© Jason Malloy/The Guardian
Charlottetown Islanders head coach Jim Hulton speaks to his team Tuesday.
The Charlottetown Islanders complete a two-game weekend homestand tonight when they host Chicoutimi in a game with Quebec Major Junior Hockey League playoff implications.
The Sagueneens and Islanders are among the teams fighting for eighth place and the extra home game in the opening playoff round. Cape Breton, Victoriaville and Quebec are also in the mix as the teams head towards the last quarter of the regular season.
Oliver Cooper has been a catalyst for the Islanders and his line with talented Dan Sprong has been the difference, as Charlottetown surges towards a top-eight finish.
Their push towards the top took a dramatic, and abrupt, stop with a 7-2 loss in the Port City midweek and, in that one, the big line came up empty. Losing to teams that are above them in the standings hurts the cause, that’s why tonight’s game against a good Chicoutimi club is so very important. Game time is 7 p.m.
The UPEI Panthers closed out their men’s hockey regular season Friday against UNB.
Gardiner MacDougall’s UNB club had clinched top spot while Forbie MacPherson’s Panthers could finish no higher than fifth and will open the playoffs on the road.
The Panthers have drawn the admiration of hockey fans, not just on the Island but around the league, for their all-out hustle and work ethic and, on most nights, they give the best teams fits.
Team captain Mason Wilgosh graduates this spring and he reminds me of a pit bull on skates. He’s a big hitter for a little guy and the ideal leader ready to sacrifice himself for the team.
Also graduating are reliable Spencer Metcalfe and talented forward Cole MacMillan, who like Wilgosh can score and is just as physical.
Goaltender Mavric Parks, the greatest goaltender ever to play at UPEI, will be departing, and most schools would be devastated by such a loss. The Panthers, however, have Matt Mahalak waiting in the wings to be No. 1 and he has been outright brilliant on most nights we’ve seen him.
As for the playoffs, the Panthers will have to be at their very best. Goaltending can steal a series and the Panthers have two standouts. We know the effort will be there, so we’ll have to wait and see.
Memorial visits UPEI in key basketball games today and Sunday while the Island Storm meets the Orangeville A’s Monday afternoon at Eastlink Centre on Islanders Day.
Team West AA midgets, with The Prophet coaching, downed Team East with Bruce Rainnie behind the bench 6-5 in a shootout last Saturday night in Alberton in a charity event, which raised in the vicinity of $6,000 for the cause. Goaltenders in the final period, Kaleb Coyle from Summerside and Matt Halliwell, were spectacular.
The O’Brien Awards go tonight in Toronto where Canadian harness racing honours its best performers of 2015. Bill Andrew will be presented with the Cam Fella Award and he’s also in the running for breeder of the year. Dr. Ian Moore is up for horsemanship and photographer Francis Lund is recognized for photography media.
At Woodbine, Atlantic Sires Stakes standout Proven Desire goes tonight from the outside in the $20,000 Race 6 for James MacDonald.
At Yonkers, Mark MacDonald has Bad Boy Matt in the $32,000 feature against the likes of Atta Boy Dan, Phil Your Boots and others.
At the Big M, Limelight Beach makes his 2016 debut in the $20,000 top class.
Fred MacDonald's column appears every Saturday in The Guardian. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.