The Charlottetown Islanders entertain the Quebec Remparts and the Halifax Mooseheads here this weekend in the hopes of ending a six-game losing streak in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. The Islanders got off to a fast start but have now slipped below .500 with Wednesday‚Äôs 3-2 loss to Acadie-Bathurst.
The Remparts come to town tonight (7 p.m.) at the Eastlink Centre and there‚Äôs no team with a more storied history against the Islanders than the Remparts. Thoughts of Guy Lafleur and Jacques Richard against those great Junior Islanders teams of Al MacAdam, Bob MacMillan, Hillard Graves, Angus Beck and the Steeves brothers (Tim and Tom) in the 1970 Memorial Cup bring back fond memories. Neither the Remparts nor the present day Islanders have that type of firepower but they‚Äôre both respectable. The Remparts are 15-10-3-3 for 36 points and ninth overall while the Islanders have 30 points and sit 13th.
The Remparts have snipers in Anthony Duclair, Adam Erne and Fabrice Herzog and should be a tough test tonight for the Islanders.
Charlottetown boasts top young talented rookies Daniel Sprong and Alexandre Goulet and sophomore Kameron Kielly plus a strong group of veterans in Matt Beran, Yan Pavel Laplante and Alexis Pepin. When these three bring their A game, the Islanders are sound offensively. And let‚Äôs not forget captain Jack Nevins, who signed a three-year deal with the Montreal Canadiens this past week.
Since coming to the Island from the OHL, Nevins has never stopped working. The fact that he was named captain speaks volumes about his character, and his overall game has improved in leaps and bounds.
Jack and his teammates will all need to play their best, not just tonight but Sunday (4 p.m.) when high flying Halifax visits. The Mooseheads have Jonathan Drouin, one of the most exciting players in the league, plus all-star goalie Zach Fucale and a couple of Islanders in Darcy Ashley and Brent Andrews.
This is a great test for the Islanders and we‚Äôll see how they respond.
UPEI basketball fundraiser
In efforts to raise money for his UPEI basketball program, head coach Tim Kendrick has formed a four-team Charlottetown senior league with UPEI players working some of the games as officials.
The players in the new senior league include ex-Cape Breton Capers standout guard Ryan Kelliher who was Capers semifinal game MVP at the Halifax nationals a few years ago. Others include ex-university and college stars like ex-Panthers Jeff Walker, Jason MacDonald, Jon Cooper, and Jermaine Duke plus Jon Lane, Leo Morris, Kevin MacQuaid and numerous college, high school and Canada Games players. Kendrick‚Äôs men‚Äôs Panthers earned a split last week in Cape Breton, beating the Capers and losing to X in overtime. The Panthers did well considering the fact that they travelled six or seven hours Friday morning, the day of the game. Apparently university athletics has no money, so neither the men‚Äôs nor women‚Äôs team could stay overnight Thursday in Sydney.
Live harness racing goes today and Sunday at Red Shores Charlottetown with race programs getting underway at 1 p.m. This afternoon‚Äôs $2,200 feature race goes in Race 11 and it includes, from the rail out, Blu Meadow Willie (Gilles Barrieau), Ultimate Luck (Ken Arsenault),Pinner (Mark Campbell), Doll R General (Mark MacKinnon), Painted Desert (Brian MacPhee), Lucky Encounter (Walter Cheverie), Machinthesand (Brodie MacPhee) and Narragansett (John Holmes).
Sunday afternoon‚Äės card has two $1,750 co-features plus an $1,800 trot among the 11 races.
Simulcast racing is available from Flamboro this afternoon and Woodbine tonight at the CDP. The $24,000 Woodbine feature goes in Race 2 and it includes Grande Seelster (Bill Davis), Aslan (James MacDonald), McKinney (Sylvan Filion), Cougar Hall (Jack Moiseyev), Sweet Talkin Satin (Keith Oliver), Apprentice Hanover (Jody Jamieson) and Champagne Phil (Anthony MacDonald).
Last week‚Äôs $512,000 TVG Invitational Pace at The Meadowlands proved that Foiled Again (Yannick Gingras) must be one of the greatest horses of all time as the nine-year-old beat Golden Receiver (Cory Callaghan) and Bolt the Duer (Mark MacDonald) and seven others in that star-stacked field, the mile in 1:49. Neither Pet Rock nor the sensational three-year-old Captain Treacherous could get near the leaders.
Simulcast racing is also available tonight from the Meadowlands.
There‚Äôs a lot of interest in the O‚ÄôBrien Awards here this February and that‚Äôs great for hotels and restaurants around the city.
The National Football League heads into week 14 and there are many games with playoff implications on the schedule. Let‚Äôs take a look at a few of them.
Minnesota (3-8-1) at Baltimore (6-6) - This is a huge game for the defending champion Ravens and after back-to-back wins appear to be playing their best football of the season. The Vikings downed the Bears in overtime and have the best running back in the game in Adrian Pederson but little else. Give up seven points and take the Ravens.
Miami (6-6) at Pittsburgh (5-7) - Right now, the Dolphins are the AFC seventh seed, the Steelers ninth, so this is a do-or-die game for Pittsburgh. Ex-Steeler Mike Wallace comes to town with a Dolphins team that features a top QB in Ryan Tannehill. The Fish coming north in December is never a wise bet, so I‚Äôll take the home team but only by a field goal.
Detroit ( 7-5) and Philadelphia (7-5) - This is a huge game for both clubs. The Eagles have come to life behind QB Nick Foles but they‚Äôre porous defensively. The Lions can match the Eagles offensively and then some with QB Matt Stafford, running back Reggie Bush and receiver Calvin Johnson. I usually never bet the Lions on the road but they clobbered Green Bay last week and it‚Äôs that Eagles D that tells me to bet the Lions. You get a bonus, too, as the Eagles are three point favourites.
Seattle (11-1) at San Francisco (8-4) - This is the biggest game of the weekend. Both coaches Jim Harbough (San Fran) and Pete Carroll (Seattle) hate one another and each team wants to make a statement as the playoffs near. The Seahawks are without Percy Harvin and the 49ers get top receiver Michael Crabtree back and that‚Äôs great news for struggling QB Colin Kaepernick. It looks like Seattle at 11-1 will be the home team throughout the playoffs, except the Super Bowl. This is a must-win for San Francisco and I think they win a close defensive nailbiter. I like the home team but this a game to watch, keep your money in your pocket.
If you‚Äôre looking for an upset how about Dallas Cowboys (7-5) at Chicago Bears ( 6-6) on Monday night. The Cowboys are two point underdogs against a Bears team that has no defence against the run or the pass. Dallas is not much better defensively, but they‚Äôll score more. Take the points and bet the Cowboys.
Atlanta Falcons (3-9) at Green Bay (5-6-1) - The Falcons looked solid last week in handling Buffalo at Toronto‚Äôs Rogers Centre. That was a dome game and now the already eliminated Falcons travel to frigid Green Bay for the still playoff-alive Packers. Green Bay‚Äôs great QB Aaron Rodgers hasn‚Äôt been cleared for contact and he‚Äôs out for Sunday and maybe the rest of the year. That changes the water in the beans, the Falcons could and should upset.
As always pay the mortgage first, the picks are for fun.
Fred MacDonald‚Äôs column appears in The Guardian every Saturday.