© Guardian photo by Brian McInnis
Charlottetown Islanders' head coach Gordie Dwyer talks to his players following Monday's practice at the Eastlink Centre in Charlottetow.
Steady as she goes is the rallying call for the Charlottetown Islanders as the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League playoffs float on the horizon.
Three games remain in the 2013-14 regular season for the 15th overall Islanders (20-38-2-5), which sit two points ahead of 16th-place Shawinigan in the race for the final two playoff positions.
For Islanders forward Bradley Kennedy, 17, it’s not a bad place to be as the team’s uneven first season as the re-named Islanders winds down.
“I think we’re pretty excited. We have a clear shot to make the playoffs, just need a few points. We should be OK,” said Kennedy after Islanders practice Monday, adding that at his age growing a playoff beard may not be possible. “I think I’d have to give my life savings for one of those.”
But tonight isn’t an easy two points as the Atlantic Division champ Halifax Mooseheads (44-18-0-3) rumble into a sold-out Eastlink Centre.
Game time is 7 p.m., and there’s likely to be some tension after last Thursday’s brouhaha in Halifax which saw eight fighting majors, a bounty of unsportsmanlike conduct and misconduct infractions and 106 total penalty minutes between the squads.
“It should be a pretty interesting game tonight,” said Kennedy, who had an assist in Charlottetown’s 7-4 loss and one of those misconduct penalties.
Halifax is 6-1 versus Charlottetown this season including 2-1 at the Link. Charlottetown won its home opener versus the Herd way back in September but hasn’t sniffed the win column against Halifax since.
It’s the last regular season meeting between the teams and the last regular season appearance in Charlottetown for Islanders Brent Andrews and Darcy Ashley. The Mooseheads forwards, both 20, graduate after the playoffs.
But depending on how things shake out, the second-overall Mooseheads could be the Isles first-round opponent.
It looked like a different story after the Isles jumped out to a 10-3 record and found itself ranked in the Canadian Hockey League top-10 poll.
But Charlottetown fizzled to a 4-22 mark after that and a 14-25 record at the trade deadline in December. Several deals removed most of the veterans and remade the team into a younger and more inexperienced group that’s struggled at times but has shown signs of improvement.
Kennedy, 17, is an example. The Antigonish, N.S., native has 12 goals, half of which have come after the roster purge, and 26 points playing a regular shift.
Through it all, including a 12-game losing streak in the second half, Charlottetown has stayed competitive, rarely gets shellacked and players have remained upbeat.
“A good coaching staff has helped us stay positive, and a good group of guys and good leadership in the room,” said Kennedy.
Charlottetown remains at home to close out the season, hosting Acadie-Bathurst on Friday (7 p.m.) and Saint John on Saturday (7 p.m.).
Leading scorers for the Halifax Mooseheads and Charlottetown Islanders:
u Halifax - 1. Nikolaj Ehlers, 57 goals, 98 points; Jonathan Drouin, 25 goals, 96 points; 3. Darcy Ashley, 29 goals, 76 points.
u Charlottetown - 1. Daniel Sprong, 28 goals, 64 points; 2. Alexandre Goulet, 26 goals, 46 points; Kameron Kielly, 10 goals, 30 points.