Charlottetown Islanders moving to Quebec for playoffs

The Charlottetown Islanders will not be playing any more games at home this season.

Series with Acadie-Bathurst begins this weekend

Islanders captain Brett Budgell and the team will be travelling to Shawinigan, Que., on Thursday for the QMJHL playoffs. (Darrell Theriault)

The Charlottetown Islanders will not be playing any more games at home this season.

The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League announced Tuesday that due to COVID-19 safety measures, all remaining playoff games will be held in Quebec, beginning this weekend.

The Maritime Division final between the Islanders and Acadie-Bathurst-Titan will be played in Shawinigan, Que., beginning this weekend.

The team will leave for Quebec on Thursday, and remain in a two-team bubble with the Titan, who will be in a separate hotel, said coach and general manager Jim Hulton. No fans will be allowed in the rink.

"We'll be in a strict work-isolation situation similar to what we've been here in P.E.I. for three months. We'll be restricted to hotel and the rink, that's it."

Islanders GM-coach Jim Hulton guided the team to a 35-5 record this season, best in the 18-team league. (Brittany Spencer/CBC)

There are eight teams in the playoffs. The other six teams — Quebec, Chicoutimi, Val d'Or, Rimouski, Victoriaville and Blainville — are playing in Quebec City, where the semifinals and final will be held.

The QMJHL is the only major-junior league holding playoffs this year. The Memorial Cup, which would normally include the winners of the QMJHL, Ontario Hockey League and Western Hockey League, as well as the host team, has been cancelled this year.

There's a heck of a lot at stake for us to play for.— Jim Hulton

Many people believe the Islanders, with the best regular season record in the 18-team league at 35-5 — even though they only played against Maritime teams — would have had a legitimate shot at the Memorial Cup this year. But Hulton said winning the league title, something the team has never done in the past, would be a huge accomplishment.

"There's a heck of a lot at stake for us to play for," he said. 

He said it's unfortunate the games can't be played in front of home fans, but the team is just happy to be playing at all.

"The fact that we've forged through as much as we have, and it looks like we're going to be able to crown a champion, is a big achievement for our league and I think our players have benefited from it and all of us as a whole. It allowed us to have a sense of normalcy through a strange and unsettling time for everyone."

Strong defence

Hulton said the team's goaltending has been "outstanding" all season and the keys to beating the Titan are to continue playing strong defence and execute on special teams.

"To me I think come playoff time it's the team that can be the best away from the puck defensively that usually has success so that will be a big part of our focus."

Game 1 is scheduled for Saturday at 5 p.m. AT, with Game 2 Sunday at 5 p.m. News on where it can seen or heard online or on TV is expected in the coming days.

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