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Meloche to play former team as Islanders get Drakkar in opening round

Nicolas Meloche is a defenceman with the Charlottetown Islanders.
Nicolas Meloche is a defenceman with the Charlottetown Islanders.

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. – Nicolas Meloche is going to get a chance to play at least two more games where his junior hockey career began.

The 19-year-old defenceman and his Charlottetown Islanders teammates found out after Saturday’s games were complete they would be playing the Baie-Comeau Drakkar in the first round of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League playoffs.

“I was, maybe, the most happiest guy to play Baie-Comeau just because of the history there,” Meloche said Sunday night.

The best-of-seven series starts in Charlottetown with games on Friday and Saturday. The series shifts to Baie-Comeau, Que., for Games 3-5.

“There’s a lot of memories there,” Meloche said. “It’s very fun to go back to Baie-Comeau and see my billet family. All the fans were amazing when I went there.”

The Drakkar drafted Meloche 15th overall in the 2013 draft. He helped them reach Game 7 of the league final in his rookie season, 2013-14. They lost 4-3 in the finale to a Val-d’Or Foreurs squad with Francois Beauchemin and former Islanders Antoine Bibeau, Ryan Graves and Louick Marcotte. Meloche had two assists in the Game 7 loss.

Meloche played 2 ½ seasons in Baie-Comeau before being dealt to Gatineau on Dec. 21, 2015, for D’Artagnan Joly and two first-round picks.

The Islanders acquired the physical, two-way defenceman on Dec. 22, 2016, in the first of eight deadline deals to give Charlottetown a chance for a deep playoff run.

Meloche said every game since has been about improving in preparation for the post-season.

“Now that we’re finally here, it’s really nice,” he said. “We’re very excited for playoffs.”

Charlottetown ended the season with the second most points in the league, but is ranked fourth for the playoffs, as the division winners receive the top three seeds.

Islanders head coach Jim Hulton said the last four games of the regular season was tough after losing in Saint John, N.B. The March 10 loss all but clinched first place for the Sea Dogs and assured the Isles of fourth overall.

“Motivation became difficult and I get it,” he said. “I think I understand how athletes and teenage athletes look at things. I think at that point, it was more self-preservation. You don't want to get hurt; you just want playoffs to get here.”

While fans are starving for a long playoff run, Hulton said the team has preached living in the moment all season long and that won’t change now.

“At the trade deadline it would have been easy to start looking ahead, looking ahead, looking ahead, but we consciously tried not to because you can’t,” he said. “We have to come prepared to work tomorrow, we have to get better Tuesday, Wednesday and then be prepared for Friday and don’t look beyond Friday.”

The Drakkar are a young team that went 6-3-1-0 in their last 10 games.

“They’re a hard-working team,” Meloche said. “We need to match their intensity.”

“They can play carefree. They can play loose. They can play hard,” Hulton added. “We have to exploit their youth and use our experience to try and control the series.”

The 19-year-old defenceman and his Charlottetown Islanders teammates found out after Saturday’s games were complete they would be playing the Baie-Comeau Drakkar in the first round of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League playoffs.

“I was, maybe, the most happiest guy to play Baie-Comeau just because of the history there,” Meloche said Sunday night.

The best-of-seven series starts in Charlottetown with games on Friday and Saturday. The series shifts to Baie-Comeau, Que., for Games 3-5.

“There’s a lot of memories there,” Meloche said. “It’s very fun to go back to Baie-Comeau and see my billet family. All the fans were amazing when I went there.”

The Drakkar drafted Meloche 15th overall in the 2013 draft. He helped them reach Game 7 of the league final in his rookie season, 2013-14. They lost 4-3 in the finale to a Val-d’Or Foreurs squad with Francois Beauchemin and former Islanders Antoine Bibeau, Ryan Graves and Louick Marcotte. Meloche had two assists in the Game 7 loss.

Meloche played 2 ½ seasons in Baie-Comeau before being dealt to Gatineau on Dec. 21, 2015, for D’Artagnan Joly and two first-round picks.

The Islanders acquired the physical, two-way defenceman on Dec. 22, 2016, in the first of eight deadline deals to give Charlottetown a chance for a deep playoff run.

Meloche said every game since has been about improving in preparation for the post-season.

“Now that we’re finally here, it’s really nice,” he said. “We’re very excited for playoffs.”

Charlottetown ended the season with the second most points in the league, but is ranked fourth for the playoffs, as the division winners receive the top three seeds.

Islanders head coach Jim Hulton said the last four games of the regular season was tough after losing in Saint John, N.B. The March 10 loss all but clinched first place for the Sea Dogs and assured the Isles of fourth overall.

“Motivation became difficult and I get it,” he said. “I think I understand how athletes and teenage athletes look at things. I think at that point, it was more self-preservation. You don't want to get hurt; you just want playoffs to get here.”

While fans are starving for a long playoff run, Hulton said the team has preached living in the moment all season long and that won’t change now.

“At the trade deadline it would have been easy to start looking ahead, looking ahead, looking ahead, but we consciously tried not to because you can’t,” he said. “We have to come prepared to work tomorrow, we have to get better Tuesday, Wednesday and then be prepared for Friday and don’t look beyond Friday.”

The Drakkar are a young team that went 6-3-1-0 in their last 10 games.

“They’re a hard-working team,” Meloche said. “We need to match their intensity.”

“They can play carefree. They can play loose. They can play hard,” Hulton added. “We have to exploit their youth and use our experience to try and control the series.”

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Playoff schedule

A look at the playoff schedule for the Charlottetown Islanders/Baie-Comeau Drakkar. All times are Atlantic.

Game 1

Friday

7 p.m. – Baie-Comeau at Charlottetown.

Game 2

Saturday

7 p.m. – Baie-Comeau at Charlottetown.

Game 3

Tuesday, March 28

8:30 p.m. – Charlottetown at Baie-Comeau.

Game 4

Wednesday, March 29

8:30 p.m. – Charlottetown at Baie-Comeau.

Game 5 (if necessary)

Friday, March 31

8:30 p.m. – Charlottetown at Baie-Comeau.

Game 6  (if necessary)

Monday, April 3

7 p.m. – Baie-Comeau at Charlottetown.

Game 7 (if necessary)

Tuesday, April 4

7 p.m. – Baie-Comeau at Charlottetown.

Previous meetings

Oct. 21

Charlottetown 3 at Baie-Comeau 6

Nov. 3

Baie-Comeau 7 at Charlottetown 8

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