On a night where the Charlottetown Islanders honoured their former captain and top defender, it was the goaltenders that stole the show.
Both Islanders starter Matthew Welsh and Drummondville Voltigeurs starter Olivier Rodrigue made 32 saves in the game; unfortunately for Welsh, the Voltigeurs took one extra shot. Nicolas Guay scored early in the first and Felix Lauzon added an empty netter, as Pierre-Olivier Joseph and the Voltigeurs defeated the Islanders 2-0 on PO Joseph Appreciation Night.
“It definitely felt weird at first.” said Joseph following tonight’s game. “To be on this side of the ice it was a little weird; I didn’t even know the room on the other side. But, I’m glad to be here for the last time, it was a lot of fun.”
“I thought that our compete level was extremely high tonight.” said head coach Jim Hulton following the loss. “I thought that was one of the better battle games we’ve had all season long. We did a good job of dragging ourselves back in to this game, at one point the shot clock was pretty ugly, 18-3, but we battled back in to it.”
“All in all, despite the loss, I was very happy with how we played.”
The Voltigeurs would strike early in the first period. A Marc-Olivier Duquette point shot would hit a scrum of players in front of Islanders starter Matthew Welsh and fall right on to the stick of Voltigeurs captain Nicolas Guay. The high-scoring forward would make no mistake on the wide-open net for his 30th of the season, establishing a new career high.
While Drummondville is one of the strongest teams in the league, Charlottetown refused to wilt. The Isles took a physical game to the Voltigeurs early and often throughout the game, throwing a number of big hits at both ends of the ice.
“We thought that we could physically push them a little bit and stop them before their engine got started.” said Hulton on the higher-intensity play the Islanders brought. “Secondly, we know we have to add that dimension to our game. It hasn’t been there this season, but quite frankly if we’re going to have any success in the playoffs, this is the way we have to play.”
The third period brought with it a parade to the penalty box for Drummondville. The Voltigeurs spent the majority of the third on the penalty kill, taking four straight penalties before the 11 minute mark of the period. The Islanders, however, couldn’t take advantage; the Voltigeurs kept the Isles attackers to the outside and not allowing them any quality opportunities to set-up with the man advantage.
That play with the man advantage would come to be the difference. The Voltigeurs would lock it down defensively from there and take the two points.
“The powerplay was a big detriment tonight.” said Hulton on the Isles’ special teams play this evening. “We had some looks early but it was almost one of those games where you wish you’d stay five-on-five.”
Welsh was outstanding in goal, rebounding from a couple of shaky starts against Halifax and Sherbrooke despite the loss. Hulton says this is the Welsh that fans have come to love, and the goaltender that can steal this team games.
“He was outstanding; he did what he was supposed to do, and that’s give us a chance to win hockey games.” added Hulton. “It was an emotional night with the P-O celebration, so it was good to see Welsh do his job.”
Before he left, Joseph had a message for the Islanders fans that supported him over the years.
“Thanks a lot for everything you guys did. This night is going to be unforgettable. Those 200 games will be thought of for the rest of my life, and I can’t thank you enough for everything you’ve done for me.”
The Islanders don’t have long to rest, as they’ll hit the road tomorrow night when they take on the Saint John Sea Dogs from Harbour Station. You can catch all of the action on Ocean 100’s Saturday Night Hockey.