Caps open in Miramichi Saturday

Jason Simmonds
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Against Timberwolves in MHL playoff series

SUMMERSIDE – It’s now time for the next step in the Summerside Western Capitals’ rebuilding phase.

That is to gain valuable playoff experience.

“We are young and the guys are definitely excited to get their first taste of the playoffs,” said Capitals forward and team captain Jordan Buchanan of Summerside. “They (Caps’ rookies) bring a lot of intensity and hard work to the games.”

After winning just four of their first 15 regular-season games, the young, enthusiastic and hard-working Capitals went 20-17 the rest of the way to finish 24-23-2-3 (won-lost-overtime losses-shootout losses).

“We work together well as a team, we build off each other a lot,” said Caps forward Thomas Stavert, who scored a league-high eight game-winning goals. “We are all good friends with each other, and have good chemistry.”

Tough test

The Caps certainly have their work cut out for them against the Miramichi Timberwolves in the best-of-seven Roger Meek Division semifinal series. Game 1 is in Miramichi, N.B., on Saturday night.

This is the fifth time in the last six years the two teams have met in the playoffs, with the Caps winning the previous four series.

“It will definitely be a tough series,” said Buchanan. “If either team decides not to show up, it could be over quick.”

On paper, the Timberwolves are the favourites. Miramichi finished 26 points ahead of the Capitals in the regular season, and tied with the Truro Bearcats for first overall in the 11-team league.

“We are the underdogs,” acknowledged Stavert. “We kind of like that.”

Caps head coach Tim Schurman added: “Looking at their record, they have had a great season from start to finish. They have had a few statement games against some good opponents.”

Veteran squad

The Timberwolves are a veteran-laden squad while the Caps have 12 players in their first year of junior A hockey, and just three 20-year-olds – goaltender Simon-Pier Chamberland, defenceman Mitch Henneberry and forward Blake Millman, who Schurman said is questionable for Game 1 with an injury.

“Miramichi has been building for the last three years for this year,” said Schurman. “This is their (Timberwolves) time to shine.

“They had a tremendous regular season. They have a lot of great veteran players over there. From top to bottom, they are definitely one of the top teams in this league. We know we are in for a challenge.  . .

“We are going to do whatever we can to make it very difficult for them.”  

The Timberwolves won five of the seven regular-season games with the Caps, but four went to a shootout, including the last three.

“It’s a whole new season,” said Buchanan. “You forget about what’s already been done, and focus on what we need to do next. . .

“We are going to have to work very hard, and can’t afford to take any shifts off. They have a very skilled team that if you take a shift off it will come back to bite you.”

Proof of the Timberwolves’ skill is evidenced by the selection of four players – goaltender Clint Windsor, defenceman Trey Lewis, right-winger Rankyn Campbell and centre Bryce Milson – to the MHL’s all-star team.

Individually, Campbell, who led the league with 39 goals and finished second in points (71), was named the player of the year, and Lewis was voted defenceman of the year.

“Miramichi has been building for the last three years for this year. This is their (Timberwolves) time to shine. They had a tremendous regular season. They have a lot of great veteran players over there. From top to bottom, they are definitely one of the top teams in this league. We know we are in for a challenge. . . We are going to do whatever we can to make it very difficult for them.” Caps head coach Tim Schurman

“We know they are going to be ready,” said Schurman. “They have 10 20-year-olds over there who want to continue their junior hockey lives.

“It’s going to be difficult, and we just hope the guys adjust very quickly to the pace of the game, and how everything is magnified.”

Hot streaks

Both teams enter the playoffs on three-game winning streaks. In the last 10 games, the Caps are 7-3 while the Timberwolves are 8-1-0-1.

“We feel we finished the season on a positive note,” assessed Schurman. “We need everybody playing their role, and playing it to the best of their ability.

“We know, as a staff, the intensity and level of play gets increased (in the playoffs), and our younger players will be thrown right to the fire come Game 1.”

Twitter.com/JpsportsJason

Schedule

Schedule for series between

Capitals, Timberwolves:

Game 1

Saturday, March 15 – Caps at Timberwolves, 7:30 p.m.

Game 2

Monday, March 17 – Timberwolves at Caps, 7 p.m.

Game 3

Wednesday, March 19 – Caps at Timberwolves, 7:30 p.m.

Game 4

Friday, March 21 – Timberwolves at Caps, 7 p.m.

Game 5, if necessary

Sunday, March 23 – Caps at Timberwolves, 2 p.m.

Game 6, if necessary

Tuesday, March 25 – Timberwolves at Caps, 7 p.m.

Game 7, if necessary

Thursday, March 27 – Caps at Timberwolves, 7:30 p.m.

How They Match Up

A look at series between

Western Capitals, Miramichi:

Western Capitals

Regular-season record: 24-23-2-3.

At home: 12-13-1-0.

On road: 12-10-1-3.

Power play: 21.6 per cent (fourth in league).

Penalty killing: 77.3 per cent (ninth in league).

Top scorer: Thomas Stavert (33-23—56).

Power-play goals: Thomas Stavert (8).

Short-handed goals: Alex Bradley, Cavan Fitzgerald (tied with 1).

Goaltending: Simon-Pier Chamberland (31 games played, 12-13-4, 3.21 goals-against average, .910 save percentage).

Miramichi Timberwolves

Regular-season record: 37-10-0-5.

At home: 18-6-0-2.

On road: 19-4-0-3.

Power play: 20.1 per cent (fifth in league).

Penalty killing: 83.5 per cent (third in league).

Top scorer: Rankyn Campbell (39-32—71).

Power-play goals: Rankyn Campbell (9).

Short-handed goals: Rankyn Campbell (6).

Goaltending: Clint Windsor (33 games played, 21-4-8, 2.42 goals-against average, .920 save percentage).

Head-to-head

Regular-season games

between Capitals, Timberwolves:

Sept. 22 – Timberwolves 7 at Capitals 4.

Oct. 12 – Capitals 1 at Timberwolves 5.

Nov. 10 – Timberwolves 4 at Capitals 5 (SO).

Dec. 31 – Timberwolves 5 at Capitals 3.

Jan. 15 – Capitals 3 at Timberwolves 4 (SO).

Feb. 1 – Capitals 4 at Timberwolves 5 (SO).

Feb. 9 – Timberwolves 3 at Capitals 4 (SO).

Organizations: Timberwolves, Capitals

Geographic location: Miramichi

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