SUMMERSIDE — The Summerside Capitals are returning to familiar territory this week.
The P.E.I. Peewee AAA Hockey League champions will make their fourth straight appearance in the Atlantic championship tournament. Play opens today in Fredericton and continues through to the medal games on Sunday.
“We are excited,” said Capitals head coach Rodney MacArthur. “It’s the first time for all but seven of the boys, so it’s going to be a new experience for a lot of them.
“It’s something that we certainly do not want to take for granted, because it’s not a given that you get there every year. It’s a really nice experience for the kids, they are up against the best of the best. It’s a really good judge of talent, and a great tournament.”
The tournament features the provincial champions from P.E.I., New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador and a host team.
MacArthur said the Caps’ coaching staff is stressing to its players that the competition is “going to be a step up from what they are used to” playing.
“If they can think of their toughest games and tournaments they have played, it will probably go up a notch from there,” said MacArthur. “New Brunswick sends an all-star team, and they are sending two this year because they are hosting, and they are obviously going to be tough.
“The Nova Scotia winner obviously is going to be a tough team, the Antigonish Bulldogs. We saw them play and they are very good, they won the Spud tournament.
“Newfoundland is sending a regional all-star team, so it’s going to be really, really stiff competition and it’s a tough tournament to win. We are going with the hopes of coming back with a medal.”
Last year, the Caps won the bronze medal in Corner Brook, N.L., finished second in Summerside two years ago and finished fourth two years ago.
One thing MacArthur is proud of in the past three years is how competitive the Caps have been.
“I think our worst score in all three years may have been 5-1 three years ago,” added MacArthur. “We’ve been in every game, and that’s all you can hope for.
“We are going to compete our hardest, and let the chips fall where they may.”
MacArthur said the Capitals will not change anything in regards to their style and approach at the Atlantics.
“Our message has been the same all year: puck pressure and puck movement, take away the time and space and make them make plays on us. That’s what we do best,” he said.
“Getting into some kind of defensive shell or system isn’t going to work for us. We are all about puck pressure and movement and see if teams can keep up. That’s our motto.”
Summerside went 5-0 to win the provincial championship, including a 2-1 victory over West Prince in the final. Mason Mantzavrakos scored the winning goal on a slapshot from the blue-line and had an assist on the first goal. Mantzavrakos, who also had two goals and an assist in the semifinal, was named the tournament MVP.