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The 2019 Memorial Cup: A look at each of the four teams at this year’s tournament

ABOVE: The Memorial Cup is set to kick off in Halifax. As part of the opening ceremonies, the cup arrived in Halifax aboard the HMCS Glace Bay. Jesse Thomas has more.

The 2019 Memorial Cup is set to get underway this weekend. As players hit the ice and fans climb into the stands here is what you need to know about the four teams competing in the 101st edition of the Canadian Hockey League tournament.

READ MORE: Halifax Mooseheads focus on long playoff run, Memorial Cup will come later

Halifax Mooseheads, Host

Memorial Cup history: Third appearance, host in 2000, won in 2013 as QMJHL champions

Head coach: Eric Veilleux

Captain: Antoine Morand

The skinny: NHL draft-eligible winger Raphael Lavoie paced the Mooseheads offence through the QMJHL playoffs, leading all scorers with 20 goals in 23 games. Halifax nearly suffered a first-round upset, having to go to a Game 7 against the Quebec Remparts just to advance. A first-round exit could have raised questions about the Mooseheads being good enough to compete with three league champions as the host team. But they proved their legitimacy by sweeping the Moncton Wildcats, taking down the higher-ranked Drummondville Voltigeurs and going six games with Rouyn-Noranda for the President Cup.

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WATCH: Halifax hosts the 101st Memorial Cup this week

Halifax hosts the 101st Memorial Cup this week
Halifax hosts the 101st Memorial Cup this week

Halifax has eight NHL prospects on its roster, including defenceman Jared MacIsaac (Detroit), who was part of Canada’s 2019 world junior team, while veteran forward Samuel Asselin did his part after being acquired from defending Memorial Cup champion Acadie-Bathurst, leading the team in the regular season with 48 goals and 86 points in 68 games. The Mooseheads went 25-5-4 at the Scotiabank Centre this season for the third best winning percentage on home ice (.794).

Halifax is going for its second Memorial Cup after a Nathan MacKinnon-led squad beat the Portland Winterhawks in the 2013 championship.

Rouyn-Noranda Huskies’ Peter Abbandonato, left, shoots on London Knights goalie Tyler Parsons during first period CHL Memorial Cup hockey action in Red Deer, Tuesday, May 24, 2016.
Rouyn-Noranda Huskies’ Peter Abbandonato, left, shoots on London Knights goalie Tyler Parsons during first period CHL Memorial Cup hockey action in Red Deer, Tuesday, May 24, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Rouyn-Noranda Huskies, QMJHL champions

Regular-season record: 59-8-1, first in QMJHL standings, No. 1 in CHL rankings

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Memorial Cup history: Second appearance, lost in 2016 final

Head coach: Mario Pouliot

Captain: Peter Abbandonato

The skinny: The Huskies used a 25-game game win streak in the regular season to prove they were for real, eventually vaulting past the Prince Albert Raiders into the No. 1 spot in the 60-team CHL rankings. Abbandonato, who led the QMJHL with 111 points in 68 games to earn the Jean Beliveau Trophy, got his team to the post-season, and then Rouyn-Noranda’s depth took over when needed to capture its second league title.

READ MORE: Acadie-Bathurst Titan celebrate first-ever Canadian major junior hockey championship

Abbandonato played the first two rounds against the Shawinigan Cataractes and Victoriaville Tigres before going down with mononucleosis ahead of Round 3. Forwards Joel Teasdale (the QMJHL post-season points leader with 34 in 20 games), Felix Bibeau and Rafael Harvey-Pinard and defenceman Noah Dobson carried much of the workload offensively against the Rimouski Oceanic without their captain, who returned for the final, while Samuel Harvey did his part in net with a playoff-best 1.97 goals-against average. Dobson, part of last year’s Acadie-Bathurst Memorial Cup championship team coached by Pouliot, went on to be named QMJHL playoff MVP with 29 points in 20 games.

Rouyn-Noranda has never won a Memorial Cup, falling 3-2 in overtime against Mitch Marner, Matthew Tkachuk and the London Knights in the 2016 tournament final.

