SUMMERSIDE – One key to the Summerside D. Alex MacDonald Ford Western Capitals’ recent hot streak has been stingy defence.
Including Friday night’s 3-2 shootout win against the Miramichi Timberwolves, the Caps have outscored their opposition 28-10 in their last six games, including two shutouts by Dominik Tmej.
“We have been keeping it tight, and working as a unit,” said Caps’ second-year defenceman Brodie MacMillan of Stratford following Thursday night’s 7-0 whitewashing of the St. Stephen Aces at Eastlink Arena. “We have been down bodies (playing with 14, 15, 16 skaters recently), and really working hard in practice.”
Caps forward TJ Shea, who scored his 19th goal of the season on Friday night to extend his point streak to 15 games, said the defensive play has been a big part of the team’s recent success. The Caps have now won four in a row, and five out of six while earning 10 of a possible 12 points during this stretch.
“That’s where it starts with the defence,” said the 19-year-old Shea, who’s from Anglo-Tignish. “They (defence) pass it up to the forwards.
“They are playing solid back there, every one of them, and that’s what’s creating our offence right now.”
The Caps, who are 11-9-1-0 (won-lost-overtime losses-shootout losses), will face a stiff test on Saturday night, when the MHL (Maritime Junior Hockey League)-leading South Shore Lumberjacks (18-5-0-1) from Bridgewater, N.S., pay their first visit to Eastlink Arena. Puck drop is set for 7 p.m. The Lumberjacks were ranked 10th in this week’s Canadian Junior A Hockey League rankings.
“They are the top team in the league, they have a bunch of goal-scorers and it’s really going to be a big test of us defensively,” said MacMillan, who has earned the respect of his teammates and coaches by playing a steady stay-at-home defensive style.
MacMillan and the rest of the Caps will have their hands full against the Lumberjacks, who have scored a league-high 95 goals and, along with the Yarmouth Mariners (18-6-0-0), have surrendered a league-low 57 goals.
“We have to contain them, keep our bodies in the middle, work as a unit,” said MacMillan in describing the Caps’ approach on Saturday. “They work good as a team, they do not play as individual players and it will be a tough challenge.”
Four regular D
An often overlooked fact about the Caps’ recent strong defensive play is they have been doing it with just four regular defencemen – MacMillan, Sebastien Cormier, rookie Jordan Spence and Jesse Annear – and different affiliated call-ups.
MacMillan agreed that, assuming everyone can stay injury-free, that there is an upside to having only four regulars.
“Sometimes, when you have six D, you get skipped a couple of times and you get out of the game,” said MacMillan. “But when you have four you are pretty much going all the time.
“It’s pretty hard to get out of the loop, you are always ready to go and it seems like you are going the whole game.”