CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. – Matthew Welsh stopped six straight shooters and Thomas Casey sent busloads of Island students back to school happy Wednesday as the Charlottetown Islanders defeated the Moncton Wildcats 5-4 in a shootout.
The 10 a.m. contest was the first school day game in Quebec Major Junior Hockey League history.
“We can’t thank the students enough for taking time out of their day to come and watch us,” Casey said. “I was just happy to see the puck go in and get the win in front of that many fans that were supporting us.”
After Welsh stopped Adam Capannelli, the stage was set for Casey, the Islanders seventh shooter of the shootout, to be the hero.
He didn't disappoint, going to his bag of tricks for the winner. He used a similar move to beat Charles-Antoine Lavallée Wednesday that was successful last season in Cape Breton.
“(Linemate Brett) Budgell looked at me and he was like, ‘Fake shot, backhand’?” Casey laughed as he recalled the conversation. “Thankfully it went in.”
At the other end of the rink, Welsh stood tall a number of times during the game to give his team a chance to win the heated affair.
“I wanted to make sure the boys got the win today,” he said. “It was a tough third period for us – not the result we wanted – but at the end of the day we came out with two points, so I was happy to do my part.”
The Islanders jumped on the Wildcats early and built a 3-0 lead, chasing starting goalie Francis Leclerc 5:25 into the game.
Daniel Hardie made it 4-0 midway through the second, and many people expected the game was over.
“We kind of let off the gas there,” Welsh said, “. . . and that’s on our leadership group, me included, we should have the guys ready in the room.”
Credit the Wildcats, who refused to go away quietly. The attack was led by Summerside native Jeremy McKenna who scored three times – the last with 25 seconds to play to force overtime.
“I just told the boys we just have to stick to the game plan. ‘We’re playing hard, we’re skating well and it’s going to come if we be patient’,” said McKenna, the lone Wildcat to score on Welsh in the shootout. “I thought our boys battled hard and I’m really proud of them. We got it to a shootout, which can go either way, so we’re happy to get a point on the road.”
The Islanders have won all three meetings with the Wildcats this season. McKenna has five goals and an assist in the three games. He said it is great to be able to produce in his home province with his family and friends there to support him.
“It gives you that extra little jump out there.”
A look at Wednesday’s Quebec Major Junior Hockey League game between the host Charlottetown Islanders and the Moncton Wildcats.
Moncton – 4
Charlottetown – 5 SO
Moncton – Jeremy McKenna 3 and Elliott Desnoyers.
Charlottetown – Brett Budgell 2, Keith Getson and Daniel Hardie.
Moncton – Adam Capannelli 2, Mika Cyr, Gabriel Sylvestre, Jonathan Aspirot, Jack Tucker and Alexander Khovanov.
Charlottetown – Derek Gentile 2, Daniel Hardie, Lukas Cormier, Thomas Casey, Nikita Alexandrov and Keith Getson.
Moncton – Francis Leclerc, three saves on six shots in 5:25; Charles-Antoine Lavallée, 28 saves on 29 shots.
Charlottetown – Matthew Welsh, 49 saves on 53 shots.
Moncton – 1-for-6.
Charlottetown – 1-for-5.
Attendance – 3,689.
Moncton – 22-9-2-1.
Charlottetown – 20-8-2-1. They are 17-3-1-1 since Oct. 12.
Up next – The Islanders have two road games to close out the schedule before the Christmas break. They travel to Saint John, N.B., Friday to play the Sea Dogs and then to Halifax Saturday to play the Mooseheads.
Casey said: “We just hit 20 wins and that’s a goal every team has by the halfway mark, but we’re not satisfied.”
McKenna said: “It’s a great rivalry and great hockey out there and I hope the fans enjoyed it.”