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FIDDLER'S FACTS: Telling weekend for Islanders, Storm


QMJHL, NBL squads hosting Atlantic counterparts

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. – The Charlottetown Islanders and Island Storm are both home this weekend at the Eastlink Centre in games which should tell us how both rate with Atlantic Canada competition.

Fred MacDonald is a veteran sports columnist with The Guardian.
Fred MacDonald is a veteran sports columnist with The Guardian.

The Storm (2-1) meets the Cape Breton Highlanders (2-4) tonight at 7 p.m. in National Basketball League (NBL) of Canada action. The Highlanders dumped the Storm here in our opener and they have an abundance of talent with high-scoring Bruce Massey, Jamal Reynolds and ex-Storm standout Chris Johnson, plus talented guard Ta’Quan Zimmerman, who played with Halifax last year.

The Storm was impressive in its last outing here downing the defending champion London Lightning (3-2) due in large part to a great team effort. Sampson Carter is among the NBL’s top scorer with 22 points per game and he has great support from forwards Russell Byrd and Robbie Robinson. Halifax native and ex-UPEI guard Tyler Scott, the highest percentage three-point shooter in the league at 62.5 per cent, tossed in 24 points while Dominic Shuler and Alex Campbell stepped up with impressive outings.

Tonight’s game should be a dandy.

On the hockey front, the Islanders are one of the elite clubs in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and possibly a player or two away from making a Memorial Cup appearance in Halifax. The Islanders meet their arch-rival Halifax Mooseheads here Sunday at 2 p.m. in a game between quality clubs that could end up in the Memorial Cup next spring in Halifax.

Coach Jim Hulton continues to make moves that benefit the Islanders as his recent switch to move spark-plug Thomas Casey to the second line and insert speedy and puck smart Derek Gentile onto another line. Gentile is so talented he’d likely get points playing on a line with city councillor Mitch Tweel.

After this weekend, with games against the top two Atlantic Canada rivals Moncton and Halifax, the Islanders could emerge as the best in the East.
If that happens, it could trigger an avalanche of trades that might shatter the balance in the entire Quebec league – interesting times indeed.
 

Toronto
It’s a great time to be a sports follower in Toronto as both the Maple Leafs and the Raptors appear to be the class of the NHL and NBA, respectively.
The recent signing of holdout William Nylander makes the potent Leafs attack that much stronger and suggests Toronto may be too explosive for any other NHL club. The Leafs don’t appear to be in any hurry to land a quality defender, especially with today’s NHL game featuring speed and limited hitting.
As for the Raptors (21-5 before Friday’s game at Brooklyn), they have the best record in the NBA, and with new superstars Kawhi Leonard, Jonas Valanciunas, Serge Ibaka and Pascal Siakam, the road to the NBA crown without having to face LeBron James in the Eastern Conference is clear sailing.
 

Falcons
On the local minor hockey front, goaltender Alexander Drake posted the 1-0 shutout as the Sherwood Parkdale Team Two Bantam Falcons edged Bedford in last Sunday’s championship game of the fifth annual O’Leary Classic Hockey tournament. Michael Gallant converted a neat set-up from Cameron Whitlock for the Falcons winning goal.
 

Condolences
The passing of Milton-based horseman and ex-school principal Brian Andrew has rocked the P.E.I. and Maritime harness racing community.

Brian Andrew is shown in 2014 on the grounds of Meridian Farms East in Milton, which is the sister breeding facility to Meridian Farms West in Alberta, where his brother, Bill Andrew, resides.
Brian Andrew is shown in 2014 on the grounds of Meridian Farms East in Milton, which is the sister breeding facility to Meridian Farms West in Alberta, where his brother, Bill Andrew, resides.

Two months ago, Brian and brother Bill had been honoured at the Breeders Crown weekend here in Charlottetown and shortly thereafter Brian entered the Queen Elizabeth Hospital with an undisclosed illness, which turned out to be cancer. What a terrible loss for the family and for the race game. My condolences to wife Carol, daughter Rachel, son Blake, brothers Bill and Rollin and all those connected to this gentleman.
 

Harness racing
Local harness racing continues today at 12:30 p.m. with a 15-dash card. The $2,500 preferred goes in Race 14 and it looks like Diggin In, Winter Blast and Rockin Indy are the best in this nine-horse field. There’s also a $2,300 open mares class where Ken Murphy’s Killean Finale has been assigned the outside post in the seven-horse field.
At Mohawk tonight, West River Cindy, Euchred and Bettim Jackie are all in to go.
At Flamboro tonight, Sodwana Bay has the outside five post in a small but tough $10,500 preferred mares class that includes The Joy Luck Club.

Pigskin picks
The NFL heads into Week 14 and now the games get tougher with numerous teams fighting for their playoff lives.
 

New England Patriots (9-3) at Miami Dolphins (6-6) – New England, which has been beating the teams it had to beat, moves out of the friendly confines of Gillette Stadium Sunday. The Pats visit the Dolphins in Miami and the Fish have won four of the last five with the Patriots in Florida. This is no gimme. The Pats are not that great away from home, I can see upset.
New York Jets (3-9) at Buffalo Bills (4-8) – One of the few meaningless games on the menu. The Jets cannot score and the Bills are very tough defensively. Easy Bills win.
New York Giants (4-8) at Washington Redskins (6-6) – The Boys from Gotham can win out and finish 8-8, which could be good enough for a wild card spot. The Redskins lost most of their offensive line early and for the season via injury, QB Alex Smith broke his leg and is still in the hospital with complications and to make it worse back-up Case Keenum broke his leg. All they have left is Mark Sanchez and a rumoured ex-Charlottetown Rural QB Jim Revelle. Sorry Jim but I gotta bet the Giants here.
Indianapolis Colts (6-6) at Houston Texans (9-3) – The Texans are razor-sharp and look like the best team in the AFC and QB Deshaun Watson has been outstanding both passing and running. The Colts have a top QB in Andrew Luck but he’s against a hungry Texans team.
Carolina Panthers (6-6) at Cleveland Browns (4-7-1) – Browns QB Baker Mayfield is destined for greatness and he’ll have a field day against the weak Carolina secondary. Don’t be concerned with Cleveland’s loss last week to Houston, the Texans are serious Super Bowl contenders. Minnesota Vikings (6-5-1) at Seattle Seahawks (7-5) – Seattle is averaging almost 150 yards per game on the ground. They’ll have a huge possession advantage over the Vikings, so jump on the Seattle bandwagon where Charlottetown horseman Doug MacGregor is perched.


Fred MacDonald's column appears every Saturday in The Guardian. He can be reached at fiddlersfacts@hotmail.com.

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