Charlottetown Islanders embrace 'underdog role' in QMJHL playoffs
The Charlottetown Islanders will open the first round of the 2018 Quebec Major Junior Hockey League playoffs Saturday on the road in the Centre Vidéotron against the Quebec Remparts.
The Islanders are making their sixth straight appearance in the post-season — despite being heavy underdogs to earn a berth this season.
The Islanders were back on the ice practising on Monday after winning their final regular-season game Saturday night against the Moncton Wildcats.
Although there's no time to rest as playoffs start in less than a week.
The Islanders had expected a tough 2017-2018 season after losing some of their key players last year, but they finished with 81 points — ninth in an 18 team league — right in the middle of the pack.
"There's a lot of internal motivation to prove people wrong and I think in sports the underdog role is one of the fun ones to play and we see it all the time in sports," said Jim Hulton, the Charlottetown Islanders head coach and general manager.
"A credit to the kids because they really embraced it and ran with it."
If there's one word to describe the pre-playoff Charlottetown Islanders, it would be confident. The self-proclaimed underdog team is preparing to go a long way in the playoffs.
Goaltending is key and the team's netminder Matt Welsh has been helping the team by standing his ground between the pipes. He has set a number of records this season, including most career wins and shutouts.
"Obviously, my teammates and coaching really helped out this year with my game," Welsh said.
"There's been nights when they've bailed me out and I've bailed them out, so it's kind of one of those things where we're really there for each other."
Welsh said having people predict the team would place last in the regular season helped to motivate them to push even harder.
"It's one of those things where it changed our attitude ... we kind of played that underdog role all year, where everyone thought that we were going to be a bottom feeder team but we came out every night and gave it all and we were successful so it was really nice to be able to show people that."
The Islanders made it to the third round of the playoffs last season before being knocked out by the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada in Game 7.
This year, they hope to go even further.
"We're pretty happy to show everybody wrong and this is what our thinking is for the playoffs as well to show people that we can be in that league and we can compete against a good team," said Islanders defenceman Pierre-Olivier Joseph.
The puck drops for opening game in the first round of playoffs in Quebec against the Remparts on Saturday, March 24.
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