In the spring of 2017, Ryan MacLellan celebrated a national hockey title with his Cape Breton West major midget Islander teammates – the Telus Cup. On May 26, he celebrated another one; this time the prestigious Memorial Cup which goes to the Canadian Hockey League (CHL) major junior champions.
The Beaver Meadow, Antigonish County resident is a defenceman with the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies. The Huskies defeated the host Halifax Mooseheads, 4-2, in the Cup final; played in front of a packed Scotiabank crowd Sunday evening, and in front of a national TV audience on Sportsnet.
The Huskies earned their way to the Memorial Cup tournament by winning the President’s Cup, emblematic of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) championship. In the QMJHL final, they defeated the same Moosehead squad.
Arriving back home in Antigonish May 29, MacLellan spoke to the Casket about the Huskies, who went into the Memorial Cup as the number one ranked team in the CHL.
“First of all, we have such a close-knit group … our team chemistry was unbelievable,” MacLellan, who split the previous season between the ‘Q’s’ Cape Breton Screaming Eagles and South Shore Lumberjacks of the Maritime Junior ‘A’ League, said.
“We were all best buddies in the dressing room, I think that helped a lot. And we had a lot of really good players; a solid four lines and seven ‘D’ … we had an unbelievable season.”
A season which saw them become enemy number one in Halifax, which had high expectations and a stacked roster, knowing they were hosting the Memorial Cup.
“We definitely got to know them over the course of the year, we played them nine times,” MacLellan said of the team based a couple of hours away from his hometown.
“We knew what we were going to face in the final. They were a big team with a great defensive core; we had to press their defence, play our game and we did.”
As for his individual season, which included three goals and five assists in 46 regular season games and another goal playing a limited role for the Huskies in post-season action, MacLellan said he thought it went “pretty good,” especially considering it started off with a lot of uncertainty.
“Not knowing really; at the start of the year I was in Acadie-Bathurst and, during training camp, I was traded. It was unexpected but it was a good thing.
“I hope to be going back to Rouyn, have a solid season and step up my game there, next season,” he said.
As for the community, one of the smallest in the CHL, MacLellan said it’s definitely a “hockey town.”
“The fans there are so supportive; the whole year there, from game one to the end of the playoffs, we received so much support from the fans,” he said. “They packed the barn every night and it was crazy loud.”
MacLellan’s accomplishment means it’s the second year in a row an Islander player from the Telus Cup year has been part of a Memorial Cup champion. Last season, Upper Pomquet’s Logan Chisholm, who scored the overtime goal for CBW in the Telus Cup final, celebrated with the Acadie-Bathurst Titan.
“It’s awesome; he congratulated me yesterday,” MacLellan said of his former teammate. “We’ll have to meet up over the summer and talk more about it.”
Chisholm joined a large number of folks reaching out to offer congratulations to the smooth-skating ‘D’ man.
“My family was so happy and proud, all my friends, everyone, I received so many messages on Facebook, texts, calls; it has been unbelievable,” MacLellan said.