Welsh will see lion's share of action with McDonald gone

Jason Malloy
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Business is about to pick up considerably for Matthew Welsh.

The 16-year-old Charlottetown Islanders goalie inherits the starter's job with Mason McDonald attending Canada's world junior camp. If McDonald makes the team, he would be gone for 11 games.

"It's pretty exciting," Welsh said before Thursday's practice. "Mason has gone to world juniors, that's exciting for him, but it opens up an opportunity here for me, so I'm going to do my best to take advantage of it."

There's no easing into the starter's role, as the Islanders (12-16-2-1) host the Maritimes Division-leading Moncton Wildcats (20-10-4-0) tonight at 7 p.m. in the first of three games in three nights.

The Islanders are still searching for consistency and are 2-7-1-0 in their last 10 games.

Welsh, who hasn't played since Nov. 21, said he doesn't see it as added pressure.

"It's a team game," he said. "We're all in this together, and no matter what, I know the team has my back, so I'm not feeling the pressure too much."

The 16-year-old Halifax native was the Islanders second-round pick in the 2015 draft. He made the team out of camp and the Islanders have been pleased with his play and continued development.

"He carries himself like a 20 year old, not like a 16 year old, a real even-keel personality," head coach Jim Hulton said.

He has notice growth in Welsh's game, adapting to the speed of major junior, tracking the puck and fighting through the traffic in front of him.

"He's a student of the game. He loves video and likes to analyze the other team," Hulton said. "He's a sponge and has absorbed a lot."

Welsh started playing hockey when he was five years old and was initially a forward. He moved to the crease in his first year of midget after trying it out at his father's hockey camp.

Welsh said he had the athleticism for the position and agreed the lore of the goalie's gear was another draw.

There may have been another reason as well.

"My older brother would always put me in net for street hockey and I just kind of latched onto it," Welsh recalled.

That older brother is Nick, an 18-year-old defenceman now in his third season with the Shawinigan Cataractes.

The two teams don't play until February when they meet twice.

"It's going to be pretty exciting. I've never played against him before," Welsh said.

Welsh was the backup goalie to Ian Scott with the winning Canada White team at the under-17 world hockey challenge in November in British Columbia. He said playing internationally was an enjoyable experience that he hopes to relive.

"Wearing the Maple Leaf is something pretty special and it's something you'd want to do again," he said. "I'm going to be working my hardest to try and make that under-18 team and move on from there."

Matthew Welsh

Who - A rookie goalie with the Charlottetown Islanders.

Personal - A 16-year-old Halifax native.

The latest - Welsh becomes the Islanders starter with Mason McDonald at Canada's world junior camp.

2015-16 Statistics

W     L       OTL  SOL     GAA   SAV%

3       5        0       1       3.40   .901

Did you know? Welsh made 20 saves for a shutout in his first major junior game on Sept. 12.

Quote - "I've been ready for this opportunity . . . and I'm looking forward to it."

Favourite food - Sushi is one of them.

Favourite movie - All of the Rocky franchise.

Favourite TV show - Suits

Favourite professional hockey team - Montreal Canadiens.

Favourite goalie - Carey Price.

Organizations: Islanders, Maritimes Division, Montreal Canadiens

Geographic location: Canada, Halifax, British Columbia Maple Leaf

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