SUMMERSIDE – There’s an old saying hockey teams do not win in the playoffs without strong goaltending.
Alex Bishop is taking care of that for the Summerside D. Alex MacDonald Ford Western Capitals.
The 20-year-old from Richmond Hill, Ont., registered a solid 37-save shutout in a 3-0 victory over the Campbellton Tigers on Monday night. The win gives the Caps a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven Eastlink North Division semifinal. A very important Game 4 is scheduled for the Campbellton Memorial Civic Centre on Wednesday at 7 p.m., and the teams return to Summerside for Game 5 on Friday, also a 7 p.m. start.
“We played well from start to finish,” said Bishop in assessing the Caps’ play in Game 3. “We had a couple of lapses in between, but overall we played a real good game.”
Since taking over for Dominik Tmej in the first period of Game 1, Bishop has a 2-0 (won-lost) record, a microscopic 1.26 goals-against average and has stopped 94 of 97 shots in 142 minutes of action for an unheard of .970 save percentage.
“Every game I just try to give us the best chance to win,” said Bishop in a post-game interview with the Journal Pioneer. “Whether that is making a big save, shutting the door on a power play, that’s what I’ve been trying to do with the team.”
Before 1,287 fans at Eastlink Arena, the Caps held a territorial advantage in the opening period, outshooting the Tigers 19-8. However, the Caps were unable to solve Campbellton goaltender Greg Maggio until Chris Chaddock, who was sent in on a short-handed breakaway on a long pass up the right wing from defenceman Sebastien Cormier, opened the scoring at 17:43. Chaddock made no mistake firing the puck past Maggio on the stick side.
Summerside D. Alex MacDonald Ford Western Capitals forwards Zach Thususka and team captain Morgan MacDonald battle with Jared Janke for possession of the puck during the first period of Monday night’s MHL (Maritime Junior Hockey League) playoff game. Also coming into the play is the Tigers’ Trevor Bush.
Key breakaway save
The teams played a scoreless middle frame, but the shots-on-goal totals for that period were closer at 16-13 in favour of the Caps. The Tigers pushed for the equalizer in the third period, but were unable to light the lamp behind Bishop, who got a piece of the puck on a Tigers’ breakaway attempt in the third period with the score still 1-0.
“Honestly, I’m not sure what happened,” admitted Bishop, who blocked all 16 shots he faced in the final 20 minutes. “He had me; he was deking, faked me out one way and then I had to try to dive back to the other side.”
With it being only a 1-0 game, and knowing he had little room for error, did Bishop feel any extra pressure as the game moved along?
“You try not to think about that because it throws off your focus,” answered Bishop. “But at the same time it’s always in the back of your head maybe I need to make a big save here.
“I just try to stay focused, and do what I can.”
The Capitals scored an insurance goal on the power play off the stick of rookie defenceman Jordan Spence of Cornwall at 13:50 of the third period. Spence’s point shot made its way through traffic past Maggio on the stick side.
“We had a lot of great chances, and they are a really good defensive team,” said Spence, who just recently turned 17 and played with the Charlottetown Bulk Carriers Pride of the New Brunswick/P.E.I. Major Midget Hockey League last season. “We just have to keep shooting the puck at the net and hoping for the best.”
TJ Shea closed out the scoring with an empty-net goal at 18:51. Brodie MacArthur earned two assists to extend his point streak to 39 games.
Spence acknowledged the level of play in the playoffs at the junior A level is different than what he experienced in the regular season.
“Actually, it’s way quicker and you can’t fool around with the puck in playoffs because that could cost you a game,” said Spence. “We just have to keep it simple on the ice.”
And that’s what the entire Caps’ defensive unit did Monday night.
“We played well, and really worked on our defensive zone play,” said Spence. “There were some chances for them too, but we stopped them. We played really well.”
A recap of Game 3between Caps and Tigers:
Final score: Caps 3, Tigers 0
Scoring: Caps – Chris Chaddock, Jordan Spence, TJ Shea.
Assists: Caps – Brodie MacArthur (2), Jesse Annear, Sebastien Cormier, Cameron Roberts.
Period scores: 1-0 after the first and second periods.
Shots on goal: 41-37 Capitals.
Goaltenders: Capitals – Alex Bishop; Tigers – Greg Maggio.
Penalties: Referees Paul Matte and Jeff Heron assessed eight minors against the Tigers while the Caps were whistled for six minor infractions.
Three stars: 1. Alex Bishop (Capitals), 2. Jordan Spence (Capitals), 3. Chris Chaddock (Capitals).