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Fred Page Cup host team visits Summerside on Saturday night
SUMMERSIDE – It’s one of those games that piques interest.
The Summerside D. Alex MacDonald Ford Western Capitals, who sit second overall in the 12-team MHL (Maritime Junior Hockey League), will host the No. 3 Amherst Ramblers at Eastlink Arena on Saturday. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
“It’s a pretty big game for us,” said Caps head coach Billy McGuigan. “Obviously, we would like to come into the new year on a high for sure.
“It’s a great test for our hockey club. We’ve had a great first half, and now it’s time to move onto the second half.
“Any time you have the Fred Page Cup hosts in, you are looking forward to the game. Our guys are prepared, we’ve had two good days of practice and will practice again (Friday) and be ready for Saturday.”
It will mark the first meeting of the season between the two teams, and it will be Amherst’s lone regular-season game in Summerside. The Caps will visit Amherst on Jan. 19.
The Eastlink North Division-leading Capitals, who have won three games in a row and six of their last seven, are 22-5-0 (won-lost-overtime losses). Amherst, which is coming off a 6-2 road loss to the Pictou County Crushers (13-13-5) on Thursday, will be playing their third game in as many nights after taking a 19-8-2 record into Friday’s home game against the Valley Wildcats (5-21-3).
“It’s always fun playing Amherst, whether we are in their loud barn or here,” said forward Josh MacDonald, who has 11 points, including five goals, in 25 regular-season games in his sophomore season with the Caps.
The Capitals are coming off a 4-1 win over the Wildcats before over 3,200 fans on Monday in a game that featured free admission as part of the City of Summerside New Year’s Eve celebrations.
Going into Friday’s action, the Caps, who were the fifth-ranked team in the latest Canadian Junior A Hockey League rankings, were four points up on the Ramblers and five back of the league-leading Yarmouth Mariners (24-5-1) in the race for home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs. Summerside, however, has played three fewer games than Yarmouth, which hosts the South Shore Lumberjacks (12-10-3) on Saturday.
McGuigan said he is looking for a solid 60-minute effort and performance from his team.
“We have to pay more attention to details in our game,” added McGuigan. “We have played not so much easy games, but games that the score was a little bit out of hand and we got into some bad habits.
“When you are winning it’s easy to overlook those habits, but we have to correct them, pay attention to details and get back to our game.”
The Ramblers’ lineup will feature some familiar faces as former Caps Matt Williams (goaltender), Hunter McIntyre (forward) and Casey Fox (forward) are all expected to be key players for the host team of the Eastern Canadian junior A hockey championship tournament at the Amherst Stadium from May 1 to 5.
“They have made a lot of player transactions throughout the year, and we know they have a good hockey team, they are good in nets, they have a good D and their forwards are good as well,” said McGuigan, who acknowledged the Ramblers were hit hard with injuries earlier this season. “Overall, they are a good hockey team and we are going to have to be ready to play and focused on Saturday.”
After playing only eight games from Nov. 22 to Dec. 31, the Caps schedule will pick up after Saturday. Starting on Jan. 10, the Caps will play six games in 10 days. The increased workload is something both the Caps’ players and coaches are looking forward to.
“We had a bit of a slow schedule with only one game a week,” said MacDonald. “Now it’s going to start getting fun, we are going to get tested a lot more and we’ll see how we shape up. It’s good to get to play some of the teams we haven’t seen a whole lot this year.”
McGuigan added: “The first-half schedule was really soft, and now we get into a crazy schedule in the second half. We have a lot of hockey left to play, and we have the least amount of games played in the league. We are looking forward to making up some, and getting into a rhythm of playing.”