Bridges scores in OT to give Capitals MHL’s regular-season title
SUMMERSIDE – The Summerside D. Alex MacDonald Ford Western Capitals have finished first in the overall standings of the 12-team MHL (Maritime Junior Hockey League).
© Ancelene MacKinnon/Journal Pioneer
Summerside D. Alex MacDonald Ford Western Capitals forward Blaize Bridges, 18, looks to move into a scoring position against the Campbellton Tigers’ David Chevrier during Saturday night’s MHL (Maritime Junior Hockey League) game at Eastlink Arena. Bridges scored in overtime to give the Caps the regular-season title.
The Capitals clinched the regular-season-title with a wild 6-5 overtime win over the Campbellton Tigers on Saturday night.
“It’s an unbelievable honour,” said Capitals head coach Billy McGuigan in describing the accomplishment of finishing first. “It’s something when you don’t make the playoffs the year before, then you’re able to accomplish winning the league the next year.”
The Capitals, who completed the 48-game regular season at 34-12-1-1 (won-lost-overtime losses-shootout losses) and on an eight-game winning streak, have secured home-ice advantage through the playoffs.
The Caps and Eastlink North Division rival Woodstock Slammers (32-10-5-1) actually tied with 70 points, but Summerside holds the tiebreaker of most wins. Woodstock trimmed the County Aces from St. Stephen, N.B., 9-2 on Saturday.
The Caps will face the Tigers (23-16-7-2) in a best-of-seven Eastlink North Division semifinal, which will start in Summerside later this week. The Slammers will face the defending-champion Dieppe Commandos (32-14-1-0) in the other division semifinal.
“There’s nothing better than first place, and we want to keep that going in the playoffs,” said Capitals forward Blaize Bridges, who capped off a hat trick 34 seconds into the 3-on-3 five-minute overtime period to send a season-high crowd of 1,586 fans into a frenzy.
The game-winner wasn’t the only big goal scored in the game by Bridges, who returned to action after having to be helped off the ice following an injury in the second period.
“It’s an unbelievable honour. It’s something when you don’t make the playoffs the year before, then you’re able to accomplish winning the league the next year.” Capitals head coach Billy McGuigan
The teams were tied 2-2 after one period and 3-3 following 40 minutes. The Caps’ Riley Whittingham made it 4-3 just over a minute into the final frame.
“We didn’t have a great start to the game, but we never got down on ourselves, and we came out on top,” said Bridges.
However, Malik Johnson (15:06) and Devin Shell (15:32) scored two goals 26 seconds apart to put the Tigers in front 5-4, but Bridges answered at 17:06 to force overtime.
Morgan MacDonald and Alex McQuaid also scored for the Capitals. Thomas Stavert assisted on all three of Bridges’s goals while other helpers went to Nathan Yetman, Brock Richard, Sam LeBlanc and Bobby Zinkan.
William Basque (2) and Eddie Banville (1-1) also scored for Campbellton, which had to anxiously await the outcome of the Miramichi Timberwolves’ game against the Valley Wildcats to learn their playoff fate.
The two teams went into Saturday’s regular-season finales tied for the fourth and final position, and the one point the Tigers earned from the overtime loss to the Caps proved to be the difference. Miramichi was unable to protect a 5-1 lead and lost 8-6 to Valley.
Overall, the Tigers outshot the Capitals 40-37, including a 19-13 advantage in the first period. Matt Williams earned the goaltending win over Christopher Langlais.