The Halifax Mooseheads opened the Memorial Cup in style Friday night, downing the Prince Albert Raiders 4-1 before a rowdy and loud sold-out crowd.
The Mooseheads jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first period then cruised to victory over the Western Hockey League champions, who were sluggish and error-prone throughout the game.
The Mooseheads, on the other hand, played a crisp and very sound game, particularly at the defensive end of the ice.
Halifax coach Eric Veilleux said his team reacted well to some early physical play by Prince Albert.
"I thought we came out pretty hard. Playing fast," Veilleux said.
The Raiders had difficulty mounting any kind of sustained offence, with most of their 24 shots on Mooseheads netminder Alexis Gravel coming from the perimeter.
The ony sustained pressure came late in the second period when they had the puck in the Halifax zone for over a minute, forcing several big saves from Gravel.
"We had a little chat after the second period," Veilleux said.
Prince Albert also failed to score on three consecutive power plays in the first period, which didn’t do anything to muffle the pro-Halifax crowd.
“Obviously huge. Our penalty kill has been pretty well our bread and butter all year,” said Mooseheads defenceman Jared McIsaac. “We’ve been really good all year and obviously tonight too.”
Samuel Asselin and Xavier Parent had Halifax up 2-0 in the first period.
Prince Albert’s Noah Gregor tipped one past Gravel midway through the second period, but Jake Ryczek restored the two-goal lead before the second period was over.
Antoine Morand iced the game with an empty netter with 1:53 left on the clock.
The Raiders took six minors, including two for putting the puck over the glass.
“Overall, special teams weren’t great for us,” said Prince Albert’s Noah Gregor. “The three early was tough not to get any on that. It’s definitely something we’re going to look at.”
Raiders coach Marc Habscheid said his team was clearly nervous.
"I thought we were watching a little bit at the start," Habscheid said.
"You could tell we were nervous. When you're nervous and when you're nervous your power play really isn't good on top of that."
He said "give Halifax credit. They were heavy, they were quick, they were determined."
The Mooseheads will play it’s second game of the round robin Sunday at 8 p.m. against the Ontario Hockey League champion Guelph Storm. Game time is 8 p.m.
Saturday’s game features Guelph against the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League champion Rouyn-Noranda Huskies. Game time is 4:30 p.m.