'Wonderful ride' of a season ends for Charlottetown Islanders

An unusual but remarkable season has come to an end for the Charlottetown Islanders.

Victoriaville eliminates Charlottetown from QMJHL semifinal with 2-0 win in Quebec City

The Charlottetown Islanders lost to the Victoriaville Tigres in the final game of the best-of-five QMJHL semifinal Tuesday night. (Oli Croteau)

An unusual but remarkable season has come to an end for the Charlottetown Islanders.

The Islanders lost 2-0 to the Victoriaville Tigres in their Quebec Major Junior Hockey League semifinal match Tuesday night in Quebec City, after going the distance in the best-of-five series.

A win would have put the Islanders in the President's Cup final for the first time in franchise history. Instead, it will be the Tigres who advance to play the Val-d'Or Foreurs in the league final. The best-of-seven series begins Thursday night in Quebec City.

"I've been kicking around this game for 25-plus years and this is the proudest I've ever been of a group," said Islanders GM-coach Jim Hulton after the game.  "There wasn't many nights that we lost so it was a wonderful ride."

I've been kicking around this game for 25-plus years and this is the proudest I've ever been of a group.— Islanders GM-coach Jim Hulton

The loss marks the end of the junior career for 21-year-old Charlottetown native Thomas Casey, one of two P.E.I.-born players — Keiran Gallant of Covehead is the other — and 15 Atlantic Canadians on the Islanders roster. Cédric Desruisseaux of Quebec and goalie Colten Ellis of Nova Scotia also played their last game of junior eligibility.

Casey said the mood in the dressing room after the game was "tough."

"Everyone's pretty down right now but the mindset is keep your head high and that's what we're going to do," he said.

Desruisseaux, who led the team in scoring in the regular season and playoffs, fired a shot that rang loudly off the post with less than four minutes left in the game and Victoriaville leading 1-0. It was one of few chances the Islanders had to tie the score late in the game.

Victoriaville's Shawn Element scored in the second period to give the Tigres the lead.

Tigres goalie Nikolas Hurtubise stopped Islanders captain Brett Budgell on a breakaway in the second period.

Victoriaville added an empty-net goal late in the game. It was the first time all season the Islanders have been shut out.

The Tigres outshot the Islanders 23-18.

Best regular-season record

Due to COVID-19, the QMJHL is the only one of the three major junior leagues in Canada to have playoffs.

The QMJHL winner would normally advance to the Memorial Cup against the host team and the OHL and WHL winners, but the tournament has been cancelled this year due to the pandemic.

The Islanders finished in first place during the regular season with a 35-5 record, although they only played against Maritime teams due to COVID-19 restrictions.

They swept the Acadie-Bathurst Titan in three games in the quarter-finals.

After about 100 days in work-isolation, basically going from the rink to home each day, the Islanders will head home on Thursday and go their separate ways until next season.

"Charlottetown's going to get a banner soon and I can't wait to be in the stands watching and cheering," Casey said.

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