CHARLOTTETOWN, P.EI. – Matthew Welsh missed the first one-timer from Charle-Edouard D’Astous, but wasn’t going to miss the next one with the game on the line.
D’Astous one-timed a Carson MacKinnon pass with 2:30 left Saturday to bring his Rimouski Oceanic to within a goal of the Charlottetown Islanders at the Eastlink Centre.
“I knew on the first one I didn't get all the way across on my push,” Welsh said. “I knew they were going to try and tee him up again, (so) I wanted to make sure I got all the way across. I got my feet set (and) luckily enough I was able to make the save.”
It came seconds before the buzzer sounded and preserved a 5-4 victory for the Islanders. It is the team’s fourth straight win and came against one of the pre-season favourites to win the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) this season.
“It’s huge,” Welsh said. “I think we’re really starting to find ourselves as a team here. We’re starting to play Islander hockey.”
It was a back-and-forth affair with the Islanders taking a 2-0 lead into the first intermission.
Rimouski scored 23 seconds into the second period and took a 3-2 lead at the 7:29 mark.
Daniel Hardie tied it on the power play with six minutes remaining in the middle stanza.
Rookie Lukas Cormier made it 4-3 four minutes into the third with a shot from the blue-line and freshman Zachary Beauregard made it 5-3 nine minutes later.
“It was definitely a roller-coaster, but I was proud of our guys to kind of stay even keel,” Welsh said. “We showed some resiliency here tonight and that’s Islander hockey, so it’s important for us to have that resiliency in our game.”
Head coach Jim Hulton said it was one of the few times this season the team deserved to win.
“We earned it. We battled, and we stuck with it,” he said. “It wasn't pretty, it wasn't perfect, but I loved our resolve tonight.”
Hardie had two goals and an assist to lead the way offensively. It was special for him as he started his tenure in the league with Rimouski. The overage forward said he was happy to help the team earn the victory.
“That’s kind of my goal every night. I feel like I am kind of relied on the produce,” said the Brampton, Ont., native who now has seven goals on the season and 50 for his career. “It’s starting to come now. Early in the year I was struggling a little bit but getting my looks. But now I’m starting to put them in.”
Cormier scored a key goal in the third, but his play without the puck later in the frame was just as important. On an Islanders power play Dmitry Zavgorodniy, who is among the league leaders in points, broke in shorthanded, but Cormier hustled back to break up the play.
“He exhibited why we’re so excited about him at both ends of the ice tonight,” Hulton said. “The hustle and the compete and the terrific stick that he has defensively to break up what could have been a huge turning point of the game.”
Thomas Casey sprung Cole Edwards on a two-on-one with Drew Johnston in the first period. Edwards saw an opening five-hole and squeaked one through Rimouski goalie Carmine-Anthony Pagliarulo for his first goal in the QMJHL.
“I felt like in a couple of games prior I sort of got robbed a couple of times, so it’s just feels really nice to get the monkey off the back and start putting the puck in the net now,” he said. “Going 10 games without scoring was a little frustrating, so it’s a huge relief and a definitely a big boost of confidence going into Wednesday.”
The Islanders travel to Bathurst, N.B., to play the Titan Wednesday before hosting the Saint John Sea Dogs Friday. The team is looking to build off Saturday’s win.
“The mantra in the room is just to keep going,” Hardie said. “We’re playing the right way now. We’re starting to see flashbacks from last year.”
A look at Saturday’s Quebec Major Junior Hockey League game between the Rimouski Oceanic and Charlottetown Islanders at the Eastlink Centre.
Rimouski – 4.
Charlottetown – 5.
Rimouski – Alexis Lafreniere, Dmitry Zavgorodniy, Jason Imbeault and Charle-Edouard D’Astous.
Charlottetown – Daniel Hardie 2, Cole Edwards, Lukas Cormier and Zachary Beauregard.
Rimouski – Carson MacKinnon 2, Alexis Lafreniere 2, Charle-Edouard D’Astous, Radim Salda, Anthony D’Amours and Cedric Pare.
Charlottetown – Keith Getson 2, Pierre-Olivier Joseph, Thomas Casey, Hunter Drew, Colin Van Den Hurk, William Sirman, Daniel Hardie and Derek Gentile.
Rimouski – Carmine-Anthony Pagliarulo, 26 saves on 31 shots.
Charlottetown – Matthew Welsh, 28 saves on 32 shots.
Rimouski – 2-for-3.
Charlottetown – 1-for-6.
Rimouski – 7-5-1-0.
Charlottetown – 7-5-1-0.
Attendance – 2,486.
Cole Edwards said: “As a team we were going through some early season struggles. Obviously winning four in a row is huge here, especially against such a good opponent like Rimouski.”