Summerside D. Alex MacDonald Ford Western Capitals assistant coach Thomas Waugh explains a drill to the players during the MHL (Maritime Junior Hockey League) team’s training camp at Eastlink Arena on Thursday afternoon.
©Jason Simmonds/Journal Pioneer
SUMMERSIDE – Although training camp is not yet a week old, Billy McGuigan likes what he’s seeing.
“Overall, our draft picks and rookie core seem to be grasping the game pretty well,” assessed the head coach of the Summerside D. Alex MacDonald Ford Western Capitals, who play in the MHL (Maritime Junior Hockey League).”
McGuigan noted the team’s play “was pretty encouraging” in its first two road pre-season games – a 4-3 overtime loss against the Amherst Ramblers on Wednesday night, and a 6-2 victory over the Pictou County Crushers on Thursday.
“We played well in Amherst, losing in overtime, and that’s a tough rink to play in for young guys,” assessed McGuigan. “We were really good again (Thursday) against Pictou.”
The Capitals will make their pre-season home debut on Saturday as the Crushers make a return visit to Summerside for a 7 p.m. faceoff at Eastlink Arena.
The Caps were expected to trim their roster on Friday night, and McGuigan expects more veterans in the lineup going forward after the first two games featured predominantly rookies.
“At this point it’s about IQ, grit, heart,” said McGuigan. “There is not a lot of coaching and teaching going on at this point. It’s more show us what you got.”
When asked if there’s anything in particular he’s looking for in assessing players, McGuigan answered: “There are a number of things you look for. But at the end of the day, if you can find players that can play a 200-foot game and compete as hard defensively as they do offensively, you are going to be a real hard team to play against. If you can have 20 guys bring the same effort, it’s a pretty good way to have a hockey team.”
McGuigan acknowledged that with the Caps graduating nine players, defenceman Jesse Annear opting to pursue an opportunity in the United States and three potential returnees – forward Brodie MacArthur, forward Marc-Andre LeCouffe and goaltender Matt Williams – all starting the year in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, the competition for roster spots is wide open.
“To be totally honest, if you want to talk about rebuilding, this is the year it seems to be going that way,” reasoned McGuigan.
The Caps had 40 players at the beginning of training camp on Monday, but McGuigan confirmed forward Callum MacPherson returned home following Thursday’s game in New Glasgow, N.S.
“He had a great camp with us,” assessed McGuigan. “He had three goals in two games, and he wants to finish off his midget in Cape Breton and will return next year.”
McGuigan also said Andrew Murphy has decided to leave camp to focus on his university studies this year.
There are a number of things you look for. But at the end of the day, if you can find players that can play a 200-foot game and compete as hard defensively as they do offensively, you are going to be a real hard team to play against. If you can have 20 guys bring the same effort, it’s a pretty good way to have a hockey team.
Western Capitals head coach Billy McGuigan