The Capitals will look to carry the momentum generated from the team’s most successful regular season in franchise history into a lengthy playoff run.
“We just have to stay out of the penalty box, get pucks deep, keep it simple and work the way we have all year,” said Capitals head coach Billy McGuigan. “If we work as hard as we can, our skill will win out.”
With the City of Summerside hosting the 2013 RBC Cup, the Caps are guaranteed a berth in the Canadian junior A hockey championship tournament as host team. However, the team has made it perfectly clear they want to enter the five-team RBC Cup as Kent Cup (MHL) and Fred Page Cup (Eastern Canadian) champions.
The Capitals, as a result of a league-best 43-7-2-0 (won-lost-overtime losses-shootout losses) record, have secured home-ice advantage throughout the Kent Cup playoffs.
The Caps begin that journey by hosting the Miramichi Timberwolves in Game 1 of the best-of-seven Roger Meek Division semifinal series at Eastlink Arena on Sunday at 2 p.m.
“We know we have to win the first hockey game, and we have been pretty fortunate to win a lot of games at home this year,” said McGuigan, whose team has won nine games in a row and 23 of its last 24. “The first game is at home, that’s the one we want to win and that’s the only one we are looking at now.”
The Caps have been almost unbeatable at home this season, winning 23 of 26 games at Eastlink Arena. The Caps lost only one home game in regulation time – 3-1 versus the Pictou County Weeks Crushers on Nov. 25 – and dropped two overtime decisions.
The Timberwolves, meanwhile, finished fourth in the Meek Division at 26-24-1-1.
“Every time we have played them this year they have played us hard for sure,” said McGuigan. “They have a number of 19-year-olds there.
“The highest-scoring right-winger in the league I think was (Miramichi’s) Rankyn Campbell, so they have some firepower there. They have a couple of kids that we (Caps) had, and they have a couple of Island kids who always bring some fire in their belly. I expect them to come at us hard.”
“We just have to stay out of the penalty box, get pucks deep, keep it simple and work the way we have all year. If we work as hard as we can, our skill will win out.” - Capitals head coach Billy McGuigan
Although the Caps swept all seven head-to-head meetings against the Timberwolves this season, McGuigan warned the Capitals are not going into the series overconfident.
“We are just going to look at it one game at a time,” said McGuigan, who spent three seasons as Timberwolves head coach before joining the Capitals last season. “We are not going to look past Miramichi.”
McGuigan announced that Kevin Bailie will open the series in goal for the Capitals. He added a decision on the starter for Game 2 in Miramichi on Tuesday night will be made after the series opener.
“Jacob (Riley) played the last two games of the regular season, so we will go back with Kevin,” said McGuigan.
Bailie and Riley, who appeared in 34 regular-season games, combined to post the lowest goals-against average in the 11-team league at 2.13.
“We feel we have two of the best goaltenders in the league, and whichever one is in the net is going to give us a chance to win and they have all season,” said McGuigan.
In 11 games with the Caps after joining the team at the Jan. 10 roster deadline, Bailie had nine wins, a 1.90 goals-against average and .929 save percentage.
As is the case with any playoff series, special teams are expected to play a big role.
“Our power play is at 24 per cent right now, and it’s been great all year,” said McGuigan. “Our penalty kill is the best in the Maritime Junior Hockey League (at 87.34 per cent).”
While the Caps have had to lean on their depth throughout the season with injuries and suspensions, McGuigan reports the team has a full compliment of 24 players available for Game 1.
“From a coaching staff standpoint, it’s not easy sitting a kid out and telling him he’s not playing in any game, let alone the playoffs,” said McGuigan. “Whoever deserves it and works the hardest, we’re going to get those guys in the lineup.”