Ross Johnston remembers Dec. 28, 2012, well.
It was the first time he played against his best friend Craig MacLauchlan.
“It was definitely weird,” Johnston said. “You kind of look over and kind of laugh . . . because you can’t really believe it’s happening.”
The two played together since novice and went to school together since Grade 1.
“Every time I have a chance to play against him it’s fun,” Johnston said. “You still have to play the game. I definitely still want to beat him at the end, on the game sheet.”
Johnston was playing for the Moncton Wildcats in December 2012 and MacLauchlan’s rights had just been traded from Halifax to the P.E.I. Rocket.
MacLauchlan’s first game in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League ended up being against Moncton at the Civic Centre.
“It was pretty cool to play against him,” MacLauchlan said. “All our buddies were there watching.”
The two were linemates for years growing up through the Sherwood Parkdale Falcons organization with MacLauchlan centering the line.
“Playing against him is completely different,” MacLauchlan said.
That became apparent when the two players met on the ice. Johnston has seven inches and nearly 50 pounds on his former linemate.
“In the end our buddies were sitting, he hit me pretty hard,” MacLauchlan recalled. “He’s a pretty big guy, it’s hard to get him back.”
The two meet again tonight when Johnston and his Victoriaville Tigres come to Eastlink Centre for a 7 p.m. contest with the Charlottetown Islanders.
“It’s always a good experience,” Johnston said of the homecoming.
His first two seasons were spent in Moncton, providing plenty of opportunities to come home to play a division rival. But Johnston was traded in the off-season to Victoriaville and tonight will be his only trip home.
“It’s a lot bigger deal for me to come home and play in front of my friends and family.”
Johnston is a left-winger playing on a checking line for the Tigres.
“I think I bring more than just toughness to the lineup,” he said. “Right now, I’m playing a bit of a shutdown role.”
Victoriaville is 24-19-4-2, but has won eight straight, including Wednesday’s 4-3 victory against the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles in Sydney, N.S.
“We’re doing really well after Christmas,” Johnston said. “Things are looking up toward the end of the year.”
Part of that improvement, he said, has to do with pieces added during the Christmas trade period, including Yan-Pavel Laplante and Julien Leduc from the Islanders.
They also added forward Jean-Francois Plante from Sherbrooke, defenceman Mark Trickett, a former P.E.I. Rocket, and forward Matthew Boudreau from Acadie-Bathurst and goalie Francois Tremblay from Val-d’Or.
Johnston has one more year of major junior eligibility.
“The goal is to play in the league as a 20,” he said. “Hopefully the opportunity presents itself to play in the league.”
He wants to continue to work on improving his skating, shot and develop his overall game and be more consistent.
His former teammate said he is pleased to see Johnston doing well.
“He’s having a great year this year, it’s just great to see,” MacLauchlan said.
u Hometown – Suffolk.
u Team – Victoriaville Tigres.
u Age – 19.
u Size, position – Six-foot-five, 224-pound left-winger.
u Trade – The Tigres acquired Johnston in the off-season from Moncton with a second-round pick for a first-round pick in the Euro draft in 2014 and a first-round pick in the QMJHL draft in 2015.
u Did you know? - Johnston was invited to the Anaheim Ducks training camp in 2013.
u Statistics -
Season GP G A Pts PIM
2011-12 38 2 5 7 55
2012-13 53 12 15 27 96
2013-14 43 9 10 19 95