Needing a lift at the Memorial Cup tournament, the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies turned to a hometown hero Monday night.
Cole Harbour’s Tyler Hinam tallied twice to lead the QMJHL champion Huskies to a 6-3 victory over the Prince Albert Raiders in a battle of winless 0-1 teams at the Scotiabank Centre.
Hinam opened the scoring in the first period and netted the game-winner, snapping a 3-all deadlock with 4:32 left in the third. The 19-year-old winger followed a Noah Dobson rush, pounced on a loose puck and, from a scramble in front of the Raiders goal, beat netminder Ian Scott.
"We were just praying on the bench that we would get the next one and fortunately it came to me in the slot and I was able to bury it," Hinam said. "I was pretty happy when that went in."
A loss would have put Rouyn-Noranda in a precarious position at the tournament. Instead, the Huskies move into a tie with the Guelph Storm (1-1).
Their final round-robin game is Wednesday night against the host Halifax Mooseheads, the team they defeated in six games to claim the President Cup league title.
"We're more happy than relieved," Hinam said of the victory. "We have a big one against Halifax on Wednesday so we have to turn the page quickly and get ready for that one."
Prince Albert, on the other hand, now faces a must-win scenario. The WHL champion Raiders need to beat the Storm on Tuesday night to keep their season going.
"Tomorrow is a huge game obviously for us to stay alive," Raiders forward Cole Fonstad said after Monday's loss. "We have to put this one behind us and take the things we did well. If we bring the same effort tomorrow and clean up a couple things, we should be OK."
A Prince Albert victory over Rouyn-Noranda would have secured the Mooseheads’ a spot in Sunday’s final.
Halifax (2-0), by virtue of victories over Prince Albert and Guelph, holds the tiebreaker over both the Raiders and Storm. The Mooseheads can still advance directly to the tournament championship with a win over Rouyn-Noranda.
Much of the Scotiabank Centre crowd - whether it was cheering against the QMJHL rival which beat the hometown Mooseheads in the league championship or knowing a Raiders' win would've punched Halifax's ticket to the final - was certainly on Prince Albert's side.
Loud cheers rained down after each Raiders goal. Hinam found it amusing.
"It wasn't like a home crowd out there for us," Hinam joked. "I thought it was kind of funny. I think 90 per cent of the people here are Mooseheads fans so I guess they don't like us very much.
"But it was nice to get it done in front of my friends and family definitely. They had Huskies jerseys on, for sure."
Rouyn-Noranda scored three goals in a 2:20 span late in the third to break open an otherwise close contest. Joel Teasdale notched his second goal of the game and Dobson added an empty-net marker in the closing minutes.
"It was an up-and-down game, like a ping pong match," Hinam said. "That's not usually our style. But it speaks volumes about the calibre of our team. We can play that way and still be successful. We're just happy we got the win."
Felix Bibeau also scored for the Huskies. Fonstad, Brayden Pachal and Noah Gregor replied for the Raiders. Both teams finished with 33 shots on goal in the game.
Each side had several chances in the back-and-forth battle. Prince Albert head coach Marc Habscheid, during his post-game news conference, estimated his team hit 5-6 posts in the game.
"I liked how we played," said Fonstad, who beat Huskies netminder Samuel Harvey on a wraparound 8:32 into the first to even the score at 1-1.
"We created a lot of chances and we were playing fast. But we had trouble getting pucks out when we needed to. Sometimes you just need to chip the puck out and we didn't do that a couple times and it cost us. We have to learn from that because we have a big game tomorrow."