SUMMERSIDE – It’s a busy and important week for the Summerside D. Alex MacDonald Ford Western Capitals.
The MHL (Maritime Junior Hockey League) team will play three games in 72 hours, including two key head-to-head matchups within the Eastlink North Division.
“It’s a huge week,” said Capitals head coach Billy McGuigan in an interview with the Journal Pioneer on Wednesday morning. “Three games in three nights, we haven’t had that this year, so it’s going to be interesting to see how we respond.”
Lot at stake
There is a lot at stake in these games for the Caps, who will host the St. Stephen Aces at Eastlink Arena on Thursday at 7 p.m., visit the Miramichi Timberwolves on Friday night and return home to face the South Shore Lumberjacks from Bridgewater, N.S., on Saturday at 7 p.m.
The Caps, who are 9-9-1-0 (won-lost-overtime losses-shootout losses), are four points ahead of the Aces (7-15-0-1) for the fourth and final playoff berth in the Eastlink North Division. With the Caps holding four games-in-hand on St. Stephen, the importance of this matchup is not lost on McGuigan.
“Out of the games this week the first game on Thursday night at home is probably the most important for us in grabbing a stranglehold on that playoff spot,” said McGuigan. “St. Stephen is below us in the standings, but we have some games-in-hand, and these head-to-head games are very important for us.”
McGuigan said goaltender Dominik Tmej, who has a 2-1 record, one shutout, a 1.14 goals-against average and .961 save percentage in three games, will get the start on Thursday night.
Four points back
The Caps, who are four points behind the Timberwolves (10-8-2-1), can move into a third-place tie with a win Thursday and a regulation-time victory in Miramichi.
The Caps, who have won three of their last four games, will close out the week with a tough test against the Eastlink South Division-leading Lumberjacks (18-5-0-0), who were ranked No. 10 in this week’s Canadian Junior A Hockey League rankings.
With the Caps playing short-staffed recently, including 14 skaters in Saturday’s 6-0 home-ice win over the Woodstock Slammers, and facing a hectic schedule this week, McGuigan said the team will look to bolster its lineup with available affiliated players.
“We are down on bodies, we are playing extremely well and I’m very happy and impressed with our hockey club over the last couple of weeks for sure,” offered McGuigan. “We have grown into a team inside the dressing room, we are playing for one another and the little things have become very important to us as far as winning battles, foot races, following our structure.
“Those little things have really came full circle, and the young guys have really adapted. We are looking forward to a tough weekend, but a weekend we can squeeze out some points.”
Western Capitals’ game-day notes:
The Caps are 5-3-0-0 (won-lost-overtime losses) on home ice in eight regular-season games.
The Caps are the least penalized team in the MHL with 251 penalty minutes in 19 games.
Caps forward TJ Shea has recorded 31 points during a current 13-game point streak. Shea is the MHL (Maritime Junior Hockey League) point-leader with 37 in 19 regular-season games.
Thursday night’s game will be the second meeting of the regular season between the Caps and St. Stephen Aces. The Caps pulled out a 3-2 win in St. Stephen, N.B., on Sept. 29.
Caps head coach Billy McGuigan noted forward and team captain Morgan MacDonald will be a game-time decision on Thursday after being injured last week, and forward Kallum Muirhead will be sidelined for a couple of more weeks.