Charlottetown’s depleted roster may have cornered the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League squad, but the Islanders continue to fight back.
On Wednesday, minus defencemen Saku Vesterinen (concussion) and Taylor Egan (shoulder), and forward Nathaniel Doyon (hip), the Isles earned a gritty 3-2 overtime win in Bathurst, N.B., against the Maritimes Division-leading Titan.
Friday, another division rival lands in Charlottetown in the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles. Game time is 7 p.m. at the Eastlink Centre.
Unlike Acadie-Bathurst, which the Isles own a 4-0 record against this season, Cape Breton (15-14-2-1) has handled Charlottetown (19-11-1) and brings its 3-1 mark versus the Isles into the Link.
So Isles head coach Jim Hulton has a good idea of what must be done for a ‘W’.
“We need to respond to their pressure forecheck. If we can be quick and clean out of our end, we will tend to be in decent shape,” said Hulton, who doubles as Islanders general manager.
Vesterinen, Egan and Doyon are shelved until after the holiday break. D-man Brendan Clavelle returns Friday after serving a one-game suspension Wednesday for a checking to the head penalty versus Gatineau last week.
Hulton had called up d-man Jack DesRoches and forward TJ Shea from the Summerside Western Capitals for Wednesday’s contest, but both returned to the Caps for its junior A road matchup Friday against Edmundston.
So the Isles brought up blue-liner Zack Arsenault from the Kensington Monaghan Farms Wild of the N.B.-P.E.I. Major Midget Hockey League to give the d-corp six guys. Arsenault has a goal and seven points in 16 games with the Wild.
Somehow despite the changes and new faces Charlottetown has managed a 7-3 mark over its last 10 games. It’s helped Charlottetown has a fifth-best penalty kill at 81.5 per cent.
Hulton would prefer it remain that high and his charges remain out of the sin bin versus the Eagles, which boast a second overall power play of 26.2 per cent.
“Once again discipline will be crucial,” he said.
Eagles leading scorer Drake Batherson is unavailable as he’s in Team Canada’s national junior camp.
Matthew Welsh (17-9, 2.50 GAA, .915 save percentage) gets the start in the Isles net.
In other Isles notes, former Islanders forward Will Bower latched on with the junior A Amherst Ramblers of the Maritime Hockey League. Amherst traded two players and future considerations to the Woodstock Slammers for the Saint John, N.B., native.
The overager was caught in a numbers game after Charlottetown acquired 20-year-old defenceman Olivier Desjardin from the Moncton Wildcats in November which gave the Isles four 20s. QMJHL teams are allowed just three.
A quick look at the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles-Charlottetown Islanders season series.
Record - Cape Breton leads series 3-1 (1-0 in Charlottetown).
Goals For-Goals Against - Cape Breton leads 18-14.
Leading Scorers - Cape Breton: Phelix Martineau, four goals, three assists, seven points in four games; Declan Smith, four goals, one assist, five points in three games; Drake Batherson, zero goals, five assists in three games; Charlottetown: Keith Getson, three goals, four assists, seven points in four games; Hunter Drew, five assists in four games; Matthew Grouchy, two goals, two assists, four points in four games; Pascal Aquin, three goals in four games
Top Goalie - Cape Breton: Kyle Jessiman, 2-1, 3.13 GAA, .857 save percentage; Charlottetown: Matthew Welsh, 1-2, 3.70 GAA, .879 save percentage.