Slammers move into tie with Caps atop MHL standings
SUMMERSIDE – The Summerside D. Alex MacDonald Ford Western Capitals now have company atop the MHL’s (Maritime Junior Hockey League) overall standings.
The Woodstock Slammers picked up a solid 6-2 road victory over the Capitals that leaves both teams with 45 points. The Slammers, who have three games-in-hand, are 21-6-3-0 (won-lost-overtime losses-shootout losses) while the Caps, who have lost two of their first three games since the Christmas break, are 22-10-1-0.
“I thought we played well,” assessed Slammers head coach Fabian Joseph. “It was a big game for us in terms of the standings.
“We wanted to weather the storm in the first period, and we did that. It was a good start for us and a good finish.”
At Eastlink Arena, the Slammers took a 1-0 lead just past the halfway mark of the first period and never trailed, although the Caps twice closed to within one goal – 2-1 and 3-2.
“I thought for two periods we were pretty solid,” said Capitals head coach Billy McGuigan. “Woodstock has a good team, they are the favourites in the league and are hosting the Fred Page Cup.”
The game marked the debut of three Capitals – forwards Riley Whittingham and Sam LeBlanc along with goaltender Kyle Michalovsky – acquired before Sunday’s trade deadline. Whittingham displayed a wicked shot scoring right off a faceoff at 12:20 of the second period, LeBlanc earned an assist and Michalovsky finished with 32 saves.
The Slammers led 1-0 after the first period and took a 3-2 advantage into the second intermission. The Caps thought they had tied the game just before the buzzer sounded in the middle frame, but referee Thane Arsenault disallowed the goal because the net was dislodged.
The Slammers, though, came out and controlled the third period.
Zach Whitlock banged home a rebound 1:45 into the third period to make it 4-2, and Riley Craft (15:08) and MacKenzie Brown (19:21) rounded out the scoring. Kris Hodge, Tyler Brown and Noah Zilbert also scored for the Slammers.
The shots-on-goal totals were even 26-26 through two periods, but the Slammers outshot the Caps 14-8 in the final 20 minutes. So, what was the difference in the third period?
“I think they just wanted it a little more,” answered McGuigan. “They were sacrificing their body, they were blocking shots and we seemed to be out of sync a little bit in the third.
“We have to get better, and hopefully we will be right there with them.”
Overall, the Capitals directed 34 shots at Fortin, who had back-to-back shutouts against the Capitals in December. Blaize Bridges’s goal at 7:18 of the second period snapped Fortin’s shutout streak against the Caps at 147 minutes 18 seconds.
“Their goalie (Zachary Fortin) has stymied us pretty good, and it was good to get a couple of goals on him tonight (Thursday),” said McGuigan.
“I thought we played well. It was a big game for us in terms of the standings. We wanted to weather the storm in the first period, and we did that. It was a good start for us and a good finish.” Slammers head coach Fabian Joseph
Joseph said the Slammers take great pride in team defence.
“Our defence is a five-man unit out there, and everybody is buying in right now,” he added.
Western Capitals’ game notes:
The Capitals’ regular-season home record is 12-4-1 (won-lost-overtime losses).
After dropping the first two regular-season meetings against the Caps in overtime, the Slammers have answered back to win the last three, outscoring the Caps 12-2 in the process.
Referee Thane Arsenault called three of five minor penalties against Woodstock. Each team picked up one fighting major and game misconduct, and the Caps also received one 10-minute misconduct.
The Caps were 0-for-3 on the power play while the Slammers went 1-for-2.
The three stars of Thursday’s game were: 1. Riley Craft (Woodstock), 2. Zach Whitlock (Woodstock), 3. Riley Whittingham (Caps).
The Caps’ next game is in Dieppe, N.B., against the Commandos (21-9-1-0) on Sunday afternoon. Dieppe is only two points back of the Caps and Slammers.