Sunday, May 13, 2018

Titan keep President Cup in New Brunswick

BATHURST - The President Cup is staying in New Brunswick.

The Acadie-Bathurst Titan won the 2018 QMJHL championship on Sunday at the KC Irving Regional Centre, defeating the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada 2-1 to take the series in six games.

This marks the second consecutive season a New Brunswick based team has defeated the Armada to win the President Cup. Last year, the Saint John Sea Dogs swept Blainville-Boisbriand.

A New Brunswick based team has won five of the past nine QMJHL championships (Sea Dogs - three; Titan - one; Moncton Wildcats - one).

Jeffrey-Truchon Viel and Samuel L'Italien scored for Bathurst while goaltender Evan Fitzpatrick was tremendous, carrying a shutout until the final three minutes of the third period.
Drake Batherson scored the Armada's only goal as his team's offence struggled to click throughout the game. The Armada had just three shots in the first period and never looked comfortable all game. Rookie goaltender Emile Samson - one of the best stories of this post-season - made 24 saves in the loss.

The Armada were the top ranked team entering the playoffs. They've made it to the third round four times in the past six seasons and appeared in the final twice, but still have nothing to show for it.

This was the Titan's second QMJHL championship since relocating to Bathurst, having previously won in 1999. The victory is a sweet one for the franchise and its fanbase, who have gone through just about everything over the past decade - relocation rumours, a training camp tragedy, multiple rebuilds, a change in ownership, etc. But all of that will be forgotten for a while thanks to Sunday's win.

Bathurst will now represent the QMJHL at next week's Memorial Cup tournament in Regina. They'll join the host Pats, OHL champion Hamilton Bulldogs and the WHL champion (either the Swift Current Broncos or Everett Silvertips) in the 100th edition of the event.

Titan look to clinch Cup tonight

BATHURST - The Acadie-Bathurst Titan can win the President Cup on home ice tonight.

The Titan carry a 3-2 series lead over the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada heading into today's Game 6 at the KC Irving Regional Centre. A Titan win would put Bathurst into the Memorial Cup while an Armada win would force a Game 7 in Boisbriand on Tuesday.

It's been a close, back-and-forth series despite some lopsided scores. Bathurst defeated the Armada 5-3 on Friday in what has been the closest end result so far in this series.
The Titan own a series lead thanks to something no other team could do this post-season: beat the Armada on home ice. Bathurst has won two of the three games played in Boisbriand, which now has them in a position to win the President Cup today on home ice.

Bathurst previously won the President Cup in 1999. They lost in the league final in 2001 and 2002.

The winner of this series will represent the QMJHL at the Memorial Cup, which begins on Friday in Regina. The QMJHL's first game is on Saturday against the WHL champion.

All three CHL finals are currently at 3-2. The Hamilton Bulldogs lead the OHL final 3-2 over the Sault Ste. Mare Greyhounds heading into this afternoon's Game 6. In the WHL, the Swift Current Broncos lead the league final 3-2 over the Everett Silvertips heading into Game 6, which will also take place today.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Dream season ends for Islanders

The Charlottetown Islanders' fairy tale season did not have the magical ending it deserved.

After proving doubters wrong all season, the Islanders had their underdog campaign come to an end on Tuesday in Boisbriand, falling 6-1 to the Armada in Game 7 of their semifinal playoff series.

The Game 7 result came as a surprise (and, to be honest, a disappointment given how good the first six games had been) after such a close and evenly played series. Five of the previous six games had been decided by a single goal with three games going to overtime.

While the loss is no doubt disappointing for the Islanders, reaching the semifinals was an incredible accomplishment for a franchise that has a long history of underperforming. The team was projected by just about everyone to finish dead last in the league with some even predicting the squad to be one of the worst in league history. Instead, they surpassed all expectations and are set up fairly well for next season as well.

The 2017-18 Islanders season could be a franchise altering campaign. We've seen time and time again what overachieving can do for a franchise's near future.

