CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. – P.E.I. hockey fans are in for a treat today as the Charlottetown Islanders of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and the UPEI Panthers of the Atlantic University Sport (AUS) conference both play out of the same building in a rare double-header at the Eastlink Centre.
It is part of the fourth annual Hockey Day in P.E.I. promotion.
The Islanders entertain the Chicoutimi Sagueneens in the second of two weekend games. This afternoon's 3 p.m. game is important as the Islanders were in ninth place entering Friday’s game. They were two points out of eighth, which would guarantee the extra home game if they can claim that spot at season's end.
Chicoutimi is a playoff-bound club with visions of getting into an important top-eight spot and they are 6-4 in their last 10 games, including wins over league-leading Blainville-Boisbriand , Rimouski, Baie-Comeau and Halifax.
The Islanders are spiralling downwards with a 3-6-1 record in their last 10 games before Friday’s contest and urgently need this game.
The Panthers were tied with Dalhousie for the sixth place in the seven-team university loop before they met Friday night, so tonight’s game with St. FX is crucial. If the Panther finish fifth they might avoid a first-round meeting with Saint Mary’s. The Huskies hammered UPEI 9-1 last week in Halifax and have dominated them all season so that match-up is not favourable.
UPEI, however, holds a 3-2 edge over Acadia in the regular season, which makes this weekend important for the Panthers. Acadia and Saint Mary’s played Friday with third place on the line.
Local UPEI standout Kameron Kielly was fifth in AUS scoring with 36 points before Friday’s action and his strong play is key to the Panthers success. Even without the injured Brent Andrews, the Panthers are a dangerous opponent with depth in the forward ranks with Kielly and veterans like Marcus Power, Gabe Guertler, Darcy Ashley, R.T. Rice, Cody Payne and Beau McCue. The team's Jekyll and Hyde makes them an even more dangerous opponent. They may not have the blue-line depth of other clubs but they are scary even for first-place club like UNB or St. FX.
Former Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins standout Chris Nilan will be the guest speaker at Sunday night's P.E.I. midget AAA banquet, which goes from 5-7 p.m. at Stratford Town Hall. Nilan has been in this province for various charitable fundraisers and his speech to the P.E.I. Rocket (now the Islanders) a few years ago on the eve of the Quebec playoffs is still being talked about. He's worth the price of admission, and his advice to young players is inspiring.
On the NHL front, here's a couple of notes for Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs fans. Montreal's modest win streak came to an abrupt halt losing to Philadelphia on Thursday, which should end their faint playoff hopes. The Leafs are playoff bound but their sad performance against Boston a week ago, to a Bruins club without Brad Marchand, is a matter of grave concern.
Goaltender Frederick Anderson has been their MVP and Leafs need blue-line help. Bluejackets defenceman Jack Johnson wants out of Columbus and he could land in time to help the Leafs iffy defence.
More than a few ardent anti-New England Patriots football fans were jumping for joy when Tom Brady's long pass into the endzone in the final seconds of Super Bowl 52 fell to the ground, clinching the win for the underdog Philadelphia Eagles.
It was one of the most thrilling Super Bowl games in recent memory and there's a good possibility they could meet again next year in Atlanta, site of the 53rd Super Bowl. Patriots QB Tom Brady was brilliant in defeat and rival QB Nick Foles was a shade better in what was a nail-biter, much to the delight of ex-baseball standout Mike Puiia and football star Mike Lyriotokis.
There's no live harness racing today at the city track, which is dark for the next few months, although simulcast racing from many tracks is available today and tonight.
The O'Brien Awards in Toronto last Saturday night had a distinct Maritime flavour starting off with Marc Campbell capturing the O'Brien for horsemanship.
Dr. Ian Moore made two trips to the stage, one for two-year-old filly champ Percy Bluechip for co-owners Serge Savard, Ron MacLellan and Tony Infilis and the other for three-year-old colt champ Classic Pro for the same ownership.
P.E.I. native Brett MacDonald captured the future star award while Truro Raceway's Chantel Gillis won the outstanding groom award and Kyle Burton received the award for photography.
James MacDonald was also honoured for his world driving title.
In harness racing action up country, Charlottetown's Robert Shepherd has been hot in Ontario with 34 wins, second in Canada, and sits sixth overall in money. Rob's brother Patrick is also second in wins among trainers and among top 10 in percentage and money.
Mark MacDonald is back in action at Yonkers, N.Y., after an almost two-month break away from the ponies.
While I was away for the better part of the last month, and not in contact very much with happenings here, I just learned of the passing of Roy Younker from the Kingston area. He was a great guy and I can remember him assisting his friend Sterling Willis when they raced horses like Blossom Knight and the trotter Volar in the 1970s and 1980s. To Janet, David, Bruce and all connected to this gentleman, my belated condolences.
Also on a sad note, hall of fame horseman Howard Beissinger, who campaigned greats like Speedy Crown and Speedy Somolli, passed away this week in Ohio. Charlottetown's Gerald Noonan, who grew up on Sydney Street and who drove horses like J Scotch Hal and later Eloise Wick here in the 1970s, worked for Beissinger in the 1980s at The Meadowlands.
Fred MacDonald's column appears every Saturday in The Guardian. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.