Junior Islanders ooze potential despite playoff

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Nathan Yetman, left, is no match for Halifax Moosehead defenceman Brian Lovell during first period action Thursday, March 27, 2014 in Charlottetown.

P.E.I. squad promises different outcome for next season, into immediate future

Their playoff run obviously ended much sooner than hoped, but players, owners and fans of the Charlottetown Islanders should take heart. The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League team roster was assembled for next year and the year after, not for a deep challenge this spring. The team got a valuable taste of playoff action and it was a tough experience, one that will make them hungrier next season.

Major changes this year under the guidance of general manager Grant Sonier and head coach Gordie Dwyer resulted in a young, dynamic roster, one full of promise and potential. Goalie Mason McDonald looks to be a strong contender for Canada’s Under 18 team. Sixteen-year-old forward Daniel Sprong has all-star potential written all over him. Other key acquisitions include defencemen Luc Deschenes and David Henley and forwards Alexandre Goulet and Kameron Kielly.

McDonald was spectacular by times against the defending Memorial Cup champion Halifax Mooseheads. The games were much closer than the score sheet indicated with the Islanders always in contention until the third period when the Mooseheads depth and experience were the deciding factors.

In addition to the team’s young potential stars, the Isles have a feast of high QMJHL draft picks and top CHL import selections to further bolster next year’s lineup. So fans can take heart. There is no doubt they will see a much different team on the ice next season and very likely a serious contender the year after.

Despite a long, mid-season struggle, fans stayed loyal with an average attendance of 2,400, significantly higher than last season. The strong base of local ownership has resulted in renewed interest and now we’re all eager to see this club develop into a serious contender.

Some weekend thoughts

. . . More than 90,000 Montreal baseball fans will cram into Olympic Stadium this weekend, dreaming that it’s really their beloved Expos out there on the field and not the Toronto Blue Jays and New York Mets. Exhibition games last night and this afternoon were 45,000-seat sell-outs for the first action in the stadium in 10 years, ever since Major League Baseball moved the Expos to Washington. Expos supporters see these late pre-season games as an opportunity to show MLB that baseball deserves a return to the city. A group involving former Expos star Warren Cromartie has been formed to pursue that possibility. Vivre les Expos!

. . . Let’s hope Mother Nature saved her best for last with this “epic” two-day blizzard that brought the most severe combination of snow and wind to P.E.I. since White Juan 10 years ago. Many homes was rocking in those 110 km/h gusts which packed snow into a hard layer that even plows had a tough time ramming through. And by the way, we are getting tired of some Florida’s exports to Atlantic Canada. Oranges, grapefruit and lemons are one thing. But exporting nor’easters is another entirely. Americans love to complain about our polar vortexes and incursions of arctic air plunging into the Deep South. But how about this week’s storm which was born in the Gulf of Mexico near the Florida panhandle and crossed over the Sunshine State before rocketing up the seaboard.

. . . BELFAST: “Wanted, one Russian-speaking resident of Belfast area trained in genetics and tattooing hogs.” We don’t think there will be a stampede of possible candidates but it’s certainly one of the more intriguing Help Wanted ads to appear in The Guardian this month. Obviously, a local group is shipping a lot of P.E.I. breeding stock hogs to Russia. But you better hurry - travel restrictions on politicians and bureaucrats today, import/export limits on swine tomorrow.

Organizations: Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, Expos, Major League Baseball Toronto Blue Jays New York Mets

Geographic location: Atlantic Canada, Florida, Montreal Olympic Stadium BELFAST Washington Gulf of Mexico Sunshine Russia

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