CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. – The Charlottetown Islanders served notice this week they want to be the team that represents the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League in the Memorial Cup this spring by trading for a number of talented players.
The Islanders had won its first four games after the Christmas break and one of the major reasons has been the strong, and sometimes spectacular, play of goaltender Matthew Welsh.
I keep hearing rumours from the gallery gods the Islanders need better goaltending but I’ve never seen young Welsh have a bad game. He was especially strong in a relief role filling in for Mason McDonald last season and has carried over his excellent work in the pipes again this season. He was recently named the league’s player of the week and even though the Islanders traded for goaltender Mark Grametbauer, Welsh has gotten the bulk of the work because of his admirable play. Maybe the goaltender the Islanders have been looking for is in their midst and playing right now.
Earlier this week, the Islanders significantly increased their talent level and team strength by adding high-scoring forward Alex Dostie, forward Francois Beauchemin, forward Adam Marsh and six-foot-one, 200-pound defenceman Carl Neill, the Phoenix captain and the league’s highest-scoring defenceman this season.
The arrival of high-scoring Daniel Sprong from the Pittsburgh Penguins and the impressive play of newly acquired defenceman Nicolas Meloche suggest this club is the best we’ve had here in 14 years.
Prince Edward Island hockey fans can see the new look Islanders in action today at 2 p.m. at Eastlink Centre when they host the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles. It’s time to jump aboard the Islanders bandwagon for the stretch run.
The UPEI men’s hockey Panthers are in action tonight 7 p.m. at Eastlink Centre as part of the Hockey Day in P.E.I. doubleheader when they tangle with St. FX.
The Panthers (5-9-3, 13 points) faded badly after a fast start and they’ll need to be at their very best against X (11-7, 22), the defending Atlantic University Sport (AUS) champions.
The women’s Panthers face Dal today at 3 p.m. on campus and host St. FX Sunday at 2 p.m.
In basketball play, the men’s Panthers entertain Dal tonight at 8 p.m. in a crucial game for UPEI, which will have a full line-up for the first time this season. The women Panthers play the 6 p.m. game here tonight also against Dal.
The Island Storm tangles with Saint John Riptide Sunday at 2 p.m. at Eastlink Centre. The Storm has a number of new faces in Leon Gibson, Jahii Carson, A.J. Stewart plus standouts from last year in Terry Thomas, Tirrell Baines and fan favourite Nick Okorie, who returned after a season away. Saint John has two of the league’s best in Anthony Anderson and Gabe Freeman and new faces as well, so this should be very entertaining.
Local harness racing continues today at 12:30 p.m. at the city track with a 15-dash card.
The $2,300 feature goes in Race 14 with Forever Paradise on the outside in a field that includes IDK, Doing Some Damage, Rash B Havior, Woodmere Articblue, Jetster and DB’s Rosco.
At Woodbine tonight, Modern Legend (James MacDonald) is the favourite in the $34,000 top class against a field, which includes Nickle Bag, Alexas Jackpot, Mach Pride, American Virgin, Domethatagain and Prescott’s hope.
At Flamboro, Proven Desire showed some of his old form on New Year’s Day to win easily for owner Blair Hansen and trainer-driver Jason Ryan in 1:54:4. On the same card, Time Warp (by Neal) won easily in 2:00:2 for Travis Cullen.
Racing returns to Yonkers, New York on Sunday and this card is simulcast into France. The feature trot goes for a hefty $75,000 trot.
James MacDonald is one of four Canadian drivers in the drivers’ championships starting Monday in Ohio.
Fred MacDonald's column appears every Saturday in The Guardian. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.