A win over Campbellton in regular-season finale will clinch first overall
SUMMERSIDE – The scenario could not be any clearer for the Summerside D. Alex MacDonald Ford Western Capitals.
© Jason Simmonds/Journal Pioneer
Mitch Dempsey in action with the Summerside D. Alex MacDonald Ford Western Capitals of the MHL (Maritime Junior Hockey League).
All the Capitals need to do to clinch the regular-season title in the 12-team MHL (Maritime Junior Hockey League) is defeat the Campbellton Tigers at Eastlink Arena on Saturday at 6:30 p.m.
“It’s a great situation to be in on home ice,” said Capitals head coach Billy McGuigan. “We have prepared all year for these types of games.”
The Capitals, who sport a 33-12-1-1 (won-lost-overtime losses-shootout losses) record, are tied with Eastlink North Division rival Woodstock Slammers (31-10-5-1) with 68 points. Woodstock plays its final game against the County Aces (10-34-2-0) in St. Stephen, N.B., on Saturday.
The Caps hold the tiebreaker of most wins over the Slammers, so if the teams end up tied in points Summerside will be awarded the regular-season title and home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs.
“That would give our team a lot of motivation going into the playoffs,” said Caps forward Mitch Dempsey.
The Tigers (23-16-6-2) also have a lot at stake. Going into Friday’s action, Campbellton (23-16-6-2) was two points up on Miramichi (25-19-0-2) for the final playoff berth in the Eastlink North Division. Miramichi visited Truro (24-15-4-2) on Friday, and faces Valley (25-17-1-3) on Saturday.
“Campbellton is a great hockey team, and we saw it the last time they were in and it went to overtime, and we ended up getting the extra point in a shootout (3-2),” said McGuigan. “It’s going to be a battle and a challenge. They are going to want it as much as we do.”
With so much at stake and a big crowd expected on “Fan Appreciation Night,” will McGuigan have any special message to maintain the players’ focus?
“We have to address it like any other game,” answered McGuigan. “It’s no different than playing Dieppe last week (a 5-3 win), where it was a must-win (game) to get home-ice (in the first round).
“It’s a great situation to be in on home ice. We have prepared all year for these types of games.” Western Capitals head coach Billy McGuigan
“It’s just another hockey game, and these kids have all been through playing big games growing up.”
The Capitals come in on a seven-game winning streak.
“We are all buying into the systems real well,” said Dempsey. “There’s lots of chemistry developing, and we peaked at the right time.”
Dempsey, who is playing on a line with Sam LeBlanc and Riley Whittingham, has been a key contributor down the stretch, recording 17 points in the last 10 games.
“I’ve gotten a lot of confidence back in the second half,” said Dempsey, who described the Caps as “one of the closest group of guys” he’s played with.
“My linemates, LeBlanc and Whitts, have helped me a lot. We know where we are on the ice, and we are jelling together.
“It’s the same with the other lines as well. When one line is not going, the other three are there (to pick things up), and that’s why we are real excited here.”
Different scenarios that could determine where Capitals and Slammers finish:
If Caps win and Slammers win, Summerside is first.
If Caps lose in regulation time and Slammers lose in regulation, Summerside is first.
If both teams lose in overtime, Summerside is first.
If Slammers lose in regulation and Caps lose in overtime or shootout, Summerside is first.
If Caps lose and Slammers win, Woodstock is first.
If Caps lose in overtime or shootout and Slammers win, Woodstock is first.
If Caps lose in regulation and Slammers lose in overtime or shootout, Woodstock is first.