Islanders feel 'up to the challenge' of playing Mooseheads

Jason Malloy
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Charlottetown starts playoff series Friday in Halifax

The message from the Charlottetown Islanders is simple: Why not us?

The team begins the first round of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League playoffs tonight against the defending Memorial Cup champion Halifax Mooseheads. Charlottetown is ranked 15th of the 16 playoff teams while Halifax is the second seed.

“Everyone thinks we’re the underdogs, but why not us?” said Islanders leading-scorer Daniel Sprong, who turned 17 on Monday. “We’re very excited to play them. It’s going to be a challenge for the young group that we have, but we’re up to the challenge.”

Game time is 8 p.m. from the Halifax Metro Centre and the contest will be broadcast live on Sportsnet. Eastlink will broadcast games 3 and 4 from Charlottetown, but there is a blackout in place in P.E.I.

“Everyone might think we’re not going to beat them, but we, as a team, know that we definitely have a chance,” said Liam Alcalde. “We look at it as any other game and we’re coming out to win.”

Alcalde was part of the Mooseheads run to the Presidents Cup and Memorial Cup a year ago. He was acquired by Charlottetown at the trade deadline.

He said a key to beating the Herd would be playing physical.

“They have a bunch of high-skilled guys. I think if we keep them outside, keep hitting them, keep laying the body on them, they’re going to wear down,” he said.

Robert Pelletier said he was amped up to play tonight’s playoff game.

“I haven’t been sleeping really well lately. I can’t stop thinking about it. I can’t wait for Friday,” he said. “We have a big task ahead and I couldn’t be more excited.”

Pelletier enjoys playing a shutdown role and said if he is matched up with Halifax top guns it would be important to play in the Halifax zone as much as possible and limit their opportunities.

Rookie centre Alexandre Goulet said the Islanders have played two good games with the Mooseheads this month, giving the team confidence heading into the best-of-seven series.

“We’ll be ready for tomorrow night,” he said.

The Islanders left Charlottetown Thursday after a morning practice. They will skate this morning in preparation for the opener.

The Islanders are expected to have everybody except left-winger Spenser Cobbold, out with a broken jaw, available for tonight’s game. Second-year centre Nathan Yetman, who missed the last game of the regular season with an upper body injury, practiced the past two days and was expected to be ready for tonight’s game.

Halifax native Mason McDonald gets the start in the Islanders crease.

Coach Gordie Dwyer said McDonald and Eric Brassard have both played well down the stretch.

“It’s a decision we didn’t take lightly,” he said. “I think Mason is up for the challenge.”

The Mooseheads, the seventh-ranked team in the Canadian Hockey League, can bring a wealth of offensive talent like Jonathan Drouin, Nikolaj Ehlers, Brooklyn’s Darcy Ashley, Hunter River’s Brent Andrews and MacKenzie Weegar.

“They have a complete lineup. They have some of the top players in the Canadian Hockey League,” Dwyer said. “I think it’s critical we play them as much as possible five-on-five.”

He added the Mooseheads also have the best junior goalie in Canada in Zachary Fucale, who played at the world junior championship this year.

Dwyer said his team will have to fight hard to get traffic in front of Fucale and use screens, tips and rebounds to score.

“We’ve gone through a lot throughout the season. Now is an opportunity for guys to bring their game to the next level,” Dwyer said. “We look forward to the challenge of playing the champs.”

 

 

Playoff schedule

Game 1 – Tonight

Charlottetown at Halifax, 8 p.m.

Game 2 – Saturday

Charlottetown at Halifax, 7 p.m.

Game 3 – Tuesday

Halifax at Charlottetown, 7 p.m.

Game 4 – Wednesday

Halifax at Charlottetown, 7 p.m.

Game 5 – Friday, March 28*

Charlottetown at Halifax, 7 p.m.

Game 6 – Sunday, March 30*

Halifax at Charlottetown, 3 p.m.

Game 7 – Tuesday, April 1*

Charlottetown at Halifax, 7 p.m.

* If required

 

 

Islanders top-five scorers

Players                GP    G     A     Pts.

Daniel Sprong       67    30    38     68

Alexandre Goulet   66    26    22     48

Anthony Cortese    68     8     25     33

Kameron Kielly      66    10     21     31

Spenser Cobbold    50    14    16     30

Mooseheads top-five scorers

Players                 GP    G    A      Pts.

Jonathan Drouin     46    29    79    108

Nikolaj Ehlers         63    49    55    104

Darcy Ashley          48    30    50    80

Brent Andrews        63    28    41    69

MacKenzie Weegar  61    12    47    59

 

Islanders goalies

Players                W    L    OTL  SOL    GAA    SAV

Mason McDonald    8    15    1      2       3.44    .900

Eric Brassard         7    20    1      0       3.56    .901

Mooseheads goalies

Players               W    L    OTL SOL    GAA    SAV

Zachary Fucale    36    9    0       3       2.26    .907

Kevin Darveau     11    9    0       0       3.30    .895

 

By the numbers

Record

Mooseheads – 47-18-0-3.

Islanders – 21-39-3-5.

Goals for

Mooseheads – 292.

Islanders – 186.

Goals against

Mooseheads – 182.

Islanders – 256.

Penalty minutes

Mooseheads – 1,146.

Islanders – 1,279.

Past 10 games

Mooseheads – 10-0-0-0.

Islanders – 3-4-2-1.

 

Head-to-head meetings

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 Halifax 7

March 11

Halifax 3 at Charlottetown 2 (OT)

Organizations: Islanders, Halifax, Quebec Major Junior Hockey League Canadian Hockey League

Geographic location: Charlottetown, Brooklyn, Hunter River Canada

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