Fiddler's Facts: A look at the Island Storm and Maple Leafs

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The Island Storm visits Halifax tonight for a date with the Rainmen in the sixth game of their National Basketball League of Canada Atlantic Conference final leading 3-2.

A victory will send the Island Storm into the league championship against the winner of the other semifinal series where the regular season champion Windsor Express holds a 3-2 lead against London Lightning.

The Express (38-13) face the defending champion Lightning tonight in London and, if a seventh game is needed, it will be played Tuesday in Windsor.

A Storm loss tonight in Halifax will mean a seventh and deciding game in Charlottteown but based on Tuesday night’s spectacular Storm performance at home, this series could be over tonight. Let’s hope so.

The two-day delay in starting Game 6 is great news for the Island Storm as its team MVP Antonio Ballard is playing hurt and guard Al Stewart is still sidelined. The depth has really paid off for the Island club as Steve Tchiengang, Ed Jones, Jeremy Williams and Casey Love have helped fill the void when Ballard was out.

Guard Nick Okorie and point guard Adrian Moss have been outstanding in filling Stewart’s absence. And how about local boy Doug McKinney, who had his two best games as a pro against this heady company. 

The Storm is attempting to bring the league championship back to Charlottetown for the first time ever. The Storm is the only game in town, so let’s fill the Eastlink Centre for their remaining home games.

NHL

The Stanley Cup playoff hopes of the Toronto Maple Leafs and their millions of fans across the country likely rests on the outcome of tonight’s home game in Toronto when the Detroit Red Wings come calling.

It’s a must-win game for the Leafs, who had lost six straight heading into last night’s game in Philadelphia. They are mired in a struggle with the Wings, Columbus Blue Jackets and Washington Capitals for two of the wild card spots in the Eastern Conference.

The Maple Leafs have just seven games remaining while the other contending clubs have a game(s) in hand, which makes tonight’s game so very important. A loss and it’s a very tough struggle for the Maple Leafs as far as playoffs are concerned, although they finish the regular season with three on the road against Tampa Bay, Florida and Ottawa — hardly NHL titans.

The Leafs were outhustled, outplayed and outshot badly in Tuesday’s 5-3 loss to the St. Louis Blues and even the return of star goalie Jonathan Bernier could not save them from a fate they deserved. The Leafs’ offence is limited to the Phil Kessel line plus talented young offensive defencemen Jake Gardiner and Morgan Rielly and that’s about it.

Dave Clarkson, the heralded off-season acquisition from the New Jersey Devils, has been non-existent. He’s making $5 million per season, which right now amounts to about a $1 million a goal.

When Brian Burke and newly minted Leafs GM Dave Nonis announced defenceman Dion Phaneuf would lead the Leafs to the promised land, they should have clarified the matter. The promised land for Dion is Stanley Bridge, P.E.I., in mid-April waiting for lobsters and the North Shore golf courses to open.

I think Burke and Nonis had something else in mind. As far as leading the Leafs to hockey glory, that’s not likely to happen anytime soon.

Hockey fans shouldn’t be too hard on Nonis. There’s worse GMs in the NHL, just take a look at Glen Sather’s record with the New York Rangers and the financial blunders he has orchestrated or the performance of the Edmonton Oilers duo of Kevin Lowe and Craig MacTavish, who still haven’t figured out championship teams are built from the backend out.

These two keep pointing to their Stanley Cup rings when the Oilers had the likes of Gretzky, Messier, Kurri, Anderson, Coffey, etc.

Fisheries Minister Ron MacKinley, who played junior with the infamous Rogers Rangers in the late 1960s, could have gotten a ring aboard that club.

Easter Seals Ambassador Brett Robinson is a big time Maple Leafs fan and hoping for a Toronto rebound. He has plenty of supporters.

Bantam hockey

The Irving Cup bantam AAA regional hockey tournament starts Thursday in St. John’s and the Charlottetown Abbies will represent P.E.I.

Baseball

I know it’s hard to think about baseball after a two-day blizzard, but Toronto Blue Jays play New York Mets in a two-day exhibition in Montreal. Fans purchased 55,000 tickets for the Blue Jays’ Friday’s exhibition game and likely tonight will be a sellout.

Wouldn’t it be great to see baseball back in Montreal?

And speaking of baseball, Don MacDougall, who played a huge role in bringing baseball to Canada is back in the province for his induction as chancellor at UPEI. It must be some shock coming up from Blue Jays camp in Dunedin, Fla., to three days of blizzards here on P.E.I.

Harness racing

No live harness racing today at Red Shores but there’s plenty of simulcast action.

The Levy series for older pacers goes tonight at Yonkers with three divisions at $50,000 each.

Foiled Again handled Apprentice Hanover (Jody Jamieson) and his six others winning by three lengths in 1:52 and change last Saturday in his seasonal debut. Apprentice has the rail tonight in a softer division and no doubt J.J. will send him to the front this evening.

At the Meadowlands tonight, the $83,000 Clyde Hirt final for three- and four-year-olds is the feature and Wake Up Peter (Scott Zeron) has the 10-hole in a tough field that includes the likes of  Avatartist, Berkantine Hanover, Alexas Jackpot and six others.

Mark MacDonald posted a hat trick and two deuces in Saturday night’s Pocono opening card. He gave Eighteen a new record of 1:49:3 in the $21,000 pace feature and was second in 1:52:2 with Daylon Magician in the $25,000 feature trot.

At Woodbine tonight, the $28,000 feature goes in Race 6. James MacDonald drives Modern Legend but he has been saddled with the outside 10 hole. Others to watch include Machal Jordan, Anderlecht, Wazzup Wazzup, Cougar Hall and five others.

Last Monday at Woodbine, Amigo De Grande handled by Anthony MacDonald won the $34,000 open trot for the second straight week. Amigo was a $25,000 December claim by trainer Carmen Auciello and has now banked more than $80,000 thus far in the campaign.

The Charlottetown sports scene was deeply saddened by the sudden passing of Frank (Pooch) Bradley, who was an Islanders season ticket holder and a regular on the Island harness racing scene. His nephew, Mark Bradley, is one of the top drivers in the region and his brother Richard was one of the top trainers in North America working for many years with Stanley Dancer and Roach MacGregor.

Pooch was a great guy and a great family man. My condolences to all connected to this gentleman.

Fred MacDonald's column appears in

The Guardian each Saturday. He can be

reached at fiddlersfacts@hotmail.com.

Organizations: Toronto Maple Leafs, NHL, Eastlink Centre Detroit Red Wings Toronto Blue Jays Columbus Blue Jackets Washington Capitals Edmonton Oilers St. Louis Blues New Jersey Devils New York Mets

Geographic location: Halifax, Canada, Iceland Charlottetown Londonand Toronto Charlottteown Philadelphia Tampa Bay Florida Ottawa Montreal Stanley Bridge North Shore Dunedin, Fla. Yonkers Hanover North America

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