The Capitals made a big splash at the Jan. 10 roster deadline, acquiring two defenceman, two forwards and a goaltender. Along with sitting atop the MHL’s (Maritime Junior Hockey League) overall standings, the Caps are also the host team for the RBC Cup Canadian junior A hockey championship tournament from May 11 to 19.
“The biggest task we have now is to create chemistry among these guys,” said Caps head coach Billy McGuigan. “When you move out two guys and bring in five more, it’s going to take some time to jell. It’s a process moving forward.
“It’s going to be a battle for ice time, so you have to come to play.”
Three of those newcomers – defenceman Michael Crocock, goaltender Kevin Bailie and right-winger Luke Warner – were on the ice at an optional skate at Eastlink Arena on Friday morning before the Caps travelled to Campbellton, N.B., for that night’s 7-1 victory against the Tigers.
The Capitals also acquired defenceman Mackenzie Braid from the Sudbury Wolves of the Ontario Hockey League, and left-winger JP Harvey from the Metro Shipbuilders of the MHL. Defenceman Dale Deon and forward Justin Thomas were traded away on deadline day.
McGuigan hopes to have all five newcomers in the lineup for Saturday’s home game against the Dartmouth, N.S.-based Shipbuilders at Eastlink Arena. The puck will drop at 7 p.m., and the Caps have guaranteed a 50/50 pool of $5,000.
“The next game at home I will prove to the guys that I play for the name on the front and not on the back,” said Warner. “That’s the way I’ve been all my life, and I’m excited to play.”
Warner, who played the last 2 1/2 years with the MHL’s Bridgewater Lumberjacks, described his reaction to being traded to Summerside: “It’s the best feeling I could ever have. . . It’s a big accomplishment for me coming from Bridgewater.
“It was pretty tough there, and coming here it’s like an NHL team. I couldn’t be any happier. This is what I wanted the last two years, and I finally got it. I’m very thankful for the opportunity I have.”
Crocock, who requested a trade to Summerside from the Pembroke Lumber Kings of the Central Canadian Junior A Hockey League, described everything he’s seen with the Caps so far as “first class” and could not wait to play in Campbellton.
“I want to win an RBC Cup, and I thought this will be the best opportunity for me to do it,” said Crocock, who describes himself as an all-around defenceman.
“I like to play defence and offence,” he went on to say. “I have good skating ability, I can shoot the puck, I can put pucks in the net and I can bring an all-around defensive style to the team.”
Goaltender Kevin Bailie, 21, after dealing with the disappointment of being released by the Memorial Cup-contending London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League earlier this week, arrived in Summerside on Thursday.
“I got handcuffed at the (OHL) trade deadline with the overage situation, and this was a second option for me,” said Bailie, who had an 18-4-0-1 (won-lost-overtime losses-shootout losses) record, 2.50 goals-against average and .921 save percentage in 27 games with the Knights this season.
Bailie said he understands his release from the Knights was just part of the business.
“I’m really excited (to be in Summerside),” said Bailie, who talked to the Capitals last summer. “I’ve heard a lot of good things about Billy and (general manager) Pat (McIver).
“Ultimately, my decision came down to the fact I get to play in the RBC (Cup). That was real exciting for me.”
“The next game at home I will prove to the guys that I play for the name on the front and not on the back. That’s the way I’ve been all my life, and I’m excited to play.” - Right-winger Luke Warner
McGuigan said Bailie will make his first start with the Capitals on Saturday.
Bailie and Jacob Riley, who stopped 23 of 24 shots in Friday’s win over Campbellton, are expected to form arguably the best goaltending tandem in the 11-team MHL. In 27 games this season, Riley has 16 wins, a 2.50 goals-against average and a .914 save percentage.
“We knew from the get-go we needed to get more depth there (in goal),” said McGuigan. “Jacob Riley has been tremendous for us this year, and we really like the kid and like his play.”
Head coach Billy McGuigan’s
comments on latest acquisitions:
Goaltender Kevin Bailie: “The goalie coach that he works with in Ontario had phoned him right away (after he was released by the London Knights earlier this week), and said, ‘Call the Summerside Western Capitals.’
“His name is Kory Cooper (from Winsloe), and Island guys kind of stick together. Donnie Gallant also was another Islander who helped in this process. It was a lot of talking to Kevin as he was pretty disappointed in his situation, but now I believe he has another situation here (Summerside) that is pretty promising.”
Defenceman Michael Crocock: “I got to see him first hand for four days and got to see him play (during Team East evaluations for the 2012 World Junior A Hockey Challenge). His professionalism is second to none, his maturity, everything about his personality shows professional. He’s a great, great kid.
“He’s very mobile, makes a great first pass, is a great penalty-killer, he’s a shut-down defenceman who plays against other teams’ top lines and he also can play on the power play. He’s a tremendous pick-up for us.
“The Pembroke Lumber Kings really helped us in this process. They didn’t have to move him to us, but they understood the kid was looking for an RBC Cup shot and a chance at a national championship.”
Defenceman Mackenzie Braid: “We’ve done our research on Mackenzie Braid, and we know he’s a terrific skater. His mother is Dawn Braid, and she is one of the most prolific power-skating instructors in the country, and works with a lot of NHL players.
“We know he is probably going to be the best skater in the Maritime Junior Hockey League. . . We know he’s a good stay-at-home defenceman with great wheels, and can play forward. Checking the references around we are being told he’s going to be in our top four as well.”
Right-winger Luke Warner: “Luke Warner is a guy full of energy and drive, and wants to come here. He’s a guy who dumps the puck into the corner and runs you over.
“That’s something we don’t have here, and he will fit in well. He sticks up for his teammates, and he’ll go to war every night. It was a piece that was pretty important to us.”
Left-winger JP Harvey: “For JP Harvey it’s real hard to get a real good read on him. He’s played on a team that hasn’t had a great cast of players around him, but he always came to play.
“We know he has some sand paper and we know he can score. . . with 18 goals coming into our team, it’s a pretty good mix.”