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Resilient Islanders maintain home-ice advantage with double overtime victory in opener, late goal in Game 2
The Charlottetown Islanders took care of business on home ice and now turn their attention to being even sharper on the road.
Charlottetown defeated the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles 3-2 in double overtime Friday and 6-4 Saturday to take a 2-0 series lead in the best-of-seven Quebec Major Junior Hockey League first-round series. Game 3 is Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Centre 200 in Sydney, N.S.
“We can’t get too far ahead of ourselves. This is just the beginning. We know there’s a lot of work ahead, but in the same token, we did our job on home ice and that’s gratifying,” Isles head coach Jim Hulton said. “We have to forget about these two and prepare like it’s 0-0 going into that first game (there) on Tuesday night.”
The first two games were close, as many people anticipated, but the Isles found a way to win the opener after nearly 86 minutes of action and responded in Game 2 after the Screaming Eagles tied the game in the third period.
“They’re a good team, obviously. They showed it all year,” said Screaming Eagles left-winger Mitchell Balmas, the former Islanders forward who had a goal in each of the first two games and was a threat for more. “They’re resilient and work hard and anytime (Matthew Welsh) is in the net they have a chance to win, but at the same time we’re a good team here as well,” he said. “We’re going to have to step our game up coming back to home ice. . .
“Our fans have been great for us all year and they’re going to have our backs coming back home.”
Islanders rookie defenceman Lukas Cormier, who scored the winner on Saturday, said it was “huge” to get both wins on home ice, but they are expecting the games to get tougher beginning Tuesday.
“They’re going to come out ready at home. They’re going to want to be good in front of their fans.”
Hulton said his team will need to manage momentum better away from the friendly confines of the Eastlink Centre.
“It’s easier to manage at home because you get a little bit of a boost from the home crowd. On the road, you have to be able to shut things out.”
Charlottetown went 5-3-0-1 against the Screaming Eagles this season. The teams split four games in Sydney, N.S., with the home side winning the first two (3-1 on Sept. 29 and 6-2 on Jan. 9) before the visitors took the last two (5-4 in a shootout on March 8 and 3-1 on March 9).
Islanders right-winger Kevin Gursoy said the recent victories give his team some confidence they can win at The Nest but knows those outcomes mean nothing now.
“The regular season is over, playoffs are a whole new animal, so we kind of have to be focused on that,” he said.
Hulton said he saw some expected nervousness in his club in Game 1, but said it was sharper early in Game 2 in terms of its puck management and puck movement. As the game wore on, he said, fatigue set in for both teams after a lengthy game the night before.
He is looking for a sharper 60-minute effort on the road.
“We’re giving up too many good chances, but they’re a good hockey team. You’re never going to be able to shut them down completely, but I think we’re going to have to do a better job of limiting (them) as we move forward in the series.”
The Islanders are expected to leave for Sydney today.