Season of growth

Jason Simmonds
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For young Western Capitals’ team

SUMMERSIDE – It’s been a year of growth for the Summerside Western Capitals.

The rebuilding Capitals, who finished the season with 12 players in their first year of junior hockey, completed the 2013-14 MHL (Maritime Junior Hockey League) regular season a very respectable 24-23-2-3 (won-lost-overtime losses-shootout losses).

“Coming into the year, we fully expected there would be trying times,” said Capitals head coach Tim Schurman. “We had a lot of young guys coming in trying to get their feet wet in the league.

“We were able to move out some veteran guys (during the season) because we felt some of our younger guys were ready for more prominent roles. We feel we had a solid year.

“Obviously, it was a tough start, but any time you have that many rookies all coming into the league at once it takes some time, especially in a league that is veteran-driven. We are very happy with the way we are able to finish up and we are very happy with the progression of a lot of our younger players, and the stabilizing presence our veteran guys have given us.”

After winning just four of their first 15 games, the Caps went 20-17 the rest of the way. The Caps finished the regular season with three straight wins and won 10 of their last 14 games.

“When we made the decision as a group to run with our young guys, typically you are able to insulate them with veterans and match them up against third, fourth lines, guys typically their own age,” said Schurman. “In our case, our top players are our young guys, so they have been playing against top lines for the majority of the season.

“You can see they are confident in that role, and they are taking pride in the fact they are going head-to-head with some of the best players in the league on a nightly basis. They have really bought into the systems we have put in place, and what we are asking of them.”

“Coming into the year, we fully expected there would be trying times. We had a lot of young guys coming in trying to get their feet wet in the league. We were able to move out some veteran guys (during the season) because we felt some of our younger guys were ready for more prominent roles. We feel we had a solid year. Obviously, it was a tough start, but any time you have that many rookies all coming into the league at once it takes some time, especially in a league that is veteran-driven. We are very happy with the way we are able to finish up and we are very happy with the progression of a lot of our younger players, and the stabilizing presence our veteran guys have given us.” Capitals head coach Tim Schurman

Top scorers

Four of the Capitals’ top six point-getters are rookies. Alex Bradley, who turned 19 on Jan. 9 and has two years of junior A eligibility remaining, was second in team scoring with 54 points (19 goals, 35 assists) in 52 games. Brad Power, who turned 18 on Feb. 24, was third with 45 points (26-19) in 44 games.

Cavan Fitzgerald, who was fifth in team scoring, led all defencemen with 33 points (9-24) in 47 games. Fitzgerald is 17-years-old.

In 39 games, 18-year-old Malik Johnson rounded out the top-sox scorers with 29 points (12-17).

Forward Isaac Jay, who played with Kensington in the Island Junior Hockey League last season, appeared in all 52 regular-season games while freshmen such as 17-year-old Curtis McGregor (41 games), 18-year-old Chad Jones (36 games), 19-year-old Tyler Doyle (40 games), 18-year-old Brett Doiron (23 games), 17-year-old Brock Richard (50 games) and 17-year-old goaltender Alex Kelly (23 games) received invaluable experience.

“You could see steps being made gradually,” said Schurman. “Even the first few weeks of the season, when we weren’t putting a lot of points on the board, you could still see some signs guys were starting to figure out what it takes to be successful in this league.

“They were starting to understand some of the things we were trying to teach. . . it was more of a gradual process. As the guys became more accustomed to the league, they felt more comfortable, and a lot of our guys relished being put into a primary role, and it kind of stemmed from that.”

Twitter.com/JpsportsJason

Organizations: Maritime Junior Hockey League, Island Junior Hockey League

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