SUMMERSIDE – The Summerside D. Alex MacDonald Ford Western Capitals have an opportunity to clinch home-ice advantage in the opening round of the playoffs.
The Capitals need just one point in Thursday’s home game against the Campbellton Tigers to wrap up second place in the Eastlink North Division of the MHL (Maritime Junior Hockey League). The opening faceoff at Eastlink Arena is set for 7 p.m.
“It’s pretty important for us to get home-ice advantage,” said Caps head coach Billy McGuigan. “It’s a pretty important game.”
The Capitals, who are a surprising third overall in the 12-team league at 29-15-1-0 (won-lost-overtime losses-shootout losses), are nine points ahead of the Miramichi Timberwolves (22-17-3-3). It’s also a big game for the Tigers (2-19-2-2), who are just two points back of Miramichi. All three teams have five regular-season games remaining.
“Obviously, we didn’t expect to be in this situation,” admitted McGuigan in an interview with the Journal Pioneer. “It’s been a pretty great year for our team.
“Coming out of the gate we weren’t sure how the season was going to go, and we lost the first three and were not looking that great. Then we went into a stretch for about a two-month period where we were playing basically nine forwards and four defencemen, and some nights eight forwards and three defencemen and a few call-ups from time to time. . . I just have a lot of great things to say about the group of kids in Summerside this year, and the way they have battled throughout the whole year.
“Last weekend was the first time since September we healthy-scratched a player. It’s been a very rewarding year for myself, and it all has to do with the way the players have fought through all the issues we have had all season.”
The Capitals will look to continue the trend of the home team winning the head-to-head meetings with Campbellton. The Tigers have won all three meetings in Campbellton while the Caps prevailed in the first two clashes in Summerside.
It’s the start of a busy week for the Capitals, who travel to Bridgewater, N.S., to face the South Shore Lumberjacks (7-14-2-2) on Friday night and the Eastlink South Division-leading Yarmouth Mariners (33-12-1-0) on Saturday.
“It’s a big weekend,” acknowledged McGuigan, who added it will continue to be business as normal should the Caps clinch second place Thursday.
“We want to keep moving forward, and keep trying to get better as a team,” added McGuigan. “It’s important that we continue to win and strive to be better.”