The Charlottetown Islanders will meet the defending Memorial Cup champions in the opening round of the playoffs.
The Islanders (21-39-3-5) finished 15th in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) and will meet the second-place Halifax Mooseheads (47-18-0-3) in the first round.
“We know we have a lot of work ahead of us,” said 20-year-old Islanders defenceman Troy Vance. “We’re going to give them all we’ve got and right now that’s all we’re focused on.”
Games 1 and 2 of the best-of seven series will be played in Halifax on Friday and Saturday with the third and fourth games at the Eastlink Centre in Charlottetown on Tuesday, March 25 and Wednesday, March 26.
Game 5, if needed, would be played Friday, March 28.
The matchup also means a couple more chances to see Brooklyn’s Darcy Ashley and Hunter River’s Brent Andrews play on the Island. Both are in their final junior seasons.
It also means a chance to see two of the top scorers in the league in Tampa Bay draft pick Jonathan Drouin (108 points in 46 games) and Nikolaj Ehlers (104 points in 63 games). They finished second and fourth in the league.
Halifax’s Zachary Fucale, a Montreal Canadiens draft pick, also led the league with a 2.26 goals-against average.
The Herd scored the second most goals (292) and gave up the third fewest (182) in the QMJHL and enters the playoffs as the league hottest team, winning its past 13 games.
Charlottetown scored 186 and gave up 256 and is 3-4-2-1 in its past 10 games, including a 3-2 overtime loss to Halifax on March 11.
Charlottetown was led offensively by rookie linemates Daniel Sprong (30 goals and 38 assists in 67 games) and Alexandre Goulet (26 goals and 22 assists in 66 games).
Goalies Eric Brassard and Halifax native Mason McDonald have kept the Islanders in games and stole them some points down the stretch.
“We’re a young team, but the guys are growing up and getting more mature and it shows each and every night,” said Vance, an assistant captain and the only overager on the team.
Sept. 13, Halifax 2 at Charlottetown 5; Oct. 23, Charlottetown 2 at Halifax 4; Nov. 15, Halifax 4 at Charlottetown 3; Dec. 8, Halifax 4 at Charlottetown 1; Jan. 8, Halifax 5 at Charlottetown 2; Jan. 15, Charlottetown 1 at Halifax 5; Feb. 19, Charlottetown 1 at Halifax 5; March 6, Charlottetown 4 at Halifax 7; March 11, Halifax 3 at Charlottetown 2 (OT).