The Charlottetown junior Islanders of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League entertain Acadie-Bathurst Titan in an exhibition game Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Civic Centre as each team finalizes its roster for the upcoming season.
The Islanders will be without six regulars who are at NHL training camps, including star forwards Matej Beran and Yan-Pavel Laplante, defencemen Ryan Graves and Troy Vance and goaltenders Antoine Bibeau and Eric Brassard.
I talked with assistant coach Luke Beck the other night at the ball game and he told me that the coaching staff is excited about the group of 16- and 17-year-olds, especially Alexis Pepin who showed flashes of brilliance towards the end of last season. Other youngsters that have impressed at camp include Germany’s Marco Sedlar, Daniel Sprong, Alex Goulet, Bradley Kennedy and Charlottetown’s Kameron Kielly recently acquired via a trade but a first-round midget pick in the 2012 Quebec league draft.
The regular season kicks off with a bang Friday, Sept. 13 when the Memorial Cup champion Halifax Mooseheads are in town.
On the gridiron
The National Football League opened Thursday night with Denver routing the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens as Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning tossed seven touchdown passes, including two to ex-Patriots star Wes Welker.
On Sunday, 13 games are on the menu with a doubleheader set for Monday night. I believe the NFC is much deeper than the AFC and the toughest division is the NFC West which boasts San Francisco (11-4-1), Seattle (11-5), St. Louis Rams (7-8-1) and Arizona 5-11). Atlanta (13-3) and a much improved Carolina (7-9) are the best in the NFC South while Green Bay (11-5) and Minnesota (10-6) appear the class of the NFC North. The NFC East could be up for grabs with Washington (10-6), New York Giants (9-7), Dallas Cowboys (8-8) and Philadelphia (4-12) capable of beating each other on a given night.
The AFC has Super Bowl champions Baltimore (10-6), New England (12-4), Denver Broncos (13-3), Houston (12-4) and Indianapolis (11-5) but I’m not sure any of these is strong enough defensively to beat the top NFC clubs. The “Sports Prophet” is confident the Super Bowl will rest in the NFC camp this time around.
While I usually sit out the first two weeks and evaluate form before plunging into the forecasting picture, I do look for big improvement from Kansas City (2-14) under head coach Andy Reid from Philadelphia and quarterback Alex Smith from San Francisco. The Chiefs are at Jacksonville and should cover as four-point favourites.
Tampa Bay visits New York Jets in what is called the Darrelle Revis bowl after the star corner left Gotham for Florida. The Jets are terrible offensively, and the Bucs who are favoured by a field goal, will win here. It may not be pretty but a win is a win. Houston visits San Diego and the home team is the four-point underdog. Texans are much better than the Chargers, so jump aboard the Houston bandwagon. One game to stay away from is the Seattle at Carolina game and this is a tough game to call.
As for the Super Bowl forecast, San Francisco and Seattle, both from the NFC, are far superior to any of the AFC teams and barring injuries to key people, either of these two win the Super Bowl.
And look what’s happening on the local football front.
The Holland College Hurricanes wind up their training camp with two practices today at the UPEI field from 9-11 a.m. and 4-6 p.m. The Hurricanes have 65 players in camp under the watchful eye of head coach Mark MacDougall who has added ex-UPEI defensive great Mike Lyriotokis to his coaching staff. All reports suggest that the Hurricanes have plenty of speed on both offence and defence and that always helps. In addition, the Holland College team has added a six-foot-two quarterback with a very strong throwing arm in Windsor, Ont. native Christian Hackney.
Booster club members will be at both practices selling regular season packages. Football in the fall, a love affair in North America.
On the links
The golf season still has a month or two to go and perhaps longer for addicts who play until the snow arrives.
The UPEI women’s basketball team, under head coach Greg Gould, has a fundraiser (and they certainly need financial help) set for Thursday, Sept. 19 at Rustico Resort. For further information, contact Panther Central at 566-0368 or contact Kathy or Adrian Murray at email@example.com.
George McGuigan fired a 68 at Avondale before heading out to Fort McMurray and his playing partner Wendell MacEachern closed with a 74, his best round ever. Must be those lessons from pro Dave Bowlan.
A big contingent from Ontario played this past Wednesday at Avondale and Queens economics guru Rob Boadway and his wife Bernadine found the course tough but a beauty. Bernie also sank a birdie.
In Monday play at Belvedere, Souris native Tom Mullally has been holding his own with the Monday regulars. He’s picking up money at the golf course and at the race track with his horses.
The Charlottetown Minor Hockey Association holds its registration today at the CARI Complex lobby from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. One of the hockey executives, George Halliwell, has been leading the way by collecting used and almost new hockey gear for players at all levels of minor hockey and it’s free. If you have gear that your kids have grown out of, you can help by donating it or putting it in the bin yourself this morning. The hockey equipment is available for all associations while quantities last. If you are a parent and looking for hockey gear contact George at 626-7026.
Rain forced a schedule change for the Charlottetown baseball Islanders who met Moncton Mets last night at Memorial Field in game four of the best-of-five semi-final series. Islanders Jordan Stevenson pitched a terrific game and was in command going the distance in Tuesday’s 5-2 Islanders win here. This is a series the Islanders can win, so let’s hope there is more baseball. Game five (if the Islanders won) goes today in Moncton.
On the track
Local harness racing continues tonight at the city track with a 12-dash card that gets underway at 6 sharp.
The $1,750 feature goes in the finale and the eight-horse field has attracted the likes of Nobestbfor (Walter Cheverie), Miracle Matts (Blois MacPhail), Veronicavermillion, who takes a drop in class, for driver Brian MacPhee. Races 5 and 7 feature the Billings International Drivers competition and these guys that drive in Canada, the U.S. and, I believe, Europe are very competitive.
There’s also a big simulcast card from Mohawk with the Simcoe Stakes for the top three-year-old pacers, including Sunfire Blue Chip, Sunshine Beach and Vegas Vacation as well as eliminations for the Canadian Trotting Classic.
Ageless Silent Swing (Mark MacDonald) goes tonight at Yonkers, N.Y., in Race 11 and this former Gold Cup and Saucer winner has seven wins this season, a 1:49.3 win and more than $122,000 in the bank already this season.
He’s been quite a pony.
A Rocknroll Dance, who won the Canadian Pacing Derby last week at Mohawk in 1:47.2, is out of Wichita. Hanover, whose sister She Butterfly has a Camluck three-year-old filly Saffron Seelster in training under Earl Watts. Hmmm.
While on the topic of breeding, the Atlantic Classic Yearling Sale is set for 2 p.m. Friday, Oct. 11 in Crapaud with 113 yearlings listed in the sale book. All the top Atlantic Canada sires as well as Shadow Play, and the first crops by Sportswriter, Proven Lover and Driven to Win are represented. A deep sale and looks like a buyers sale since there are so many good ones, on paper.
Fred MacDonald’s column appears every Saturday in The Guardian. To comment, email firstname.lastname@example.org.