The Charlottetown Islanders are about to begin the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League regular season with six straight road games, but don’t expect them to cry foul.
“Six games on the road isn’t ideal,” defenceman Noah Laaouan acknowledged before Wednesday’s practice. “But if you can start good with those first six games on the road, it will be a good tone to set for the rest of the season.”
The Eastlink Centre was used throughout the summer as a COVID-19 clinic. The Charlottetown clinic moved to the former government garage on Park Street earlier this week, but it will take a few weeks before the arena is ready for hockey.
The Islanders begin the season tonight in Moncton with a 7 p.m. game with the Wildcats. Their first home game is Oct. 23 against the Saint John Sea Dogs.
Islanders’ head coach Jim Hulton said he would be more concerned if he had a young team but believes his veteran squad can handle the early season road games. He also looks at the positive side of the equation.
“At some point, the pendulum is going to swing back in our favour. It’s all how you handle it,” he said, noting they are staying in the moment and only concerned with Game 1.
The Islanders have done well on the road under Hulton, always winning more games than they lose away from the friendly confines of Eastlink Centre.
Hulton pointed to having top-end goaltending during his tenure and a defence-first mentality. Laaouan pointed to another key ingredient.
“The coaches do a really good job of getting us ready, making sure we know the systems and implement them,” he said. “Sticking to what we’re good at is going to be very important and playing the Islanders type of hockey.”
The Islanders want to play with discipline this season, having set a goal of taking three or less minor penalties per game.
“You start to tax your roster too much, and you provide momentum switches for the other team, if you take too many penalties,” Hulton said.
A look at the Charlottetown Islanders’ road record during Jim Hulton’s time as head coach.
Season W L OTL SOL
2019-20 16 13 3 0
2018-19 19 13 2 0
2017-18 17 14 3 0
2016-17 21 11 2 0
2015-16 15 14 4 1
The 2019-20 regular season came to an abrupt halt due to the coronavirus and then the playoffs were cancelled. A lot of uncertainty filled the next few months until training camps opened.
With a pre-season in the books, Hulton said he could sense a change following Saturday’s final exhibition tilt in Dartmouth, N.S.
“There’s an excitement level this week,” he said. “You can feel the anticipation and the buzz of the starting of the season, so I think we’re all looking forward to getting going for real.”
Tonight’s game has special meaning for Sam Oliver, the Islanders’ top pick from June’s draft.
“It’s something I’ve looked forward to really my whole life and now it’s only a couple of days away,” the forward from Quispamsis, N.B., said Wednesday. “We’ve been having some really good practices and I think the team is ready for the big first game.”
The season will be different than previous years. Teams are only playing inside their own division. It means the six Maritime teams will play each other for the 60-game regular season.
“It’s going to be different,” Laaouan said. “You play them a lot (in normal seasons), but you’re not use to playing them 12 times each through the course of the season. …
“It should make for an interesting season.”
A look at the Charlottetown Islanders’ opening night roster for the 2019-20 Quebec Major Junior Hockey League season. Note Czech Republic forwards Jakub Brabenec and Matous Mensik have not joined the team as the league continues to work with the federal government on visa issues.
Colten Ellis 2000 River Denys, N.S.
Jacob Goobie 2003 Halifax
Lukas Cormier 2002 Sainte-Marie-de-Kent, N.B.
Noah Laaouan 2001 Halifax
Will Trudeau 2002 Varennes, Que.
Oscar Plandowski 2003 Halifax
Anthony Hamel 2002 Gatineau, Que.
Felix Tremblay 2001 Baie-Comeau, Que.
Ryan Maynard 2002 Cochrane, Ont.
Thomas Casey 2000 Charlottetown
Cedric Desruisseaux 2000 Victoriaville, Que.
Brett Budgell 2001 Paradise, N.L.
Zac Beauregard 2001 Repentigny, Que.
Drew Johnston 2001 Saint John, N.B.
Brendan McCarthy 2001 Goulds, N.L.
Patrick LeBlanc 2002 Sainte-Marie-de-Kent, N.B.
Keiran Gallant 2002 Covehead
Justin Gill 2003 Montreal
Drew Elliott 2003 Musquash, N.B.
Ben Boyd 2003 Dartmouth, N.S.
Sam Oliver 2004 Quispamsis, N.B.