The Summerside D. Alex MacDonald Ford Western Capitals are onto Round 2 of the MHL's (Maritime Junior Hockey League) Canadian Tire playoffs for the fourth year in a row.
The Capitals defeated the St. Stephen Aces 5-3 on Saturday night to sweep the best-of-seven Eastlink North Division semifinal series.
The Caps will face the Campbellton Tigers in the best-of-seven division final series, which is expected to start at Eastlink Arena in Summerside next weekend. The Tigers blanked the Edmundston Blizzard 5-0 on Saturday night to win the other division semifinal series 4-1.
Before 1,040 fans at the Garcelon Civic Centre, Dylan Riley and Sullivan Sparkes each scored twice for the Caps, who received a goal and an assist from captain TJ Shea. Sparkes, who started the season with the Charlottetown Islanders of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, recorded a series-high eight points – three goals and five assists.
Brodie MacArthur, Noah Massie, Ryan MacDonald, Kallum Muirhead, Jacob Arsenault, Kyle Nichol, Brodie MacMillan and Conor MacEachern contributed assists for the Caps.
Zach Alchorn, Michael Waugh and Michael Johnson countered for the Aces. Brandon Costa (2), Everett Hicks, Kaden Moravek and Evan White were credited with helpers.
The Capitals built a 4-0 lead just past the 13-minute mark of the opening period, and went on to lead 4-2 after the first and second periods.
The final shots-on-goal totals were 38-26 in favour of the Caps. Dominik Tmej earned the goaltending win over Joey May.
The game’s three stars were:
1. Sullivan Sparkes (Caps), 2. Brandon Costa (Aces), 3. Dylan Riley (Caps).
Although the Caps finished first overall in the regular season, won seven of eight meetings and there was a 39-point difference between the teams, the Aces did not make it easy. But each time the Caps faced adversity, they answered the challenge.
For example, Game 1 was tied 1-1 with under four minutes remaining in regulation time until the Caps scored two quick goals for a 3-1 win. This came after the Aces had a goal called back just before the halfway mark of the third period that would have given St. Stephen a 2-1 lead.
In Game 2, the Caps outscored the Aces 4-1 in the second period en route to a 5-1 win.
The Aces took a 3-2 lead into the third period of Game 3, but the Caps rallied for three unanswered goals, including an empty-netter with 12 seconds remaining, to seal a 5-3 win.
Although the Caps jumped out to a 4-0 lead in Game 4, the Aces refused to go quietly, and battled back to make it 4-3 in the first minute of the third period. Sparkes answered back less than three minutes later to close out the scoring.