Capitals face Slammers with first place on the line
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.”