Hardie comes up big in return to Saint John, leading the Isles to victory
The Islanders rolled into Saint John on Friday night looking for a bounce back effort following a 4-3 loss at the hands of the Sherbrooke Phoenix on Thursday night.
The Isles went back with Matthew Welsh between the pipes for their team, despite being pulled midway through the second period on Thursday night. At the other end of the ice, Alex D’Orio got start in net for the Sea Dogs.
It was a former Sea Dog that opened the scoring in this one, as just over four minutes into the opening period, Daniel Hardie was on the receiving end of a pretty passing play from P.O. Joseph and Pascal Aquin, going on to fire his 18th of the season past D’Orio to open the scoring.
The Isles were not done there, as just over a minute later the red-hot fourth-line of the Isles continued their impressive play, with Liam Peyton setting up linemate Thomas Casey for his 6th goal of the season.
In the closing minutes of the first period Sea Dogs forward Yohan Plamondon was called for interference, sending the Isles to the power play.
On the man-advantage, the Isles had their chances but just could not get a shot past D’Orio. Just as the power play drew to a close Hunter Drew fired a shot from the point that was redirected by Sullivan Sparkes, beating D’Orio to push the Isles lead to 3-0.
The Isles just kept on rolling in the second period, as following another Saint John penalty the suddenly deadly Isles power play took to the ice. In the dying seconds of the man-advantage, Joseph made a terrific play to keep the puck in at the blueline before finding Isles rookie Brett Budgell who spotted Nikita Alexandrov with a perfect pass at the side of the Saint John net for an easy tap-in goal.
With the lead now stretched to four goals, it was the former Sea Dog who continued to punish his former team.
Less than three minutes after the Alexandrov goal, Hardie was at it again, picking up as pass from Joseph before working his way into the Sea Dogs slot and beating his former teammate over his short-side shoulder to push the lead to five goals.
The Sea Dogs would chip into the Isles lead before the end of the period though, with Edmonton Oilers draft pick, and leading scorer Ostap Safin firing a past Welsh on a broken play in the Isles zone.
Despite the goal against, the Islanders pulled into the second intermission leading 5-1, outshooting the Sea Dogs 27 to 13.
In the third period the Sea Dogs were able to light the lamp again, with rookie Luke Wilson getting his stick on a rebound beating Welsh top-shelf.
Fortunately for the Islanders that was as close as the Sea Dogs would come as the Isles would go on to walk out of Saint John with the 5-2 victory.
It was a big game for Hardie against his former team, notching his 18th and 19th goals of season, en route to First Star of the game honours.
Joseph also came up huge for his squad, ending the game with three assists, leading the Islanders to the big bounce back victory.
Islanders head coach and general manager Jim Hulton was proud of the way his team rebounded tonight following back-to-back tough losses.
“We had a good bounce back performance tonight. We established a good forecheck early in the game as we returned to our good work ethic and habits. Now we will look to build on this effort tomorrow in Moncton.”
Like Hulton said, the Isles are back in action tomorrow night against the Wildcats, as the team travels to the Moncton Coliseum for what will likely be the very last time. The Islanders are sending four bus loads of fans over to the game, looking for some crowd support against the Maritime Division rival Wildcats.
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You can follow the action live with Cory Arsenault and Isles Radio here.