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Fiddler’s Facts: Islanders better than the record shows

Charlottetown Islanders captain Pierre-Olivier Joseph brings the puck up the ice in a training camp inter-squad game earlier this year in Cornwall.
Charlottetown Islanders captain Pierre-Olivier Joseph brings the puck up the ice in a training camp inter-squad game earlier this year in Cornwall.

Islanders host Shawinigan in Quebec Major Junior Hockey League action on Saturday

The Charlottetown Junior Islanders surprised a lot of hockey fans over the past few weeks, losing in overtime to unbeaten Quebec Remparts here at home a few weeks ago and followed that strong performance with a stunning home-and-away sweep against a very good Acadie-Bathurst Titan club last week. 

The Islanders continued their hot streak Thursday night with a thrilling and well-played 3-2 victory over Saint John. 

Over this streak, the lines of Keith Getson, Matthew Grouchy and Pascal Aquin, and Samuel Meisenheimer, Adam Marsh and Gregor MacLeod have played very well, the defence has been solid especially Pierre-Olivier Joseph, Saku Vesterinen and Oliver Desjardins, and the goaltending of young Dakota Lund-Cornish and Matthew Welsh razor sharp.

Tonight,the Islanders (4-6-1) and the Shawinigan Cataractes (3-7-1) tangle at Eastlink Centre and both are among seven or eight teams battling for a playoff shot in the 18-team Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

If the Islanderrs continue to get the top notch goaltending, the playoffs are a real possibility. 

Mark (Bubble) Jones who has been coaching minor hockey for decades told me the other night at the game that two of the best players he ever saw at the Spud minor hockey tournament were Keith Getson and Chris Doyle, so maybe Getson, who leads the Islanders with five goals, is a late bloomer. Maybe Bubble didn't see this guy, but I suggest we add Sidney Crosby to that Spud tournament lis.. right Bubble!

I believe Islanders head coach and general manager Jim Hulton has done a terrific job with a modest lineup, but I shake my head in disbelief when I see Jeremy McKenna, a standout with the first-place Moncton Wildcats and the fourth leading scorer in the QMJHL wearing a Wildcats uniform. 

McKenna and Carson MacKinnon, now with Rimouski, were the two best players on the most recent P.E.I. Canada Games team and the top two scorers in the pre-games Quebec and Atlantic Canada tournament. They were also the top two in the Canada Games, although on an unbalanced schedule.

McKenna is a natural scorer and comes from a sports pedigree honestly as his dad Mark was a solid junior player and his uncle Terry was a standout university and senior star here for years. The McKenna boys play with an intensity and edge, all the more reason to draft Jeremy in the 2015 Quebec draft. He was drafted in the 5th round, 86th overall even though his Canada Games coach and Islanders assistant coach Luke Beck was extremely high on both his Canada Games stars. 

I realize both boys played at Notre Dame and not here in their draft year, but someone missed the boat and the Islanders will be paying for it over the next two or three years.

Basketball

On the pro basketball front, the Island Storm have signed Arnold Fripp , a talented six-foot, eight-inch forward out of Baltimore. Last year, the Storm had very little size and nobody that could handle the opponent's big boys. The return of crowd favourite Nick Evans at six-foot, 11 inches, Julius Barton at six-foot, 10 inches and now Fripp should solve that problem. 

Single-game Storm tickets will go on sale Wednesday, Nov. 1 at Eastlink Centre.

Harness Racing

Live harness racing continues Saturday at Red Shores at the Charlottetown Driving Park with a 14-dash card that gets underway at 6 p.m. sharp. 

The Maritime Breeders final for two and three-year-old trotters as well as an Open Mares and a top class are in the spotlight. 

The Bo Ford-trained Prettyndangerous looks like the best in the $2,250 mares event, but Brodys Leona and Ramblinglily will make it interesting. 

Iron-sided Junebugsbaby is back in the $2,400 top class, but he'll have his hands full with DGs Camme off the rail for trainer Ron Matheson and driver Gilles Barrieau.

Racing is back at Woodbine and the $27,000 top class on Saturday’s 10-dash card has Ellis Road and James MacDonald on the rail against the likes of Lyons Snyder, Fine Diamond and five others.

The Grand Circuit Breeders Crown eliminations continues tonight at Hoosier Park, Ind., with 14 elimination races.

Here's something you may not know. Classy hockey analyst-broadcaster Doug MacLean has been in the horse game for quite some time. His daughter owns a high-end equestrian apparell-equipment company and MacLean says he is “in the game since I pay board on two mares and a yearling in Florida and a similar number in Ohio.”

With great sadness, we report the passing of horseman and friend Norm Kennedy, originally from O'Leary, who passed away last week in Calgary, Alta. A major player in Alberta harness racing and a real gentleman, our condolences to all connected to this gentleman.

NFL

Last week the NFL road underdogs knocked off the favourites and torched the Las Vegas bookmakers,most notably that stunning New York Giants victory over the Broncos in Denver. Pittsburgh Steelers decided to run the ball with the best back in the league, Le’Veon Bell, and posted a stunning upset of previously unbeaten Kansas City Chiefs. 

The Patriots needed a questionable call to get past the dangerous New York Jets. What! New England has looked beatable and betting the Pats from this point onwards no matter the opponent is risky business. 

Let's take a look at these four games: 

Tampa Bay (2-3) at Buffalo (3-2) - I’ve lost faith in Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston, he’s too erratic, but not in Bills QB Tyrod Taylor. Bills at home, actough defence and great run game. Give up three points and take Buffalo.

 Jacksonville (3-3) at Indianapolis (2-4) - The Jags are for real. Their smothering defence will blank the Colts offence and Jacksonville QB Blake Bortles is more than efficient. The spread is -3 Jags, a piece of cake.

Seattle (3-2) at New York Giants (1-5) - OK, the game is in Gotham and Seattle is a six-point favourite. Giants QB Eli Manning has no weapons and the Giants defence cannot contain Seattle QB Russell Wilson.

Cincinnati (2-3) at Pittsburgh (4-2) - The Steelers have a new game plan, running the way which is their bread and butter. The Steelers are too physical for the Bengals so give away five points and take the home favourite. 

As always, pay the mortgage first. The picks are for fun.

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