The Charlottetown Islanders had a statement game in November.
Xavier Fortin and Drew Johnston provided the offence and Matthew Welsh was nearly perfect as the Isles defeated the Moncton Wildcats 2-1 Sunday in Quebec Major Junior Hockey League action.
“We had really good energy today and we really proved to the rest of the league what we can do,” Welsh said. “We’re missing a few key pieces in our lineup but that didn't stop us tonight. We went out there, we worked hard and we earned a win.”
The Islanders are still without key cogs Nikita Alexandrov and Lukas Cormier, both sidelined by foot injuries that don’t require surgery.
Johnston acknowledged they are a better team with their top scoring forward and defencemen in the lineup but said there’s more than one way to win hockey games.
“We proved here tonight, and the past couple of games, we can win without them. We’re a tenacious and hard-working team,” he said.
Charlottetown has been plagued by inconsistent play in recent weeks, but after arguably its worst effort on Remembrance Day, the team played well in Moncton and Acadie-Bathurst but only managed one point.
Head coach Jim Hulton said he was proud of his guys. Despite being tired and beat up and down bodies they played with emotion, grit and tenacity and beat one of the league’s hottest teams.
“It was an identity game,” Hulton said. “That’s the way we want to play and have to play. I’m really pleased that we got rewarded. I didn't mind our game all weekend.”
Fortin scored his fifth of the season in the first period and then set up Johnston’s third for the game-winning goal that exploded the water bottle behind Moncton goalie Olivier Rodrigue.
Johnston, a second-year Isles forward from Saint John, N.B., credited Fortin, another sophomore, for a nice pass after getting by the defenceman on the wing.
“He beat him on the wall and gave me a perfect sauce over in the slot and I just put everything into it, pop that bottle you know,” said Johnston, noting it was his biggest goal as an Islander. “That was a nice feeling.”
“You have to have emotion and you have to stick together. We played with a lot more jam in our game tonight than we have in a long time."
-Islanders head coach Jim Hulton
Moments later, the Wildcats sprung one of their top marksmen, Mika Cyr, on a breakaway. Welsh made the stop, but Moncton drew a penalty and went to work with some lethal weapons on the power play.
Welsh again rose to the occasion, stopping Minnesota Wild draft pick Alexander Khovanov on a point-blank one-timer.
“We had a good pre-scout,” Welsh said. “We knew what they were trying to do and I think our penalty kill tonight did a great job of getting guys out of the front of the net and blocking shots.”
Hulton called those two saves by Welsh enormous.
“Right from the beginning he was sharp in his movements and absorbing every puck,” he said. “He was reading everything. He was a half a step ahead of the play today.”
A fracas ensued at the end of the game. It was not immediately clear what started it, but Moncton’s Khovanov and Jakob Pelletier as well as Johnston and Brendon Clavelle for the Islanders received roughing minors. Khovanov also received major and match penalties for biting Clavelle’s finger.
“It will be interesting to see how the powers that be look at that one,” Hulton said.
Thomas Casey received a game misconduct for leaving the bench during an altercation.
Islanders came off the bench to celebrate the victory while the Moncton coaches said they did what they were supposed to do by holding its players on the bench. It resulted in more Islanders on the ice than Wildcats.
Hulton said he liked the way his team played today.
“You have to have emotion and you have to stick together. We played with a lot more jam in our game tonight than we have in a long time,” Hulton said. “We just said the two times we beat this team, we’ve been able to get under their skin a little bit. I think that’s the way we have to (play). Games like this . . . help that bond of the team strengthen up quite a bit.”
A look at Sunday’s Quebec Major Junior Hockey League game between the host Charlottetown Islanders and the Moncton Wildcats.
Moncton – 1.
Charlottetown – 2.
Moncton – Kyle Foreman.
Charlottetown – Xavier Fortin and Drew Johnston.
Moncton – Christian Huntley and Isaac Wilson, a Vernon River native.
Charlottetown – Cole Edwards, William Trudeau and Xavier Fortin.
Moncton – Olivier Rodrigue, 25 saves on 27 shots.
Charlottetown – Matthew Welsh, 26 saves on 27 shots.
Moncton – 0-for-2.
Charlottetown – 0-for-3.
Moncton – 7.
Charlottetown – 19.
Attendance – 2,324.
Welsh said – “We got tired of losing. We just wanted to come out here and play to our ability, stop feeling sorry for ourselves and go out and earn a win.”
Up next – A look at the Islanders next five games:
Wednesday – Baie-Comeau (10-10-4-0) at Charlottetown (13-7-4-0), 10 a.m. (school day game)
Saturday – Charlottetown at Sherbrooke (19-2-2-0), 7 p.m.
Sunday – Charlottetown at Quebec (11-11-0-1), 4 p.m.
Tuesday, Nov. 26 – Charlottetown at Rimouski (14-5-1-3), 8:30 p.m.
Friday, Nov. 29 – Val-d’Or (12-9-2-0) at Charlottetown, 7:30 p.m.
Injury update – Forward Keiran Gallant broke his collarbone on a clean play Saturday in Bathurst, N.B. Islanders head coach Jim Hulton said it probably was going to require surgery, but the team would know more midweek. The team might call someone up for its upcoming road trip, but a final decision had not been made.