beneficiary of solid support in his own end, particularly from defensemen Jared McIsaac (Detroit Red Wings) and Jake Ryczek (Blackhawks).
Ryczek scored his first postseason goal off a one-timer from the top of the left circle to give Halifax a 3-1 lead 15:52 into the second period.
Prince Albert, which led the WHL with 307 regular-season goals (4.51 goals-per game) and 79 playoff goals (3.43 goals-per game), finished 0-for-4 on the power play.
2. Gregor continues strong postseason
Prince Albert center Noah Gregor (San Jose Sharks) scored a goal off a deflection at the left post 10:46 into the second period and had four shots on goal. He had 24 points (13 goals, 11 assists) in 23 playoff games for the Western Hockey League champion.
Gregor (6-foot, 186 pounds), a fourth-round pick (No. 111) in the 2016 NHL Draft, has five points (four goals, one assist) in his past four playoff games. The Sharks signed Gregor to a three-year, entry-level contract on April 6, 2018.
"His combination of talent, hockey sense, speed and hard-working nature make him a player that can be counted on in all facets of the game," San Jose general manager Doug Wilson said.
3. Lavoie in spotlight
Halifax right wing Raphael Lavoie, No. 20 in NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters eligible for the 2019 NHL Draft, is looking to make one last impression on NHL scouts in his final tournament of the season.
Lavoie (6-4, 196) had the primary assist on a goal by Samuel Asselin to give Halifax a 1-0 lead at 10:49 of the first period. Lavoie finished second with 32 points (20 goals, 12 assists) in 23 QMJHL playoff games and has six points (three goals, three assists) in his past seven postseason games.
"Lavoie has the size and puck skills you can't teach with good hockey sense," said Troy Dumville, of NHL Central Scouting. "He's an attractive package with the skating, strength and two-way game he possesses."
2019 Memorial Cup schedule
May 17: Halifax 4, Prince Albert 1
May 18: Rouyn-Noranda vs. Guelph (3:30 p.m. ET; SN, TVAS, NHLN tape delay 1 a.m. ET)
May 19: Halifax vs. Guelph (7 p.m. ET; NHLN, SN, TVAS)
May 20: Rouyn-Noranda vs. Prince Albert (7 p.m. ET; NHLN, SN, TVAS)
May 21: Guelph vs. Prince Albert (7 p.m. ET; NHLN, SN, TVAS)
May 22: Halifax vs. Rouyn-Noranda (7 p.m. ET; SN, TVAS)
May 23: Tiebreaker, if necessary (7 p.m. ET; NHLN, SN, TVAS)
May 24: Semifinal (7 p.m. ET; NHLN, SN, TVAS)
May 26: Final (7 p.m. ET; NHLN, SN, TVAS)
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