If there was one area of strength the Charlottetown Islanders had heading in to the 2017-2018 season, it was in goal. Matthew Welsh posted respectable numbers as the Islanders starter in the beginning of the 2016-2017, before being supplanted by Mark Grametbauer as the starter during the playoffs.
But that was then. Grametbauer was traded to the Moncton Wildcats, clearing the way for Welsh to reclaim the starter’s role. As training camp opened up, Welsh was heralded by Islanders head coach Jim Hulton for leading by example and being one of the fittest players in camp. By all accounts, Welsh looked ready to take the league by storm.
As the regular season opened up, the Isles struggled to score goals and, by virtue, to win games. One player whose play remained strong was Welsh. Starting seven of the team’s eight games, Welsh posted a .900 save percentage and collected the team’s lone win in that time frame. He was keeping the Islanders in close games and helping them remain competitive as they worked out the kinks that come along with the beginning of a season.
Welsh’s stellar play shone through during Rivalry Week against the Acadie-Bathurst Titan. In the second game of the back-to-back series, Welsh made 43 saves, along with stopping all 3 shooters in the shootout, leading to the Islanders second win in as many games over the eventual Memorial Cup Champions.
From that point the team took off, and Welsh was a big part of that. Through November and December he was near impenetrable, posting a .928 save percentage in that span and just three losses. As the brick wall went up in nets, so too did the win totals for the Islanders.
The strong play continued into 2018 as Welsh played the majority of games between the pipes. He was the difference-maker on many nights, often stealing wins for the Islanders. He found his name among the top of league-wide goaltending statistics throughout the season, finishing the season second in games played, third in wins, fifth in save percentage, and sixth in goals against average.
Welsh carried his outstanding play into the playoffs, finishing with a 2.63 goals against average and a .918 save percentage. His play in nets was instrumental in helping the Islanders reach within one game of the QMJHL finals.
Welsh’s performance on the ice this season vaulted him into the upper echelon among goalies in the history of the Charlottetown Islanders/PEI Rocket organization. He sits first all-time in wins and shutouts, and second in overall games played. Off the ice, his work as a student-athlete is beyond exemplary, finishing as a finalist for the QMJHL Scholastic Player of the Year.
Matthew Welsh has established himself as one of the premiere goaltenders in the QMJHL and is quickly ascending to one of the most prominent players in Charlottetown Islanders history. Look for Welsh to continue that trend this season as the Islanders build on the success of 2017-2018!