CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. – Matthew Welsh is now the all-time leader in wins for the Charlottetown Islanders franchise.
Welsh won his 55th career game Thursday by beating his hometown Halifax Mooseheads 2-0 in the first game after the Christmas break. Pascal Aquin scored both of the Islanders goals while captain Pierre-Olivier Joseph had the lone assist.
Welsh said it was a good team win and it was special to set the record in front of both his family and billets. Welsh moves one win past Ryan Mior (2003-07) and Mason McDonald (2013-16), who shared the crease with Welsh in his final junior year, for the franchise lead. He also tied Mior for the most career shutouts with eight.
“It’s definitely an honour. There’s been a lot of great goalies come through the organization,” Welsh said. “Ever since Day 1, I’ve always been proud to be an Islander.
“Tonight is definitely a special moment. There’s no other organization in the league I want to play with.”
Welsh, who the Islanders selected in the second round (37th overall) of the 2015 draft, made 34 saves for his third shutout of the season and beat his former teammate Blade Mann-Dixon, who stopped 20 shots.
“He was full marks for the franchise record tonight,” head coach Jim Hulton said. “He was outstanding, as he has been all year.”
Hulton has been impressed since Day 1 by how Welsh handles himself and his professional approach to the game.
“He’s as cool as a cucumber,” the coach and general manager said.
The 18-year-old netminder still has a couple of years of junior eligibility left, and Hulton said he continues to get better. He said this year Welsh is absorbing more pucks, which means fewer rebounds.
“He is making difficult saves look easy because his position is so solid and strong right now. . . It looks like he’s going to a new level, which is great news for our team and our fans.”
Aquin scored in the second period and added an insurance goal shorthanded in the third.
“Games like this, the first game back from Christmas, you really look to your veterans,” Hulton said. “(Aquin) was a threat all night.”
He described both tallies as man goals that came from “big powerful moves.”
Charlottetown was 0-for-2 on the power play but killed off six Mooseheads power plays, including a double minor to Sam King at the end of the second period that carried over into the third.
Charlottetown (21-11-2-0) gained two points on Halifax (21-10-4-1) in a Maritime Division that is crowded at the top.
Halifax was without Filip Zadina, who is with the Czech Republic at the world junior tournament.
The Islanders played without Matthew Grouchy (flu), Taylor Egan (shoulder) and Saku Vesterinen (concussion). The Isles called up Jack DesRoches, a Days Corner, P.E.I., native playing this season for the Miramichi Timberwolves, for the game, and he earned the confidence of associate coach Guy Girouard.
“His ice time increased as the game went on because he kept answering the bell,” Hulton said. “He’s a simple, solid, strong defenceman, and he was a pleasant addition tonight.”
Egan will not play this weekend while Vesterinen could get back in for Sunday’s contest. Nathanial Doyon will receive a two-game suspension for being the second fight on the same stoppage in Thursday’s contest.
DesRoches and Summerside D. Alex MacDonald Ford Western Capitals forward T.J. Shea will make their home debuts today at 7 p.m. at the Eastlink Centre when the Isles host the Acadie-Bathurst Titan. Former Isles forward Mitchell Balmas scored his first goal as a Titan in his first game with the new club on Thursday.