Williams, penalty killers stand tall; Bridges nets winner
SUMMERSIDE – The Summerside D. Alex MacDonald Ford Western Capitals and Campbellton Tigers treated fans to a wild finish Sunday night.
The Tigers had the Caps hemmed in their own end for the final 1:36 of overtime while enjoying a 4-on-3 power play, but were unable to net the deciding goal as rookie goaltender Matt Williams and penalty-killers Nathan Yetman, Sam LeBlanc and Alex McQuaid stood tall.
“We picked Sam LeBlanc up at the trade deadline (from Amherst) and we got Alex McQuaid from the (Charlottetown) Islanders, and two reasons we wanted them are their penalty-killing abilities and their physicality,” said Caps head coach Billy McGuigan. “Nathan Yetman has been great for us as well, and obviously Matt Williams held the fort.”
Blaize Bridges scored on his team’s first attempt of the shootout and Williams made three solid saves to give the Caps a 3-2 win and their sixth victory in a row.
“Blaize likes to go first in the shootout,” said McGuigan. “I did not know that earlier in the year and I had him going second or third, but we got him to go first tonight (Sunday), he scored and Matt shut the door.”
Williams described his saves in the shootout: “The first shot I was fortunate enough to get a piece of it with my pad and it stayed under me. The second one required a little more flexibility stretching across, and the third one I stopped my buddy Gregor MacLeod. I kind of knew where he was going – blocker side.”
Williams and MacLeod know each other from their midget days in Nova Scotia.
The Caps moved into first place in the Eastlink North Division with 66 points at 32-12-1-1 (won-lost-overtime losses-shootout losses). They are one point ahead of Woodstock (30-9-4-1) and three ahead of Dieppe (31-12-1-0). Dieppe, which visits Summerside for a key game on Saturday evening, and Woodstock have two games-in-hand.
“This is like playoff hockey now,” said McGuigan. “We have been running on playoff hockey for a couple of weeks now, and we are rolling along pretty good.
“To win that game the way we did, it’s pretty rewarding for us.”
Before 1,073 fans at Eastlink Arena, Thomas Stavert’s goal at 6:33 of the third period pulled the Caps into a 2-2 tie. Nathan Yetman also scored for the Caps while Hunter Leisman and Eric Chipman gave Campbellton 1-0 and 2-1 leads.
Bridges, Evan Morrison and Sebastien Cormier earned assists for the Caps, who trailed 1-0 after one period and 2-1 following 40 minutes.
“This is like playoff hockey now. We have been running on playoff hockey for a couple of weeks now, and we are rolling along pretty good. To win that game the way we did, it’s pretty rewarding for us.” Caps head coach Billy McGuigan
“It was a hard-fought battle by both teams,” said Williams.
Overall, the Tigers held a 35-34 shots-on-goal advantage through regulation and overtime. Each team recorded five shots during the five-minute extra session. Rowan O’Brien was in goal for Campbellton (22-16-5-2).
As for the short-handed situation in overtime, Williams talked about staying focused in a post-game interview.
“I was trying to not over push or over play any of the passes,” he explained. “The boys did a great job blocking shots, clearing pucks and that’s what made the difference.”
After a wild scramble around the Caps’ net as overtime expired, Williams remained down for a brief period.
“I was just trying to catch my breath,” admitted Williams. “I was out of gas.”
The game’s three stars were:
1. Matt Williams (Caps), 2. Rowan O’Brien (Tigers), 3. Blaize Bridges (Caps).