Isles fall to the QMJHL’s top-ranked team
On Friday night the Islanders pulled into the EastLink Centre for a matchup with the QMJHL’s top-ranked team, the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada.
Matthew Welsh got the start in net for the Isles, with Emile Samson starting between the pipes at the other end of the ice for the Armada.
The Isles had their ace in net, but it wouldn’t take long for the league’s top offence to get on the board in this one. Just 49 seconds into the opening period, Blainville-Boisbriand’s trio of elite forwards, Drake Batherson, Alexandre Alain and Alex Barre-Boulet broke into the Isles zone with Batherson one-timing the first shot of the game past Welsh to open the scoring.
With the momentum swinging in the opponent’s direction, Islanders assistant captain Pascal Aquin was going to do something to change that.
Just 39 seconds after the Armada opened the scoring, Aquin dropped the gloves with Blainville-Boisbriand forward Thomas Ethier. The two exchanged heavy blows but it was Aquin who ended up grabbing the upper hand, scoring the final few shots and the takedown.
When the dust had settled the EastLink Centre crowd was on their feet in excitement.
The Isles rode that wave of emotion, with forwards Cayse Ton and Cameron Askew coming close to tying the game just minutes later.
The Armada would be held without a shot for nearly seven minutes midway through the period, but still ended the first period with the lead, despite being outshot 9 to 4 by the Isles.
In the second period the Islanders continued to put pressure on the Aramda, throwing their weight around, and finishing every check. The Isles would go on to outshoot their opponents 8 to 7 in the period but were unable to get a shot past Emile Samson, entering the second intermission still trailing by a single goal.
The power struggle continued in the third period, with the Islanders grabbing their fair share of chances with Samson coming up big at the other end of the ice.
At 12:14 of the period, the QMJHL’s leading scorer, Alex Barre-Boulet notched his 46th goal of the season, beating Welsh to double the Armada lead to 2-0.
But the Isles refused to give up and with just over four minutes remaining they pulled Welsh in favour of an extra attacker. The extra attacker soon paid deviance, as less than a minute after vacating their net, Islanders rookie Brett Budgell got his stick on a rebound and fired a shot through a crowd and past Samson to cut the lead to 2-1.
Unfortunately for the Islanders that is as close as they would come, as two minutes later, with the extra attacker on the ice, Barre-Boulet slide a shot into the open net to put his team up by two goals. The Isles would pull Welsh again but the result was the same as Luke Henman would go on to flip a puck into the open net and Blainville-Boisbriand would walk away with the 4-1 victory.
Armada goaltender Emile Samson earned first star of the game honours, stopping 27 of 28 shots, with Isles rookie Brett Budgell earning the second star of the game.
Islanders head coach and general manager Jim Hulton was proud of his team performance and the way his team bounced back from a recent stretch of tough games.
“We competed tooth and nail and we looked like the Islanders,” Hulton said. “Our commitment away from the puck was really strong, our physical play was really strong and we forced their goalie to have to make a couple saves and he was the first star for a reason.”