The Armada, the league's No. 1 seed, will now play the No. 2 seeded Acadie-Bathurst Titan in the President Cup final. Game 1 is on Friday at 8 p.m. in Boisbriand and can be seen on Sportsnet.

It's the second straight finals appearance for the Armada, who lost in a sweep to the Saint John Sea Dogs last year. This will be Bathurst's first appearance in the final since 2002.

There will be just one former Sea Dog in the series - Armada forward Samuel Leblanc who has appeared in seven playoff games this year.

The winner of the final will represent the QMJHL at the Memorial Cup in Regina later this month.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Isles, Armada meet for Game 6 tonight

CHARLOTTETOWN - This biggest game in Charlottetown Islanders/PEI Rocket/Montreal Rocket history will take place this evening at Eastlink Centre.

Trailing 3-2 in the best-of-seven Quebec Major Junior Hockey League semifinal series against the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada, the Islanders must win to keep their improbable and incredible season alive.

Game time at a sold out Eastlink Centre is 7 p.m.

Even if the Islanders lose tonight, this will be the most memorable campaign in franchise history. At this time last year, nobody was predicting them to get to this point.

The home team has won every game in this series - and it would be fitting if Charlottetown won another close game tonight, which would set up a Game 7 on Tuesday night in Boisbriand. The Isles have refused to die easily all season long, and tonight will likely be no different.

Four of the five games in this series have been decided by one goal with two games going to overtime. It's been an insanely close series, with goaltenders Matthew Welsh and Emile Samson both playing likes MVPs.

The winner of this series will face the Acadie-Bathurst Titan in the league final. The Titan advanced to the fourth round for the first times since 2002 with a surprising sweep of the Victoriaville Tigres.

If the Armada advance, the final will begin in Boisbriand. If the Islanders advance, the series would begin in Bathurst.

Friday, April 20, 2018

QMJHL semifinals begin tonight

The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League semifinals begin tonight.

The Acadie-Bathurst Titan and Victoriaville Tigres will meet in one semifinal while the Blainville-Bosibriand Armada and Charlottetown Islanders will meet in the other.

The Titan, Tigres and Armada were all expected to reach this stage, with the Islanders being the only surprise (in fairness, Charlottetown has surprised all season long, so perhaps it isn't a surprise at all, at this point).

While Isles are coming off the high of a sweep of the highly skilled Halifax Mooseheads, they'll have their hands full with the Armada. Blainville-Boisbriand has had a smooth run through the post-season so far with their only blemish being a messy Game 4 loss to the Moncton Wildcats last round.

The Armada are the No. 1 ranked team and are the favourites to win this season.

The other matchup has the potential to be the best series of these playoffs. The Titan are the No. 2 seed while the Tigres are the No. 6 - but Victoriaville's lineup is probably much better than their regular season record shows.

The Titan had some trouble in the first round with the Sherbrooke Phoenix but didn't have any difficulties in the second, sweeping the Sherbrooke Phoenix. The Tigres, meanwhile, need five games to eliminate both the Gatineau Olympiques in the first round and Drummondville Voltigeurs in the second.

The semifinals begin tonight at 7 p.m. in Bathurst and 8:30 p.m. in Boisbriand, respectively.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Sea Dogs' magical draft lottery run ends

The dynasty run is over.

The Saint John Sea Dogs' streak of QMJHL draft lottery wins came to an end on Thursday night in Montreal, finishing in second place. Before the 2018 event, the Sea Dogs had won all five draws they had taken part in in franchise history.

Saint John had the highest odds (nine balls - a 43% chance of winning) but finished second behind the Chicoutimi Sagueneens. The Sags had just two of the 20 balls in the draw and the second lowest odds of victory.
Unlike the previous years the Sea Dogs were victorious in the draw, the event involved five teams instead of two. The new format was introduced last year to reduce tanking. The new format has certainly been effective as this marked the second year the team with the highest odds did not win. Last year, the Rimouski Oceanic had the third best odds of winning and ended up with the first overall pick.