SUMMERSIDE – Although the Summerside D. Alex MacDonald Ford Western Capitals have been red hot, head coach Billy McGuigan fully understands there is no room for a letdown.
The Capitals, winners of five straight and 13 of their last 14 games, are not only in a battle for first place in their division, but are also chasing top spot in the overall standings of the MHL (Maritime Junior Hockey League).
The Caps, who were ranked seventh in this week’s Canadian Junior Hockey League rankings, sit at 14-3-0 (won-lost-overtime losses), good for 28 points atop the Eastlink North Division. Summerside is three points behind the league-leading Yarmouth Mariners (15-3-1), but holds two games-in-hand.
The Campbellton Tigers are eight points back of the Caps in the Eastlink North Division, but have played two fewer games.
“Points are so crucial right now,” emphasized Caps head coach Billy McGuigan, who added veteran defenceman Brodie MacMillan is expected back in the lineup this weekend. “We are at the top of our division, but essentially only four ahead of Campbellton if they win their two games-in-hand.”
The Caps begin the weekend on the road against the Miramichi Timberwolves (8-7-2) on Friday night, before returning to Eastlink Arena to meet the Tigers for the first time this season on Saturday at 7 p.m.
“Miramichi is a real tough building to play in, and they’ve been playing really well of late,” said McGuigan, who added fans can expect to see a familiar Tigers’ team.
“Overall, looking at their roster and how they play from watching them on video, it’s relatively the same team they had last year, and they play kind of the same style,” offered McGuigan. “They are stingy defensively, they have a real strong defence and they work real hard up front.”
Rookie defenceman Kyle Nichol of Halifax, N.S., admits it is a big weekend for the Caps.
“We’ll have to be physical, play through their hits and stay out of the (penalty) box,” said the 18-year-old Nichol, who has one assist in 17 regular-season games.
The six-foot-two and 180-pound Nichol, who shoots left and played last year at the Ontario Hockey Academy, is “very pleased” with the start to his junior A career.
“The team is doing well, I find we are improving and getting better and better every day,” he added.
McGuigan said that is exactly the goal of the team. But with success comes expectations, and McGuigan admits the Caps understand there is pressure to win this season.
“We are not afraid to say it, and we are not afraid to talk about winning,” said McGuigan. “Our culture here has been a winning one the last number of years, and we are trying to get better every single day.”
Although the Capitals have only three losses this season, McGuigan acknowledged there have been some bumps in the road.
“When you are winning it’s a little tougher to lean on them, but also I haven’t 100 per cent liked every minute of every game we’ve played,” continued McGuigan. “I thought we’ve had lapses in games that we have to correct.”