SUMMERSIDE – The Summerside D. Alex MacDonald Ford Western Capitals have an opportunity to widen the gap.
The Capitals play the two teams below them in the Eastlink North Division standings of the MHL (Maritime Junior Hockey League) in back-to-back games.
The Caps, who are in second place at 24-13-1-0 (won-lost-overtime losses-shootout losses), host the third-place Miramichi Timberwolves (19-12-2-3) at Eastlink Arena on Thursday at 7 p.m., and visit the fourth-place Campbellton Tigers (18-14-2-1) on Friday in a 7:30 p.m. start.
“From what we’ve seen so far this year they are a big, strong offensively-powered team with a solid defensive core,” said Capitals’ rookie defenceman Thomas Harper in setting up the matchup against Miramichi. “They play a game where it’s get the puck deep, and play hard. We want to use our speed in our rink, and play the way we are supposed to play.”
The Caps are six points in front of the Timberwolves, who do hold two games-in-hand. Going into Thursday’s game, 10 points separates the Caps and Tigers. Campbellton, however, has played three fewer games.
Although catching the division- and league-leading Edmundston Blizzard (27-8-3-0) is a long shot at this point of the season for the Capitals, who have 12 regular-season games remaining, a win against Miramichi will narrow that gap to six points.
However, if the Caps, winners of 17 of their last 21 games can keep winning, it could make for an interesting finish to the regular season. Edmundston, which will hold a game-in-hand on the Caps after Thursday, is scheduled to visit Summerside on Thursday, Feb. 8.
Thomas Harper in action with the Summerside D. Alex MacDonald Ford Western Capitals of the MHL (Maritime Junior Hockey League).
One thing Harper says the Caps are looking for in both games this week is a strong start.
“We have to work on coming out harder,” said Harper, 17. “Sometimes we are coming out flat in games, but we want to come out hard in the first period and play hard for a full 60 minutes. We want to move the puck and use our speed.”
Harper scored his first goal as a Western Capital in Tuesday night’s 7-0 whitewashing of the St. Stephen Aces in Summerside.
“It feels good to finally get the monkey off the back,” said a chuckling Harper, who previously resided in Margate, near Kensington, before moving to Charlottetown in junior high school. “I’ve been waiting all year for that one.
“It was a few bounces off shin pads, but it finally went in the net. Hopefully, there’s a few more to come before the end of the year.”
Harper, a Grade 12 student at Colonel Gray High School in Charlottetown, started the year playing forward, but is no stranger to playing defence.
“I pretty much played D my whole life,” said Harper. “Last year, I was in Cleveland, and I moved up forward a bit.
“I played forward at the start of the year and it wasn’t going so well and we had some injuries on the back end and had a few guys leaving and traded away, but I like it. We have a real good D back there with (Jesse) Annear, (Jordan) Spence, (Sebastien) Cormier and (Brodie) MacMillan. I feel back at home where I am.”
Harper says his goal is to play mistake-free hockey on the blue-line.
“Right now I’m just trying to focus on a first quick pass, tape to tape, and keep it simple,” said Harper. “I want to play strong in my own zone.”