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.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

QMJHL draft lottery takes place tonight

The five-time draft lottery champion Saint John Sea Dogs will put their dynasty - and perfect record - on the line tonight in Montreal.

The Sea Dogs have, incredibly, been apart of five draft lotteries previously heading into tonight's showdown. For a team that just completed their 13th season and given the amount of on-ice success the franchise has had, the amount of draft lottery participation is striking.

Even more striking is the fact that Saint John has won all of the draws they have been involved in in the past - but all those featured just two teams. This year's draw will feature five clubs, a format that started last year to try and reduce tanking.

The Sea Dogs will have the most balls in the draw - and, therefore, the best odds at winning the first overall selection. Per lottery rules put in place by the league, Saint John can fall no lower than third - which happened to the Moncton Wildcats (who had the most balls in the draw) last year.

Saint John will have nine balls in tonight's draw, giving them a 43% chance of winning. The Shawinigan Cataractes will have six balls, Charlottetown Islanders (acquired from the Val-d’Or Foreurs) three, Chicoutimi Sagueneens two and the Sherbrooke Phoenix (acquired from the Moncton Wildcats) one. The probability of winning the draw was based off the league’s regular season standings.

Tonight's event begins at 8 p.m. AST at TVA studios in Montreal. It can be watched on TVA Sports.

The 2018 QMJHL Entry Draft takes place Saturday, June 2 in Shawinigan.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Playoff Update: A night of upsets

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Three Games 7s, three upsets.

It was an incredible night in QMJHL playoff action as all three road teams were victorious in Game 7, setting up a set of very unlikely second round matchups.

The biggest of the upsets saw the No. 14 seed Moncton Wildcats defeat the No. 3 seed Rimouski Oceanic 6-3. The Oceanic were able to fire just 20 shots on Moncton netminder Mark Grametbauer, who became the story of the series after being called out by Rimouski's head coach.

The victory is one of the biggest upsets in QMJHL history and marks the second straight season that the No. 3 seed has been eliminated in the first round. Last year, Val-d'Or defeated Shawinigan in six games.

The junior careers of former Sea Dogs Samuel Dove-McFalls (Rimouski's captain) and Chase Stewart ended in the loss.

In Quebec City, the Charlottetown Islanders and Quebec Remparts entered the third period tied 2-2 and appeared destined for overtime - then Charlottetown exploded for six goals, going on to an 8-3 victory. Pascal Aquin scored for goals for Charlottetown, three of which came in the third period.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Official attendance numbers up again

Officially, Saint John Sea Dogs attendance increased for a fourth straight season in 2017-18.

The Sea Dogs averaged 4,257 fans per game, an slight increase of 56 fans per match compared to 2016-17. The average is the fourth highest in team history and largest since the 2011-12 campaign.

While the official numbers say Saint John's attendance was up this season, we're confident in saying attendance was actually down compared to last year. The difference between the announced attendance and people in the building seemed to be a lot larger than in past seasons. Attendance numbers are always inflated (in every city - not just Saint John), but they were inflated a lot on many nights.

It's hard to say how many fans the Sea Dogs actually averaged this year, but attendance was decent given the on-ice product. Saint John recorded 14 wins in the regular season, setting a franchise low.

Here's a look at Saint John's attendance through the years.

2005-06156,6944,477 (4th)
2006-07134,3543,839 (6th)
2007-08139,2143,978 (5th)
2008-09133,6133,930 (5th)
2009-10140,7794,141 (4th)
2010-11152,2374,478 (4th)
2011-12155,0604,561 (3rd)
2012-13135,7323,992 (4th)
2013-14116,3803,423 (5th)
2014-15121,7823,582 (5th)
2015-16123,3993,629 (4th)
2016-17142,8294,201 (3rd)
2017-18144,7234,257 (4th)

The Sea Dogs finished fourth in QMJHL attendance this year, sitting behind Quebec (9,002), Halifax (7,210) and Moncton (4,289). The league averaged 3,195 fans per game, an increase from the 2016-17 average of 3,169.

The Acadie-Bathurst Titan averaged 1,903 fans per game, which was their highest average since 2007-08 (2,178).

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Playoff Update: Game 7s coming up

The first round of the 2018 President Cup playoffs has proven to be one of the better ones in recent memory.

There will be at least two Games 7s - and potentially a third - on Tuesday night in the QMJHL. Both the Moncton Wildcats and Sherbrooke Phoenix have forced their series to a seventh and deciding match with wins Sunday afternoon.

The Acadie-Bathurst Titan, meanwhile, finally dispatched the No. 15 seeded Chicoutimi Sagueneens, winning Game 6 by score of 5-1.

In Moncton, Mark Grametbauer made 40 saves in the Wildcats' 2-1 victory. The first star performance follows the bizarre comments made by Oceanic head coach Serge Beausoleil about the Moncton netminder.
Beausoleil tried to clarify his comments on Sunday.
It's been a great and close series between the Oceanic and Wildcats, which is not something we see too often between the third and 15th seeded teams. This series definitely deserves a seventh game - and it should be a good one.

Sea Dogs fans unhappy with front office change

Saint John Sea Dogs fans are voicing their displeasure over the team's decision to drop long-time radio voice Tim Roszell from his full-time position.

News broke on Tuesday that the Sea Dogs had let Roszell go from his full-time role as manager of media and communications/play-by-play announcer. The position will no longer be a full-time role, but part-time.

Roszell has been offered the part-time position with the team, which would include broadcasting home games on webcast along with some communications work. No one else has been offered the role and the team is waiting for Roszell's decision before moving forward.

The Sea Dogs, at this time, are not planing on having radio broadcasts next season, we are told. Whether there will be a free audio stream of games - and if so, how many games - as a replacement is not yet known.

A petition has been started by fans to bring Roszell's full-time role back. At the time of this writing, the petition had 382 supporters.