The P.E.I. Rocket play the second game of their best-of-seven Quebec Major Junior Hockey League opening round playoff series against a tough Val-d’Or team tonight.
The local club requires a big effort every night against a club that beat the Rocket both times this season, once here 6-3 early in the season and in a 6-5 shootout March 1 in Val-d’Or, which represents one of the longest road trips in Canadian junior hockey.
The Rocket finished the regular season with 41 wins, a franchise record and 86 points while Val-d’Or posted a 35-27-6 mark for 76 points. This is a tough opponent for the Rocket in the first round and the visiting Foreurs have lots of firepower including Anthony Mantha (50-39), slick European Anton Zlobin (29-62) and a pair of 30-goal snipers in Brandon Hynes (36-40) and Cedric Henley (31-33). Add Samuel Henley (23-23) and Vince Dunn (25-27) to this group and one can see why this series could be a long one.
The Rocket have plenty of offence as well with league scoring champ Ben Duffy (39-71) and talented Josh Currie (49-55) plus Matt Beran (24-25) in 45 games, Louick Marcotte (27-27) and Victor Provencher (24-25).
The standout play of Yan Pavel LaPlante after missing 50 games on a line with Marcotte and Provencher has taken the pressure off the big trio of Duffy, Beran and Currie. In addition, rookie Alexis Pepin, who has 18 goals, has really stepped up his game and justified the faith the Rocket had in making him their first pick last summer.
In this series, it’s the defence and goaltending that could be the difference and right now the Rocket ‘D’ of Alex Micallef, Tomas Pavelka, Jimmy Oligny and Ryan Graves are collectively playing their best hockey of the season. It’s a big reason why the Rocket finished 15-3-1-1 in their last 20 games. The goaltending duo of Antoine Bibeau and Maxime Lagace has been sharp as well down the stretch, and if the strong play continues in the playoffs, the Rocket could have a long post-season run. And speaking of noise, it’s about time Island hockey fans get out and support the Rocket, who are coming off a record-breaking season. Game time is 7 p.m.
While much of the basketball attention has been focused on the March Madness tournament south of the border and on the Miami Heat’s 24-game NBA win streak, the Summerside Storm open their National Basketball League of Canada playoffs Sunday afternoon at Credit Union Place against Windsor Express. Storm players have been visible in various Charlottetown locations this past week and they’ve built up a big following here in the capital city. I’ve seen the team in action and the product is excellent.
Local boy Doug McKinney, who starred at Charlottetown Rural a decade ago, chipped in 16 points in his last outing. If you’re looking to see great live basketball, take in Summerside’s big playoff game on Sunday at
The National Hockey League is past the halfway mark and the playoffs are a possibility for all but two or three teams.
The Duffy boys of Charlottetown, Roger and Mike, (not the senator) are two of the most passionate Toronto Maple Leafs fans on the Island and they are organizing a trip for a Maple Leafs playoff game. I’d suggest delaying those plans as the playoff spot is still a matter of great debate.
The brothers whistled a similar tune this time last year and we all know what happened. The next five games will decide if Toronto makes the playoffs or not. They meet East rivals Boston, Ottawa, New Jersey, New York Rangers and Washington Caps. After those games we’ll get an idea if a trip to T.0. Is in the works or not.
The Toronto Blue Jays have looked good in spring training and the American League East pennant looks like a real possibility. The Yankees will start the season without Alex Rodriquez, Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson and with Derek Jeter on the limp. Looks like a rough season for the boys from Gotham.
New York’s arch-rival Boston Red Sox aren’t much better. The Bosox staff is anchored by Jon Lester and Ryan Dempster and Clay Buchholz — hardly Cy Young-type talent.
On offence, David Ortiz is lame and may be out quite a while. And let’s not forget, they have by far the worst manager in all of baseball in John Farrell. The Yankees and Red Sox could very well be last and second last in the East. Wouldn’t that be something?
No live harness racing at Red Shores Charlottetown until next month, but there’s plenty of simulcast action and the city track is extremely busy with young horses going through their “spring training.”
I dropped into Mark Bradley’s barn on Thursday and he and Evan Ford have 10 on the go with another four aged horses yet to come. One of the colts owned by Bill and Brian Andrew is a Shadow Play two year old called Hurrah, renamed after a popular speedster that campaigned here in the early 1960s. Hurrah was trot bred by Rodney out of Kimberly Mine and he could fly. He is from the same family as Falcon Almahurst. He was brought to this country by Kensington’s Earle Semple and raced primarily for Jack Ferguson and occasionally by Walter Craig. He was the fastest horse I ever saw for a piece in this region with awesome closing wallop, a one-eighth in 13 seconds and change in defeating horses like Thinks Dream and Diller Sport in a June, 1963 race at the CDP. If the present day Hurrah is anything like his namesake, he’ll be something special. He’s by Shadow Play so that’s gotta help.
Six divisions of the Levy series highlight the Yonkers card but trainer Mark Ford has just two in to go, including Eighteen and River Shark, and they drew the outside.
Mark MacDonald bagged a hat trick Thursday night at Yonkers including an upset victory with Shawn MacIsaac’s Charlotte’s Maggie ($45-win ticket). MacDonald has shifted his operations to The Meadowlands for the time being and has 10 or 11 in to go tonight.
James MacDonald, who was leading the nation in wins with 16 when he was injured mid-January at Woodbine, is finally back in action. He was 2-for-3 Thursday night, missing by a neck and nose. The breeding farms are in full swing and will be until May or early June. I am hearing good reports about babies in training by Meridian sire Ameripan Gigolo (Artsplace) whose first Maritime crop hit the track this summer.
Artsplace is also the sire of prominent Island-based stallion Articulator and Windfall Blue Chip, Art Major by Artsplace.
Fred MacDonald’s column appears in
The Guardian each Saturday. Contact
him at firstname.lastname@example.org.