Heading in to the final day of the QMJHL regular season, not one first-round playoff matchup had been set. One of the biggest influences on those matchups in the Eastern Conference involved the Charlottetown Islanders and Halifax Mooseheads. The Islanders entered the game in fourth, but could fall as far as seventh depending on the outcomes of the other games around the league. For the Mooseheads, it was either second in the conference or the Eastern Division title.
In the end, it was mission accomplish for both teams. The Islanders put forth a gutsy performance to come from two goals down, Daniel Hardie would score in the shootout, and Charlottetown locks up fourth overall in the Eastern Conference standings with a 3-2 shootout victory on national TV.
The Mooseheads would strike first, and it would be a familiar face for Charlottetown. Keith Getson would get a stick on a Jake Ryczek point shot and deflect the puck past Matthew Welsh, giving the former Islander his 29th goal of the season.
Justin Barron would extend the lead before the end of the first, making a great individual effort to get past the Islanders defender and beat Welsh, giving Barron his ninth goal of the season and the Mooseheads a 2-0 lead heading in to the first intermission.
The momentum swung in favour of the Islanders as the second period opened up, putting forth one of the best 20 minutes that the team did all season long. The Isles pounded the Moose up and down the ice, both physically and statistically, generating a number of high-quality chances while tossing hit after hit.
Charlottetown’s efforts would finally pay off early in the second. Drew Johnston would find Hunter Drew with a pass at the point, and he’d make a great move to walk in to the slot and wire a wrister past Alexis Gravel for his 16th goal of the season, tying him for second amongst all defensemen.
Nikita Alexandrov would get the game tied up and break out of a long goal-scoring funk near the end of the second. Alexandrov would walk in to the Mooseheads zone and fire a shot on Gravel. He’d follow his own rebound behind the net and bank the puck off of Gravel and in to the net. For Alexandrov, that would be his 27th of the season and his second since February 6th.
The two teams would continue to battle throughout the third period, but Welsh and Gravel were incredible in goal, standing on their heads to give their teams a fighting chance to gain the best playoff positioning possible.
The two teams would battle all the way to the end of 60 minutes, with the Islanders battling on the PK for the final 1:30 of play. Putting up a valiant effort, Charlottetown would hold the fort and earned the extra point, sending the game in to overtime.
After 5 minutes of 3-on-3 hockey, the Isles would grab that extra point from their opponents in the shootout thanks to Daniel Hardie. The over-ager, playing in his final regular season game, walked in on Gravel and sniped top shelf, scoring his fourth shootout goal of the season to send the Isles home happy.
Matthew Welsh was absolutely fantastic in the victory, recording 32 saves for his career-high 32nd victory of the season. Gravel, equally as outstanding, made 31 saves in defeat.
“What a wonderful way to cap off a surprisingly good regular season!” said Islanders head coach Jim Hulton on the outcome. “Our team played perhaps our best game of the year, combining grit, character, and resilience.”
With the victory, the Islanders will meet the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles in the first round of the playoffs with home-ice advantage. Hulton spoke about how strong of a year his squad put together, while acknowledging that the work isn’t done.
“40 wins & home ice in the first round is a testament to our group. We’re excited to start preparing for the playoffs!”
The first round of the 2019 QMJHL Playoffs is set, but dates have yet to be confirmed. You can still grab 8-game packages for the playoffs at the Eastlink Centre box office or by phone at 902-629-6625. Individual tickets will be available for purchase on Monday, March 18th. Thank you to all of our fans who supported us this season!