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With jobs at stake and a smaller-than-usual number of players competing for those positions, the Summerside D. Alex MacDonald Ford Western Capitals are expecting an intense training camp.
The first official on-ice session for the Maritime Junior Hockey League (MHL) team will take place tonight at Credit Union Place’s Ice Pad. General manager Pat McIver said, due to the coronavirus (COVID-19 strain) pandemic, that around 30 players are expected. The training camp on-ice sessions are not open to the public.
“We are not going to have a great big camp,” said McIver. “It’s basically invite-only.
“We have talked to everybody we want to come to camp. Unfortunately, with all the (COVID-19) rules now, it’s too hard to have open walk-ins. We have to know who’s coming.”
The Capitals will open a six-game exhibition schedule on the road against the Pictou County Weeks Crushers on Sunday. McIver said the Caps are playing more exhibition games than normal due to it being a longer camp.
A look at the Summerside D. Alex MacDonald Ford Western Capitals’ exhibition schedule:
Oct. 4 – Western Capitals at Pictou County, 7 p.m.
Oct. 9 – Western Capitals at Amherst, 7 p.m.
Oct. 10 – Pictou County at Western Capitals, 7 p.m.
Oct. 15 – Western Capitals at Amherst, 7 p.m.
Oct. 19 – Amherst at Western Capitals, 7 p.m.
Oct. 25 – Amherst at Western Capitals, 7 p.m.
The Caps’ first regular-season game is at the Miramichi Timberwolves on Friday, Oct. 30. The Timberwolves will pay a return visit to Summerside for the Caps’ home opener on Saturday, Nov. 7.
Some of the Caps have been holding informal skates the last couple of weeks and head coach Billy McGuigan feels there are makings of a solid and entertaining club.
“We have a real solid nucleus coming back of core guys,” said McGuigan. “I don’t think we will score goals as we did in the past, but I think we will be a team that is hard to play against, a really exciting team that is hard working.
McGuigan envisions a squad opponents won't like to play as they are going to get the Caps' best effort for 60 minutes.
"Our team is going to be too tenacious and too hard-working to lay down," he said. “I think we will be a team to watch and we are going to be a really hard team to play against.”
Summerside Western Capitals head coach Billy McGuigan is looking to fill out his coaching staff by adding an assistant coach and a goaltending coach.
McGuigan said the organization will miss assistant coach Jason (Lefty) Gallant and goaltending coach Eric Morency. He noted Gallant and Morency, who is stepping away due to family and work commitments, played big roles in the team’s success in recent years.
The Caps are also in the hunt for a part-time equipment manager. Anyone interested in this position is asked to contact general manager Pat McIver.
McIver said from talking to the players they appear motivated, especially the returnees with how last year ended. The Caps ran away with the regular-season title with a 42-7-1-2 record. Then, just as the playoffs were about to begin, the season was cancelled due to COVID-19.
McIver said all eligible returnees, except for defencemen Zach Biggar and Ed McNeill, are returning. Biggar (Acadie-Bathurst-Titan) and McNeill (Blainville-Boisbriand Armada) are making the jump to the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL).
"We are really happy with what we have coming to camp," said McIver. "We think we are going to be a competitive team this year and will be in the thick of things.
“We still have a few question marks, but I think we will have the ability to build on the core this year.”
The Summerside D. Alex MacDonald Ford Western Capitals are hoping to announce the sale of season tickets soon.
The Capitals are awaiting word from the Chief Public Health Office on the number of fans they will be allowed for games at Eastlink Arena this season. General manager Pat McIver said that information will be communicated to the team’s fan base as soon as they know.
“We encourage people to buy season tickets this year,” he said. “It could be the only way you are guaranteed to get into Caps’ games because it’s going to be reduced attendance, there is no question about that.”
One of the most interesting battles will be between the pipes following the graduation of No. 1 goaltender Dominic Tmej last season. Returnee Alec MacVicar is one of five goaltenders battling for two positions.
“There is a little bit of a question mark there,” said McIver. “Dom was the top goalie the last three years and he’s graduated, so we are hoping to have a good battle and for a couple of guys to grab the jobs.”
Along with losing Biggar and McNeill to the QMJHL, assistant captains Brodie MacMillan and Jacob Arsenault graduated. Returnees Ryan Miley, Theo Citrullo and Isaac Wilson, along with the recently signed Chris McQuaid are expected to provide a solid core on the blue-line. McQuaid brings lots of experience, having played in 228 regular-season and playoff games in the QMJHL.
“We feel we are going to have a good blue-line,” said McIver.
Although the Capitals graduated high-scoring Brodie MacArthur, Kallum Muirhead, Marc-Andre LeCouffe, Carson MacKinnon along with the hard-working Zach Thususka, McIver feels the Caps will have depth up front. The forwards were recently bolstered by the signing of Cole Edwards, who played 114 games with the QMJHL’s Charlottetown Islanders the last two seasons, while returnees include Colby MacArthur, Josh MacDonald, Marc Richard, Cameron Roberts, Nick Reeves and Riley MacDougall.
“Will we run away with the scoring title this year?” said McIver “No.
“We feel we have guys who can score and guys who can defend. We feel we will be a tough team to play against.”