CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. – The Charlottetown Islanders longest road trip of the season comes at a good time this year.
The Islanders departed Wednesday for Quebec City where they play the Remparts today at 8 p.m. Atlantic. The trip concludes in northern Quebec with games Saturday in Rouyn-Noranda and Sunday in Val-d’Or.
It will be the team’s first extended road trip since the trade period closed on Jan. 6.
“It will give us a chance to spend a lot of time together as a group, which is important when you’ve moved people out and brought new guys in,” head coach Jim Hulton said Wednesday before departing Charlottetown.
The bench boss and general manager said he is particularly looking forward to the trip after having five games in eight days since returning from the world junior tournament.
“I really haven’t had a chance to get to know some of these guys,” he said. “I am looking forward to spending some time in the bus, away from the rink, at the rink, etc., to get to know them in different settings.”
The team traded four players and added four more to its roster since Dec. 17.
Forging a tight-knit bond is key in any sport, at any level.
“It’s enormous,” Hulton said.
“I think we saw the evidence of that last year. The team bond, kind of that intangible, played such a huge role in our success. It’s hard to quantify, but it’s that staple of all successful teams.”
Charlottetown is 25-12-2-2 on the season, but only 9-9-0-1 away from the friendly confines of Eastlink Centre, including dropping its past two road games. Quebec is 19-5-4-5, including 9-7-2-3 at home.
“We have to play better on the road,” Hulton said. “We’re going to have three games to prove what we’ve learned.”
The Remparts play at the 18,259-seat Videotron Centre – nearly five times the size of the 3,690-seat Eastlink Centre. It will be the team’s first trip there since winning Game 7 of last year’s first-round series with the Remparts.
“The nice part of is the core of our guys had that playoff run in that building, so they’re used to having played in there,” Hulton said. “For the Quebec-based kids, it’s a very special moment, so rather than being in awe of it, we just encourage them to enjoy it.”
The Islanders will have a morning skate there this morning in preparation for the game.
Matthew Welsh is expected to start tonight with Isaak Pelletier expected to make his debut Sunday in Val-d’Or.