Key duel

Cap­i­tals face Slam­mers with first place on the line

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - SPORTS - BY JA­SON SIM­MONDS

The Sum­mer­side D. Alex MacDon­ald Ford Western Cap­i­tals should not be lack­ing mo­ti­va­tion for tonight’s Mar­itime Ju­nior Hockey League game against the Wood­stock Slam­mers.

Not only are the arch-ri­vals meet­ing in a first-place show­down at Eastlink Arena at 7 p.m., but Slam­mers goal­tender Zachary Fortin stopped 67 shots in back-to-back shutouts against the Caps in De­cem­ber.

“We are go­ing to have to find a way to score a cou­ple of goals,” said Cap­i­tals head coach Billy McGuigan. “Their goal­tender, Fortin, is ar­guably the best guy in the league. . .

“He’s been out­stand­ing and they’ve strength­ened their back end with three ma­jor-ju­nior de­fence­men, and their for­ward groups were al­ready the deep­est in the league.”

Fortin has three shutouts in six games, a 2.21 goals-against av­er­age and a .940 save per­cent­age.

It’s a matchup fea­tur­ing Sum­mer­side’s league-lead­ing of­fence (133 goals scored) against Wood­stock’s de­fence (76 goals al­lowed), which is se­cond-best in the 12-team loop.

“Their goalie is an un­real player, and we have a lot of fire­power up front,” said Cap­i­tals de­fence­man and cap­tain Bobby Zinkan. “It will be a good headto-head matchup.”

McGuigan said one way for the Caps to gen­er­ate more of­fence is to go to the net in search of ugly goals.

“If we can get to the dirty spots, com­pete and work hard, I feel, at home, we are tough to beat.”

The game car­ries ex­tra sig­nif­i­cance for the Cap­i­tals, who are 22-9-1-0 and are two points up on Wood­stock (20-6-3-0) and Dieppe (21-9-1-0).

How­ever, Wood­stock and Dieppe have played fewer games.

“It’s go­ing to be a great test for us,” said McGuigan.

“We have home-ice ad­van­tage, it’s an im­por­tant game, but at the same time there are no tro­phies or rings given out in Jan­uary.”

For­wards Ri­ley Whit­ting­ham and Sam LeBlanc, along with goal­tender Kyle Michalovsky, are ex­pected to dress for the Caps. All three were ac­quired Sun­day, and LeBlanc’s father, Marc LeBlanc, played for the Caps dur­ing the 1983-84 sea­son.

“We want to get them in and make them feel com­fort­able,” said McGuigan. “The ques­tion for Ri­ley is does he play with Thomas Stavert and Blaize Bridges, or do we try to get some sec­ondary scor­ing with Sam LeBlanc and Ri­ley?

“It is those things that will work it­self out as we go.”

One player McGuigan feels can con­trib­ute to that sec­ondary scor­ing and is close to break­ing out is for­ward Josh Pugs­ley, who has 16 points in 24 games.

“Josh Pugs­ley is all around the net, he’s had nu­mer­ous op­por­tu­ni­ties to score and is a lit­tle snake-bit­ten,” said McGuigan. “He is play­ing tremen­dous for us on both sides of the puck.”

The Cap­i­tals re­solved the is­sue of hav­ing too many 20-year-olds by trad­ing de­fence­man Alex An­nec­chiarico and a sev­enth-round draft pick in 2016 to Pic­tou County in ex­change for a fourthround se­lec­tion and fu­ture con­sid­er­a­tions.

Sun­day at 10 p.m. was the trade dead­line for carded play­ers. How­ever, teams can still deal un­car­ded play­ers from their 45man MHL list.

“The main thing is Alex got an op­por­tu­nity and is go­ing to a place he wanted to go,” said McIver.

“Hon­estly, we got bet­ter of­fers for Alex, but we felt the best thing to do was to hon­our his wish of go­ing to Pic­tou.”

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