Charlottetown Islanders show their coach the ‘beauty’ of junior hockey

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When the Charlottetown Islanders made history by reaching the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League final for the first time in the franchise’s 23-year history, one of the first things the players did was been to grab their longtime equipment handler and hoist him into the air.

Andrew “Spider” MacNeil has been on the team since the very beginning, and when the Islanders beat the Sherbrooke Phoenix in their best-of-five semifinal series on Monday night, the players made sure he was a part of it. of the celebration.

“It was a lot of euphoria,” Islanders coach and general manager Jim Hulton said in an interview with Mainstreet PEI host Matt Rainnie.

“There was a bit of crowd surfing. They grabbed Spider, threw him in the air and danced. But you know what? That’s the beauty of it. That’s why I like coaching junior hockey, just to see the happiness and the joy on the faces of these children.”

The Islanders will face the winner of Wednesday night’s game between Shawinigan and Quebec in the best-of-seven President Cup final starting Saturday. If Shawinigan wins, the Islanders will host Game 1. If Quebec wins, they will start on the road.

“longest 13 minutes”

Hulton said a few days off will do the team good after Monday’s emotional game in Sherbrooke, Que. The Islanders appeared to be in control, but lost momentum when the Phoenix scored twice early in the third period to cut the lead to 4-3.

Jim Hulton was named QMJHL Coach of the Year for the second year in a row. (Tom Steepe/CBC)

“We joked last night after the game, it was the longest 13 minutes in hockey history for those of us hanging in there,” Hulton said.

“It felt like the ice was tilted in their favor for most of the third. But our goalkeeper was sensational and we will continue for a long time. You have to have moments like that. You have to be lucky. “

The Islanders have been more than lucky this year. They’re full of what Hulton calls character players, guys who elevate their gear manager after a win, led by captain and QMJHL Humanitarian of the Year Brett Budgell.

Skilled players

They have talented players such as Lukas Cormier, widely regarded as the best defenseman in the league; Patrick Guay, whose 55 goals set a franchise record; Jakub Brabenec, of Czechia, winner of the Michel-Bergeron trophy given to the best offensive rookie in the League; and goaltender Franceso Lapenna, who has a 1.79 goals-against average in 10 playoff games this year.

Of course, they also have Hulton, who was named the league’s Coach of the Year for the second year in a row.

But Hulton said the players deserved the credit. He said they have been “on a mission” since losing in the league semi-finals last year.

“These kids maintained their focus through a lot of things,” he said. “These kids have been through COVID. They’ve been through different shutdowns and through it all they’ve maintained their love of the game, they’ve maintained their focus and they’re excited to keep playing because they love each other. They’ve got a lot fun together and they want this race to continue.”

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