Play home-and-home exhibition series vs. Dieppe this weekend
SLEMON PARK – The Summerside Western Capitals of the MHL (Maritime Junior Hockey League) are now nicely into training camp here at The Plex.
After holding fitness testing on Sunday, the 48 players registered for camp hit the ice for the first time on Monday night, and then competed in intrasquad games on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings.
The Caps will hold a team bonding session on Thursday, practise on Friday and play the Dieppe Commandos in an exhibition home-and-home series this weekend. The first game is at The Plex at Slemon Park on Saturday at 7 p.m., and the second is in Dieppe, N.B., on Sunday at 2:30 p.m.
Capitals head coach Tim Schurman, who did not rule out making his first round of cuts this week, expects to trim the roster down significantly after the two weekend games.
“It’s a work in progress as we move through camp,” said Schurman. “At some point you have to start looking at your systems, and 48 (players) is a high number to be worrying about that stuff.
“We like to use the first week for a chance for a lot of the younger guys to get in some games, get their feet wet in junior and see what it’s all about. Just based on what I’ve seen so far, some of those young kids are definitely in the mix for a spot on this team.”
A couple of returnees on the ice at the forward positions on Tuesday night were JP Harvey and Summerside native Jordan Buchanan. Harvey, who was acquired in a deadline deal with the Metro Marauders on Jan. 10, emerged as one of the Caps’ clutch performers in the post-season.
“It’s great having JP Harvey back,” said Schurman. “He was really clutch for us in the playoffs, and come RBC Cup time it seemed most of the goals we scored were either by JP Harvey or Chris Caissy. Obviously, we are counting on him (Harvey) to provide a lot of offence.
“We have Bruce Hornbrook from Pictou, and he is another guy who is a 20-year-old that we are counting on to do some big things here.
“We will be looking to those two guys (Harvey and Hornbrook) to carry a big load of the offence.”
Caissy is playing this season with the Moncton Wildcats of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL). Schurman added four other eligible returnees – Thomas Stavert, Craig MacLauchlan, Zach Beaton and Blaize Bridges – are still with the Charlottetown Islanders of the QMJHL.
“It’s a matter of wait and see for those guys,” said Schurman. “Obviously, if their goal is to play in Charlottetown we hope that it works out for them.
“But, if not, we’ll be waiting for them, and they’ll be big-time contributors for us as well.”
On the blue-line, Michael Crocock, who stepped in a played a regular role as an 18-year-old last season, will be counted on for a big season.
“It’s a work in progress as we move through camp. At some point you have to start looking at your systems, and 48 (players) is a high number to be worrying about that stuff. We like to use the first week for a chance for a lot of the younger guys to get in some games, get their feet wet in junior and see what it’s all about. Just based on what I’ve seen so far, some of those young kids are definitely in the mix for a spot on this team.” Capitals head coach Tim Schurman
“We are ecstatic to have Michael back,” said Schurman. “He was really good for us last year. Now he is a 19-year-old, he’s played in our league and he’s going to handle a lot of minutes on the back end.”
Another familiar face on defence is Harrison Wood.
“He’s (Wood) in great shape,” said Schurman. “He’s probably down close to 15 pounds from where he finished last year.
“He looks good out here, he’s skating well and he did well in the fitness testing.”
At this point it appears the Caps will have a completely new goaltending tandem. Kevin Baillie, who backstopped the team to the RBC Cup championship game, has graduated and Jacob Riley is pursuing a professional tryout, noted Schurman.
Two local goaltenders competing for a roster spot are Grant Grady of Freetown and Alex Kelly of Kensington.
“Both guys had great camps in Moncton (with the Wildcats),” said Schurman. “I think they were both there seven or eight days, and had solid competition. . . We are expecting big things out of these guys.”
Overall, the Caps have six goaltenders in camp.