OPINION: Islanders marquee games for 2014-15
The start of the 2014-15 regular season is still three months away, but in looking at the schedule I have compiled a list of the 12 notable and must see games for this season.
The game dates are in chronological order.
Game 1: Friday Sept. 12, 2013, 7 p.m.
Season Home Opener
vs. Saint John Sea Dogs
Like every QMJHL and hockey fan, I am always excited for the first home game of the season. The atmosphere of the rink, catching up with rink buddies and the introduction of the roster is always fun. This season the Islanders kick off the seas at home against the Saint John Sea Dogs.
Oliver Cooper, who the Islanders acquired on May 30 for two first-round picks, will make his Islanders debut against his former team, which he spent the last three seasons with. To add to that, fellow acquisitions Ross Johnston, Ryan MacKinnon and Dexter Weber will make their debut in the gold and black. Also, look for Mitchell Balmas and possibly some other 2014 Islanders to make their QMJHL draft. Sea Dogs’ first overall pick Luke Green will also make his QMJHL debut.
With NHL camps just starting up, we could be expected to be without Mason McDonald.
Game 2: Friday Sept. 19, 2014, 7 p.m.
First road game of the season
@ Cape Breton Screaming Eagles
Just like 2013-14, the Charlottetown Islanders will play their first road game in Sydney, N.S. against the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles. The teams will play back-to-back games Friday and Saturday.
The Screaming Eagles are a much improved team this year and will be in competition with the Islanders for top spot in the Maritimes.
Mitchell Balmas will be playing at home for the first time in the QMJHL and current Islander Bradley Kennedy will get to play in front of his family and friends as well.
Game 3: Sunday Sept. 28, 2014, 3 p.m.
Bridge-rival Wildcats come to town
vs. Moncton Wildcats
It will be the first meeting of the season between the Islanders and the Moncton Wildcats. Games against the Wildcats are always fun to watch, no matter where either team is in the standings. Russian sensations Ivan Barbashev and Vladimir Tkachev will make their first of four trips to the Eastlink Centre this season.
The Wildcats have only won five times in Charlottetown over the last five years dating back to Rocket days. The Wildcats never won a game in Charlottetown during the entire 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons. Moncton won two games in Charlottetown this past season.
Being a Sunday game, it would be great to see some Wildcats fans make the two-hour trip down. Its always fun talking and meeting new fans.
Game 4: Wednesday Oct. 1, 2014, 7 p.m.
Cooper makes first return to Harbour Station
@ Saint John Sea Dogs
You know for sure Oliver Cooper has this date marked off on his calendar. The 19-year-old will make his first trip back to Saint John, where he played three seasons after being drafted 19th overall in 2011.
The Fredericton native is going to be fired up for his return to Saint John and it will show on the ice. He will enemy No. 1 when he steps foot on Harbour Station ice.
Game 5: Friday Oct. 3, 2014, 7 p.m.
Defending champs come to town
vs. Val-d’Or Foreurs
The Islanders will get a taste of the 2014 QMJHL Champions less than a month into the season when they battle the Foreurs.
It is expected that the Foreurs will be without Anthony Mantha and former Islanders goalie Antoine Bibeau as both are expected to play in the AHL next season. Former Rocket, Louick Marcotte will not be back as he was traded from Val-d’Or to Gatineau.
Like every season, it is always fun to see the defending champs come to town, only to see if they still have it in them to repeat or if they are back in the building process.
Game 6: Saturday Oct. 25, 2014, 7:30 p.m.
Memorial Cup hosts come to town
vs. Quebec Remparts
Islanders fan will get their first look at the 2015 MasterCard Memorial Cup hosts, Quebec Remparts, when they visit the Eastlink Centre. The Remparts are always a good team and are always fun to watch when they come to town. We should expect the Remparts to be one of the best teams in the league this year and the Islanders should give them a good contest.
Game 7: Friday Oct. 31, 2014, 7 p.m.
Halloween with the Wildcats
@ Moncton Wildcats
The Charlottetown Islanders will make their first trip of the season to “Wildtown” to battle bridge-rival Moncton Wildcats. A Friday night should mark the perfect opportunity for Islanders fans to make the short trip over to cheer loud.
Dating back to Rocket years, the Islanders franchise has been pretty successful in Moncton over the past five years. Charlottetown has a 10-5-1-0 record at the Coliseum and their latest win was Feb. 28, 2014.
Game 8: Saturday Dec. 14, 2014
MacKinnon makes return to Rimouski
@ Rimouski Oceanic
Defenceman Ryan MacKinnon will make his first return to Rimouski. The former Oceanic captain spent the last three seasons with the Oceanic scoring 10 goals and 57 points in 188 games.
The Summerside, P.E.I. native served as an assistant captain in the 2012-13 season before wearing the ‘C’ in the recent 2013-14 season.
For any team, it’s always special to see a former captain come back to play one last time.
Game 9: Wednesday Dec. 31, 2014, 3 p.m.
Literally last game of the year
@ Halifax Mooseheads
The Halifax Mooseheads will host the Charlottetown Islanders for an odd News Years Eve matinee game at 3 p.m. This is definitely something different for the Islanders/Rocket, as they have never played on Dec. 31.
Another reason for this is a must-watch game is because Halifax is a divisional rival. This is the perfect match-up to end the year 2014 and get ready for 2015. With the game during the Christmas break, it’s another perfect opportunity for Islanders fans to make the three-and-a-half hour trip to the Metro Centre.
All 16 QMJHL teams play on New Years Eve.
Game 10: Saturday Jan. 17, 2015, 5 p.m.
Johnston makes return to Victoriaville
@ Victoriaville Tigres
Ross Johnston will make his first trip back to Victoriaville since being traded at the 2014 QMJHL Entry Draft.
Johnston only spent one season with the Tigres and scored 10 goals and 25 points in 60 games last season. He served as an assistant captain and played half the season with former Islanders forward Yan Pavel Laplante.
Game 11: Friday March 20, 2015
Last home game of the season
vs. Saint John Sea Dogs
Game No. 67 of the season but game No. 34 at home. For the third straight season, the Islanders will wrap up their home schedule against division rival Saint John.
The last home game of the season can play a big factor for any team, whether it’s battling for playoff positioning, battling for home ice, or for team’s who don’t make the playoffs – last game in front of home fans until September.
Game 12: Saturday March 21, 2015, 4 p.m.
Last game of the season
@ Moncton Wildcats
For the first time in a couple of seasons, the Islanders will end the season on the road. This time, it’s just the short drive to Moncton against the bridge rivals.
With a Saturday afternoon game, it’s a great chance for Islanders fan to make the trip and cheer on their team.
In most recent years, most playoff positioning doesn’t get determined until the last regular season game ends.