The Charlottetown Islanders are the second-last stop on the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s 50th Anniversary Tour, and they’ll do battle with a team that recently etched it’s name in the league’s history books, the 2018 Memorial Cup champion Acadie-Bathurst Titan.
While the Titan may be the defending champions of the biggest trophy in junior hockey, the downswing has been drastic. After losing a number of players to the pro ranks, along with a number of trades to compensate for the spending that was done over Christmas 2017, the Titan have a squad bereft of players from last season; only Cole Rafuse, Marc-Andre Lecouffe, and Felix-Antoine Drolet remain from last year’s Cup winning squad.
The result? a whopping 57 combined regulation, overtime, and shootout losses on the season. That total is tied for the sixth-most in league history; should the Titan lose their remaining three games, they’ll be tied with the 2005-2006 Rimouski Oceanic for the second-most losses in a single season in QMJHL history, with 60 total losses.
The Titan are a team that got younger in the second half of the season, with a number of players using this portion of the season as an early tryout for next year’s squad. One such player is Mathieu Desgagnes. The 18 year-old, acquired from Chicoutimi during the Christmas trading period, has rebounded from early-season injuries to post some respectable numbers offensively for the Titan, recording 18 points in 32 games with Bathurst.
For Charlottetown, meanwhile, these next three games are pivotal when it comes to playoff positioning. The Islanders need just four points to lock up home ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs, an advantage that could be the difference between advancing to the second round and going home early. The Isles have a record of 20-7-2-3 in the friendly confines of the Eastlink Centre this season; as the Eastern Conference gets tighter as the season winds down, that potentially additional game at home becomes key.
Two Isles that will look to remain hot are Daniel Hardie and Zac Beauregard. The unlikely duo, inserted together by head coach Jim Hulton with great success last weekend in Cape Breton, were named to the QMJHL Team of the Week for their efforts over the past three games; Hardie recorded 6 assists in that time, including a three-assist effort Friday in Cape Breton. Beauregard, meanwhile, recorded four goals last weekend, including two on Friday in the Isles come-from-behind victory over the Screaming Eagles.
There are a number of activities planned throughout Charlottetown in celebration of the QMJHL’s 50th Anniversary. The day starts with a visit to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital’s Pediatrics Unit to visit children staying in the hospital, followed by a trip to West Kent Elementary to speak with students about the importance of the French language in hockey. From there, the Memorial Cup and President’s Cup will be on display at the CIBC on Queen & Grafton for public viewing.
Finally, just prior to the game at 6:00pm in the Hockey Memorabilia Room at the Eastlink Centre, join us for a hotstove session with Charlottetown Islanders president of operations Craig Foster and QMJHL Commissioner Gilles Courteau, hosted by none other than George Matthews! George will ask the hard-hitting questions regarding the success of the organization and future direction of the team.
Tickets for tomorrow’s game are still available at the Eastlink Centre box office, by phone at 902-629-6625, or online at https://boxoffice.eastlinkcentrepei.com. It’s also Winning Wednesday; your ticket from March 6th’s victory over the Val d’Or Foreurs can be redeemed at the Eastlink Centre box office for a free ticket to tonight’s game!