The Summerside Western Capitals opened the MHL's (Maritime Junior Hockey League) Roger Meek Division final last night in Woodstock, N.B.
This series is shaping up to be a great one. The Caps and Slammers were the top two teams in the regular season, with Woodstock the front-runners the entire way. The Capitals, who have been the league's top team since the Jan. 10 roster deadline, were as good as any, and better than most, down the stretch, and will give Woodstock all it can handle and more.
The deadline moves by Caps director of hockey and business operations Pat McIver are paying dividends, and the team has become a solid contender for the league's top prize - Kent Cup.
Solidifying up his blue-line, and adding some extra depth up front, have given McIver a team that can play with the best of them, and they will need their best to upset the favoured Slammers.
Caps head coach Gordie Dwyer and his assistant, Mitchell Jollimore, have done a great job of getting the Caps pointed in the right direction, and playing their best hockey when it matters the most.
The Caps deserve full marks for their four-game sweep of Miramichi, and have proven once again that a combination of talent and hard work get results.
The Caps' six-foot-three, 210-pound Will Johnston will be a key in this series. Reading his comments during the Miramichi series indicates to me that he is focused, and wants to make the best of his last year of junior. The talented and tough Johnston could make a difference in this series - he creates a lot of space for he and his team - and the Slammers will know when he's on the ice.
Woodstock, which took five games to dispose of Campbellton in its first-round series, will be tough to beat. The Slammers have 12 players on their 22-man roster that are six feet and over, and four players with major junior experience.
Goaltending, as it always does in the playoffs, will play a role. If the Caps' Paul Dorsey continues to play well, the Caps should win this series in six games.
Former Western Capital Brett Gallant is making a name for himself in the American Hockey League with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, the top farm team of the NHL's New York Islanders.
Gallant scored his first AHL goal in Providence last Sunday, but scoring goals is not the reason he's in Bridgeport. As everyone knows, Gallant is as tough as they come, and he's certainly making his mark with the Sound Tigers.
He's taking on all comers, and it does not matter how big they are. Gallant's fearless attitude may take him right to the NHL. He has eight fighting majors in 15 AHL games, and he has five clear-cut wins, two draws and a loss.
Gallant gets it honestly as those old enough will remember his father, Mike (Pinky) Gallant, being one tough customer for the Summerside Crystals in the old Island Junior Hockey League. Who will ever forget some of those spirited battles Pinky had with the Sherwood-Parkdale Metros' Steve Gallant back in the mid-to-late 70s that brought fans to their feet on numerous occasions?
Just as his father showed over 30 years ago, the younger Gallant is showing that he's one of the toughest in today's game. The 22-year-old Gallant has had 126 scraps since the 2005-2006 season with 66 of those coming with the Saint John Sea Dogs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. No wonder Gallant was one of the most popular players to ever wear the Sea Dogs' uniform!
A great website for those who want to see some dandy hockey fights is dropyourgloves.com.
Here we go again
Here we go again with more rules and changes in the NHL. With all the talk about violence and, in particular, head shots, the NHL continues to make changes. One would have to be a Philadelphia lawyer to keep up.
To me, part of the problem is there are too many changes, and the players must be getting confused as to what they can and cannot do. I will not go into too much detail, but, as I have said before, why don't they sit down and watch some vintage hockey to find out how the game is meant to be played?
Although not as fast as today's game, there was a lot more respect back then, and rarely did you hear of suspensions you do today.
The help of watching video of the past works, and Chicago's Duncan Keith is proof of that. As Kevin Allen of USA Today wrote in a January issue, the Hawks wanted Keith to take the next step and become an elite defenceman. At the start of last season they showed him a video of Nick Lidstrom to help him improve. Something must have worked as Keith went out and won the Norris Trophy as the NHL's top defenceman, and the Hawks won the Stanley Cup!
Twenty-five years ago on March 16, 1986, the Western Capitals pulled out a 7-6 double-overtime win over the Sherwood-Parkdale Metros in Game 1 of the Island Junior Hockey League final series at the Sportsplex (now Cody Banks Arena).
The Metros' Bob Doiron took a hooking penalty early in the second overtime period, and 38 seconds later the Caps' Gordie Rodgerson fed a perfect pass to Mike Sutherland, who skated in alone and beat Metros goalie Thane Hughes.
Sutherland (2), Rodgerson, Sheldon Collicutt, Ken Murchison and Terry Dougay had the Caps' goals. Doiron (2), Terry Squires, Dave Bennett, Tim Myers and Greg Reilly replied for the Metros.
Have a great week!
Joe MacIntyre is a Summerside resident. His column appears every Saturday. Comments and suggestions can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.