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The Guelph Storm won the OHL Western Conference after defeating the Saginaw Spirit on Monday, April 29, 2019 in Saginaw Mich.
The Guelph Storm won the OHL Western Conference after defeating the Saginaw Spirit on Monday, April 29, 2019 in Saginaw Mich. Guelph Storm / Twitter

Guelph Storm, OHL champions

Regular-season record: 40-18-10, eighth in OHL standings, unranked

Memorial Cup history: Sixth appearance, 1996 OHL runner-up, 1998, 2004 and 2014 OHL champion, 2002 host

Head coach: George Burnett

Captain: Isaac Ratcliffe

The skinny: The Storm had one of the most difficult roads to the Memorial Cup, having to go through the top two teams in the OHL West before knocking off the No. 4-ranked team in the country, the Ottawa 67’s, in the OHL final. After sweeping the Kitchener Rangers, they fell behind 3-0 to the London Knights in Round 2 and 3-1 to the Saginaw Spirit in Round 3 and had to overcome seven elimination games just to reach Ottawa. Guelph didn’t crack the CHL top-10 rankings despite its firepower, in large part because the Storm roster didn’t come together until January. General manager/coach Burnett made five major trades at the deadline for a playoff push, and it paid off.

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READ MORE: Guelph Storm win OHL championship, earn spot in Memorial Cup

Guelph is arguably the best team on paper, featuring four Canadian junior national team members, and was led in the playoffs by a deep core featuring childhood friends Nick Suzuki and captain Ratcliffe, as well as Nate Schnarr, a 102-point producer in the regular season. Suzuki was one of the players Burnett acquired mid-season and the Montreal Canadiens prospect went on to win OHL playoff MVP with 42 points in 24 games. He found the scoresheet in 17 of his final 18 post-season games to upset three teams that finished higher than Guelph in the standings.

Guelph has never won a Memorial Cup, falling twice in the tournament final. First in 1998, a 4-3 overtime loss to Marian Hossa and the Portland Winterhawks, and a 6-3 defeat against Curtis Lazar and the Edmonton Oil Kings in 2014.

The Prince Albert Raiders downed the Vancouver Giants 3-2 on May 13, 2019, to capture the Ed Chynoweth Cup and advance to the Memorial Cup.
The Prince Albert Raiders downed the Vancouver Giants 3-2 on May 13, 2019, to capture the Ed Chynoweth Cup and advance to the Memorial Cup. Brenden Purdy / Global News

Prince Albert Raiders, WHL champions

Regular-season record: 54-10-4, first in WHL standings, No. 2 in CHL rankings

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Memorial Cup history: Second appearance, won in 1985 as WHL champion

Head coach: Marc Habscheid

Captain: Brayden Pachal

The skinny: The Raiders are back at the Memorial Cup for the first time in 34 years after beating the Vancouver Giants in seven games in the WHL final. Their return to the national championship isn’t a fluke either as Prince Albert was the No. 1-ranked CHL team for the majority of the season until being bumped to No. 2 by Rouyn-Noranda down the stretch. Habscheid, who became the eighth WHL coach in history to reach 500 wins and 1,000 games this season, easily led his club past the Red Deer Rebels, Saskatoon Blades and Edmonton before needing an overtime goal in Game 7 from trade-deadline acquisition Dante Hannoun to get by Vancouver.

WATCH: Dante Hannoun Game 7 OT hero for Prince Albert Raiders

Prince Albert Raiders edge Vancouver Giants in OT to win WHL Championship
Prince Albert Raiders edge Vancouver Giants in OT to win WHL Championship

The Raiders are a balanced lineup offensively, with draft-eligible Brett Leason, Noah Gregor, Aliaksei Protas and Hannoun sparking much of the goal scoring. Goaltender Ian Scott, a Toronto Maple Leafs prospect, built off his strong regular season and was named WHL playoff MVP for his efforts. He went 16-7 and led all netminders with a 1.96 GAA, .925 save percentage and five shutouts.

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Prince Albert is going for its second Memorial Cup title after its 1985 championship, when coach Terry Simpson led the Raiders to a 6-1 win over Shawinigan in the final.

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