CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. – Carl Neill is pulling for his former squad as opposed to his hometown team.
The defenceman, who played for the Charlottetown Islanders a year ago, grew up in Lachute, Que., but now lives a five-minute walk from the Centre d’Excellence Sports Rousseau in Boisbriand, Que. The Islanders and Blainville-Boisbriand Armada start their Quebec Major Junior Hockey League semifinal tonight in the Montreal suburb.
Neill, who is studying business at Concordia University this year and played for the Stingers hockey squad, has exams on Saturday and Monday so he won’t make the first two games of the series.
“I’m hoping (the Islanders are) going to be able to sweep them in four . . . but if (it goes) to five, I’ll be there for sure,” he said Thursday.
Neill said there’s a lot of excitement around the community and he expects it will be a good series between two strong franchises. He said Charlottetown is coming in as the underdogs, but he likes the leadership it will get from Pierre-Olivier Joseph, Pascal Aquin and Keith Getson and he noted head coach Jim Hulton will have his squad ready to go.
“If there’s a team that can cause an upset it would be them.”
The series is a rematch of last year’s semifinal, which the Armada won in five games after dropping the opener in Charlottetown.
“It still stings,” Neill said. “I’m sure the guys on the team this year are feeling the same way.”
His message to this year’s squad is to take it a game at a time and know it is a long series whether you get ahead or fall behind.
Neill had five goals and 26 assists for 31 points in 28 games with the Stingers and was named to the U Sports all-rookie team.
Neill said Stingers coach Marc-André Elément provided opportunities for the young guys to play and added the squad had the nation’s leading scorer in former Val-d’Or Foreurs forward Anthony Beauregard.
“We had a pretty offensive team,” he said.
The team qualified for U Sports nationals in Fredericton, N.B., for the first in 34 years. Neill, who said he will have two years left of university after this year, said he enjoyed making the transition to the U Sports.
“It’s a good stepping stone, especially if you want to work on your school while still playing before you go pro,” he said.