CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. – Daniel Hardie intercepted a pass in the Moncton’s zone and beat Francis Leclerc for the game-winning goal with 1:50 left Thursday as the Charlottetown Islanders defeated the Moncton Wildcats 5-4 in Quebec Major Junior Hockey League action.
Moncton entered the game 12-0-2-0 in their past 14 games and it was the Isles first win against a top team this season.
“It’s great for our confidence,” Hardie said. "We had a great start. Obviously, through the middle of the game there, it got a bit rocky, but I liked how we didn't give up and we didn't let it slip away. We battled right to the end and got the win.”
Brett Budgell and Nikita Alexandrov gave the Islanders a 2-0 lead after the first period when the shots were 20-5 in favour of the home side.
Summerside’s Jeremy McKenna scored twice and Jacob Hudson added one to give the visitors a 3-2 lead with five minutes to play in the middle frame. Budgell tied it with 1:32 remaining in the second.
Islanders head coach Jim Hulton liked his team's first period, but said a turnover 30 seconds into the seond period swung momentum. They got it back when Moncton's Dylan Seitz was assessed a five-minute major for checking to the head. But the Isles negated it by taking two minor penalties to wipe out the advantage.
“We still have pockets and moments where we fade off the game plan,” he said, but “the resilience is coming back."
Jakob Pelletier on the power play made it 4-3 five minutes into the third, but Liam Peyton converted a Will Sirman pass to tie it midway through the period.
Hardie's game-winner came after the veteran missed a wide-open net in the second period.
“I guess you can say I saved the best chance for last,” he smiled after the game.
“(He) did what leading scorers do and came up huge at the key moment,” Hulton added.
The Islanders have had few games this season where it was received key contributions up and down the lineup this season, but they got it on Thursday in front of a raucous crowd of 2,993 at the Eastlink Centre.
Thomas Casey, who was questionable with an upper-body injury heading into the game, had two asssits and brought speed to a line with Budgell and Alexandrov, but his contribution really shone late in the game.
“What I liked best . . . (was his) sacrifice, putting the body on the line to block a shot and we don’t do that enough as a team,” Hulton said.
Peyton, who had missed a couple of weeks with a back injury, was a factor against the Wildcats.
“He looked terrific. he had a number of grade-A scoring chances tonight,” Hulton said.
Derek Gentile, Brendon Clavelle and Alexander Dersch each had an assist for Charlottetown. Alexander Khovanov, Pelletier, Mika Cyr, McKenna and Hudson each had helpers for Moncton.
Matthew Welsh made 30 saves for the win while Francis Leclerc stopped 35 shots in the loss.
Charlottetown improved to 12-7-1-0 while Moncton is 14-4-2-0.
Moncton started with only 10 forwards and was down to nine after the Seitz penalty, but Hulton isn't putting an asterisks next to the win.
“The nine they had dressed were pretty damn good,” he said. "They have two lines that are as good as any in the league."
The Islanders host Chicoutimi Friday at 7:30 p.m. Welsh gets the start.