CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. – “Never was so much owed by so many to so few,” is from one of Winston Churchill's famous speeches in reference to the Royal Air Force’s heroic performances during the 1940 Battle of Britain and those thoughts came to mind in the aftermath of Wednesday night's four-game sweep of highly regarded Halifax Mooseheads before a packed and rowdy crowd at Eastlink Centre.
In this case, the “to so few” could well be head coach Jim Hulton, associate coach Guy Girouard and assistant coach Brad MacKenzie for their work with the surprise team of Canadian major junior hockey.
I have not seen the Eastlink Centre packed like that, nor in such a frenzied mood. The fans and the Islander players were like hungry sharks searching for prey and the Mooseheads were first on the menu.
It is unbelievably the coaching staff will not be sharing any individual Quebec league honours or silverware at trophy time. The Islanders were picked by everyone to finish dead last in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and when they started this campaign at 1-6-1-0, the experts were out in force with the “I told you so” refrains.
Their ninth overall finish shocked many Q observers, as did their seven-game opening round win in Quebec City. Mny observers felt making it past Round 1 was just icing on the cake, they'd be swept aside in Round 2 with ease by the Moooseheads.
In another stunning series, the Islanders swept the heavy favourites with a relentless fore-checking game that smothered the highly explosive Mooseheads. There were no passengers on the Islanders club in the last series, just 18 contributors and a razor-sharp goaltender Matthew Welsh, who made key saves in every game.
The four-year deal Islanders management inked with Hulton a few weeks ago is comparable to the New Jersey Devils theft of Taylor Hall from the Edmonton Oilers. This is, without a doubt, Hulton's finest hour.
A sign of a great coach is how well the club performs from Day 1 to the end of the season. Every Islanders player has improved his game. The defence has been outstanding, especially Pierre-Olivier (P.O.) Joseph, who was a dominant force in the two games here versus Halifax.
RELATED: Click here to hear columnist Fred (Fiddler) MacDonald and The Guardian’s sports editor Jason Malloy talk about the Charlottetown Islanders, Summerside D. Alex MacDonald Ford Western Capitals and the Island Storm post-season runs as well as the NHL playoffs in this week’s online video.
Hulton has turned guys like Hunter Drew and Olivier Desjardins purchased for “a song” into all-stars and the remaining guys Saku Vesterinen, Brendon Clavelle and Taylor Egan look like gems. Keith Getson, who was outstanding here in the Spud tournament a few years ago, has combined with Pascal Aquin to become the highest-scoring duo in the Quebec playoffs with 16 goals between them.
George Matthews, who worked almost 12 seasons as the play-by-play man for the Columbus Blue Jackets and does the same job for the Islanders, told me Aquin has enormous potential as a pro. Coming from George, that's quite an endorsement.
Rookies Nikita Alexandrov and 16-year-old Newfoundlander Brett Budgell have blossomed under Hulton's guidance and these two along with Halifax's Xavier Parent may be the three best youngsters in the Atlantic conference next season.
What I especially liked about Hulton was his acknowledgement that credit for the Budgell acquisition should go to previous GM Grant Sonier, who landed three future picks in that trade of David Henley to Val-D’Or two years ago. Another part of the Henley trade was last week's announcement the Islanders will pick fourth overall at June’s Q draft. Sonier looks like a genius today.
The Islanders will be cast in the under-dog role once again in the next series whoever they play, but that's just the role the Islanders enjoy.
Summerside D. Alex MacDonald Ford Western Capitals, under head coach Billy McGuigan, lost in Game 7 to Edmundston Wednesday and have been eliminated from the junior A playoffs. Nevertheless, another great season for the talented head coach.
In NHL playoff action, Tampa Bay's Alex Killorn scored for the winners and he has Island connections. His grandparents are from Point Prim and related to retired school principal Jim Killorn. Islanders show up everywhere.
The Island Storm gave it a great shot Thursday, but eventually the short bench and the injuries played a big factor in the Halifax Hurricanes win and they own a 2-1 series lead with Game 4 tonight at Eastlink Centre.
It's win or the season is over for the hard-luck, but talented, Storm, who have a healthy Frank Session, Carl Hall, Chris Anderson, Kemy Osse and Brad States plus a banged-up Chris Johnson and Tyler Scott. Halifax are keying on Session, whose tank must be near empty.
The Boston Marathon goes Monday and there are something like 20 Islanders competing and they include sensational runner Stan Chaisson. He ran the 26 miles last year and finished in a time of 2:41:15, 210 place in a field of 30,000, hard to imagine.
Other top P.E.I. finishers last year were Billy MacDonald (3:00:21), Amber Spriggs (3:29:12), John Bowser (3:34:06), Lora Kemp (3:34:24), Charlotte Gardiner (3.34:38), Francis Fagan (3:49:34) and Shawn Shea (3:50:32).
Veteran marathoner Pam Power McKenna will be competing in her fourth Boston Marathon on Monday.
A look at the Islanders on the entry list to run Monday’s Boston Marathon.
Beverley Walsh Stratford
Chris Matters Charlottetown
Michael Peterson Charlottetown
Lora Kemp Montague
Pam Power McKenna Charlottetown
Paul Burnley Summerside
Grace Dawson Charlottetown
Natalie Chaisson Montague
Stan Chaisson Charlottetown
Amber Spriggs Charlottetown
Scott Clark Summerside
Blair McQuaid Tracadie Cross
Charlotte Gardiner Summerside
John Bowser Summerside
Shawn Shea Stratford
Paul Dalton St. Edward
Jocelyn Peterson Charlottetown
Leanne Vessey Charlottetown
The big P.E.I. Horse Owners annual awards show is set for tonight at Murphy’s Rec Centre where the 2017 champions will be honoured. Top USA trainer Erv Miller and his daughter Hannah Miller will be speaking.
Maritime trot champion Pappy Go Go made two breaks and finished out of the money Tuesday at Yonkers Raceway.
At New York tonight, Westtern Fame (Mark MacDonald) is one of the co-favourites in his $50,000 division of the Levy series.
At Mohawk, Maritime-bred The Rev is in to go in the $34,000 top class against the likes of Ellis Park (James MacDonald), Easy Lover Hanover (Doug McNair) and five others.
The big news out of Ontario this week was the 2018 Hall of Fame class, which includes Meridian Farms owner Bill Andrew of PEI, Jimmy Doherty of Saint John, N.B., and photographer/communications specialist David Landry, originally from Cape Breton, N.S. That's a Maritime triple.
At Pocono, Art Scene was second by three lengths in 1:52 for Island owner Don MacRae.
Fred MacDonald's column appears every Saturday in The Guardian. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.