'We're going to be the proverbial underdog': Islanders carry on without key players
P.E.I. hockey fans have waited 14 years for their team to reach the semifinals of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League playoffs.
Friday at 7 p.m. at the Eastlink Centre, the wait will be over.
The Charlottetown Islanders will open their best-of-seven series at home against the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada.
That's big, not just for the fans, but for the players, said Islanders GM-coach Jim Hulton.
"Home ice [advantage] is extremely important at all levels but especially junior hockey," he said. "Teenage players tend to be a heck of a lot more comfortable in comfortable surroundings in their own environment."
It's been the best season for major junior hockey on the Island since the P.E.I. Rocket debuted in 2003.
Undefeated in playoffs
The Islanders set a franchise record with 46 wins and swept their first two playoff series.
They will be well rested against the Armada, who went to Game 7 Tuesday night against the Acadie-Bathurst Titan.
"They've now played 13 games to our eight, and I think that's really going to benefit us down the road," Hulton said.
Pittsburgh Penguins prospect Daniel Sprong leads the Islanders with 14 points, but Hulton said depth has been a strength this season and in the playoffs.
"At any point we're comfortable with any one of our four lines."
Hulton said he's expecting a long series from two teams that play different styles.
"We're more of an aggressive, in-your-face go-go-go team. They're the opposite. They sit back, they do a wonderful job of checking away from the puck.
"We have a ton of respect for this club."
The winner will advance to the league championship against either Saint John or Chicoutimi.
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