Playing at home
Welsh gets road start tonight against the Mooseheads
The last time Matthew Welsh played at the Scotiabank Centre he was in novice and the building was called the Metro Centre.
The Charlottetown Islanders goalie gets the start tonight in Halifax against a Mooseheads team he grew up watching.
“It’s pretty exciting,” the Halifax native said before Monday’s practice. “A lot of friends and family are going to watch the game, I think.”
The 16-year-old Quebec Major Junior Hockey League rookie said he is not feeling any extra pressure.
As “the away team you’re just looking to go in and steal two points,” he said. “I think I will go in with the same mindset as every other game.”
Welsh has played the bulk of the games in the Islanders crease since fellow Haligonian Mason McDonald left to be part of Canada’s world junior team in Finland in December.
Welsh went 3-4 with 2.94 goals-against average and a .914 save percentage since Dec. 11.
“It’s been a great experience. I’ve enjoyed every minute of it,” he said. “I’m at a stage now where I feel comfortable going into the net every night.”
While he is continuing to learn and grow as a goalie, Welsh said he has more confidence going to the blue ice because of the added workload.
“He’s been extremely good for us,” said Islanders head coach Jim Hulton.
McDonald is back in Nova Scotia but is not expected to play for the Islanders until Friday, as he rests after travelling back from Finland.
Charlottetown (15-20-2-2) defeated Halifax (13-20-5-1) 6-5 in overtime on Sunday in Charlottetown, but almost let points slip away.
The Islanders held 3-0, 4-1 and 5-2 leads, but Halifax scored three goals in the final 7:35 to force OT.
“As a team we know we can’t let up next time,” said the fivefoot-10, 176-pound Welsh.
“We’re going to have to be better,” Hulton said. “We need to duplicate our first 40-minute effort and remove the final 20, where I thought we got away from our game plan.”
The Islanders had six new faces in Sunday’s lineup, who were not with the team before the Christmas break.
The team is still working on finding chemistry with lines and defence pairings.
It will continue tonight with the Islanders acquisition Monday of Jake Coughler from the Gatineau Olympiques for a fifthround pick in 2016.
The 19-year-old St. Catherines, Ont., native can play centre and right wing. The six-foot-one, 178-pound Coughler has five goals and seven assists in 28 games this season, his third in the QMJHL.
General manager Grant Sonier called him a hard worker who skates well.
Kameron Kielly skated Monday with his teammates for only the second time since suffering an upper-body injury Nov. 14. He is not expected back before the middle of the month at the earliest.
Centre Filip Chlapik is still in Europe after competing for the Czech Republic at the world junior tournament.
“We’re excited about what our depth potentially is going to be when we get everybody back, but it’s important that we start to win now,” Hulton said. “We need to get results and we need to get results fast.”
Charlottetown Islanders goalie Matthew Welsh watches as teammate Samuel Blais prepares to take a shot at Monday’s practice.