It’s a busy week for the Summerside D. Alex MacDonald Ford Western Capitals.
The Capitals, winners of four straight and six of their last seven games, will play a stretch of three games in three nights beginning with a home contest against the Grand Falls Rapids on Thursday. Puck drop at Eastlink Arena is 7 p.m.
The Capitals, who sit atop the Maritime Junior Hockey League’s overall standings and Eastlink North Division with a 26-5-1 (won-lost-overtime losses) record, will then hit the road for back-to-back tests against the South Shore Lumberjacks (17-13-3) on Friday and the Eastlink South Division-leading Yarmouth Mariners (21-10-3) on Saturday.
“We just have to continue the way they have been playing,” said Capitals head coach Billy McGuigan. “We are just going to have to stay out of the box, play disciplined and work our butts off.”
The Rapids are fifth in the Eastlink North Division at 12-18-3, eight points out of the fourth and final playoff spot.
“Grand Falls is a heavy team, they come in and play a gritty game,” said McGuigan.
Caps forward Marc-Andre LeCouffe says the Caps will look to follow a simple approach against the Rapids.
“We just have to stick to our game plan, listen to what (head coach) Billy (McGuigan) has to say and they have a good goalie so we have to put pucks on net and get a lot of traffic,” said LeCouffe, who has 29 points, including eight goals, in 32 regular-season games.
The Capitals also sport a league-best 16-1-1 home record and have averaged 2,154 fans over their last four games. That figure includes crowds of 3,864 for the team’s school-day game and 2,430 for a free New Year’s Eve game.
“It’s always fun to win in front of the fans and we’ve had some good crowds lately and the whole season we’ve had some good crowds,” said LeCouffe. “They are helping us out a lot and we have a really good record at home.”
The Caps will be facing the Lumberjacks and Mariners for the second and final time in the regular season. The Caps edged the Mariners 2-1 in overtime in Summerside on Sept. 28 and trimmed the visiting Lumberjacks 7-1 on Oct. 10.
“They are two really good teams,” said LeCouffe. “We just want to keep doing our job like we have been doing lately.”
The trip to Nova Scotia will provide a good test for the Caps as South Shore and Yarmouth have both enjoyed success on home ice this season. The Bridgewater, N.S.-based Lumberjacks are 9-5-1 at the Lunenburg County Lifestyle Centre and the Mariners are 14-5-0 at the always-packed Mariners Centre.
“When we go away, whether what building it is, we still have to play our game,” said LeCouffe. “Whether we are at home or away, we just want to stick to our game plan.”
There is a strong P.E.I. connection with the Grand Falls Rapids.
Charlottetown native Brad MacKenzie is in his first season as Rapids head coach. He is assisted by Nicholas Tremere of Borden-Carleton and former Summerside Western Capitals captain Morgan MacDonald of Little Pond.
Paul Drew of Cornwall is the Rapids’ goaltending consultant.
Defenceman Zac Arsenault of Montague is in his rookie season with the Rapids and was recently named an assistant captain. The 18-year-old son of Robert and Kim Arsenault, who played the previous three seasons with the Kensington Wild major midget program, has four goals, five assists, nine points and 36 penalty minutes in 32 regular-season games.
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