SUMMERSIDE – It is business as usual as the Summerside D. Alex MacDonald Ford Western Capitals prepare to play their final two games of the 2017-18 regular season.
The Capitals will host the Woodstock Slammers at Eastlink Arena on Thursday at 7 p.m., and will visit the Miramichi Timberwolves in their regular-season finale on Saturday night. The Slammers were travelling to Summerside on Wednesday night, so the game will be played regardless of the weather conditions.
“We are going to approach them the same as any other games, and try to find a way to get two more points in the bank,” said Caps head coach Billy McGuigan in an interview with the Journal Pioneer on Wednesday.
The Capitals will recognize their six graduating players before Thursday’s game. Goaltender Alex Bishop, defencemen Hunter McTague and Sebastien Cormier and forwards Morgan MacDonald, Chris Chaddock and Alex Beaulieu are all in their final season of junior A hockey.
The Caps, who are 31-16-1-0 (won-lost-overtime losses-shootout losses), have clinched second place in the Eastlink North Division and will have home-ice advantage in the opening round of the MHL (Maritime Junior Hockey League) playoffs. The Caps’ opponent will be either the Timberwolves (22-19-3-3) or the Campbellton Tigers (23-21-2-2), who are tied for third place with 50 points.
The Caps sit third in the overall standings in the 12-team league, one point ahead of the Amherst Ramblers (25-10-6-6) and three in front of the South Shore Lumberjacks (28-15-2-2) of the Eastlink South Division.
When asked if he may rest players in either of the last two games, McGuigan said the Caps will go with a full lineup on Thursday and any decision on Saturday’s roster may depend on the significance of the game for the Timberwolves.
“Kids this age and this time of the year they want to be playing,” said McGuigan. “We want to focus on getting better and improving on some of the areas we need to improve on going into the playoffs. We are using these games as tune-up games knowing we are in a critical part of our season.”
McGuigan does admit it is “a tough situation” as he obviously wants to do what is best for his team but also wants to respect the competitive integrity of the game as well, should Saturday’s contest mean something to the Timberwolves and Tigers.
“From a hockey standpoint, every game is competitive and when you get in the games you want to win the games,” said McGuigan. “It’s a situation where our team has been rolling pretty well, and for the last 30 games I think we have the best overall record in the league.
“We would like to finish these last two games on a winning note before we go into playoffs. Yes, you would like to rest some guys, but you also want to keep the momentum going you have built up for the last three months of the season.”