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Halifax native excels on ice, in classroom, in community
The parade to the podium was a constant one for well-deserving Matthew Welsh.
The Charlottetown Islanders goalie took home six trophies and a plaque from the Charlottetown Islanders fan choice awards Tuesday night as the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) celebrated its season. The awards included the MVP honour chosen by the fans and the player’s player designation as selected by his teammates.
The seven awards also recognized his work off the ice. He earned the scholastic player and class act awards as well as the fan favourite nod.
“I am just lucky to have so much support from my teammates, my coaching staff and the fans here in Charlottetown,” he said. “It’s a pretty humble feeling knowing everyone has your back.”
Welsh was honoured to receive the recognition but said he would trade all seven awards for the trophies that have driven him since entering the league in 2015 – the President Cup and Memorial Cup.
“At the end of the day, the goal is to win a championship and bring a championship here to Charlottetown,” he said. “That’s what’s going to keep me motivated.”
Head coach Jim Hulton said Welsh is the full package.
“It’s pretty rare to see somebody dominate both the on- and off-ice awards,” he said. “That’s a pretty telltale sign of how fortunate you are when you get a person as stellar off the ice as he is on the ice.”
And the story isn’t done yet. Welsh will be one of the Islanders three overage players next season.
“The fact we get him for another year is very, very exciting for all of us,” Hulton said.
Welsh said it was a tough end to the season.
The squad won the first two games of the first-round series with Cape Breton before dropping the next four. The games were all pretty close with two going to overtime and one ending 1-0.
“It was a hard-fought series by both teams,” Welsh said. “I am really proud of our team. We worked so hard all season. We really never gave up in that series. In Game 6, we played our best game.”
Welsh was selected with the last pick of the second round of the 2015 draft.
“I can remember sitting in my seat at the draft and not knowing what was in my near future with so many possibilities that could have happened,” he said.
The Islanders didn't have a pick in the second round but made a calculated move to trade a fifth-round pick and a second-rounder the following year to acquire the needed pick to select Welsh.
“They ended up trading in to the 37th slot and I am so grateful to have (received) so much opportunity here in Charlottetown,” Welsh said.
As a rookie, he backed up Mason McDonald. In Year 2 he split time with Blade Mann-Dixon and Mark Grametbauer before laying claim to the starter’s role in his third campaign.
Welsh is sticking around town this summer.
“I’ve been living in Charlottetown for a quarter of my life now,” he said. “I call Charlottetown my home now and P.E.I. in general. I love it here. It’s a second home.”
Welsh will get a chance to do something this week he rarely has had the opportunity to do – watch his younger brother Zach play. The six-foot-one defenceman is a member of the Halifax Macs playing in the Atlantic major midget hockey championship that starts Thursday at MacLauchlan Arena.
With both their busy hockey schedules, Matthew estimated he only saw Zach play once in the past four or five years.
“He’s really solid, really smart player,” Matthew said in describing the stay-at-home blue-liner. “I’m excited to watch him here this weekend for sure. He’s developed so much over the past four years. . . I’m really proud of him and how hard he works.”
Welsh said Zach is more defensive than the siblings’ oldest brother Nicholas, who starred with Shawinigan and Moncton in the QMJHL before joining the Saint Mary’s Huskies this season.
“They both have the hockey IQ,” Matthew said.
All three brothers played for the Macs and the Isles netminder said he’ll be pulling for them to earn the berth to the Telus Cup.
“Once a Mac, you’re always a Mac,” he smiled.
A look at the award winners from the Charlottetown Islanders fan choice awards.
Moose Light three stars award – Matthew Welsh.
Bernadette’s Flowers hardest working year – Liam Peyton.
UPEI scholastic player of the year – Matthew Welsh.
Fair Isle Ford play of the year – Kevin Gursoy.
Mayor’s class act award – Matthew Welsh.
Ocean 100 rookie of the year – Lukas Cormier.
Eastlink fan favourite award – Matthew Welsh.
Island Oxygen defensive player of the year – Matthew Welsh.
Maritime Electric volunteer of the year – Diane Lidstone.
Moore Well Drilling offensive player of the year – Daniel Hardie.
Red Shores player’s player award– Matthew Welsh.
Arsenault Bros Construction MVP – Matthew Welsh.