The top two teams in the Maritime Junior Hockey League will clash on Thursday.
The Summerside D. Alex MacDonald Ford Western Capitals will host the Edmundston Blizzard in a 7 p.m. start at Eastlink Arena. The Capitals sit atop the 12-team league’s overall standings with a record of 29-5-1 (won-lost-overtime losses). Edmundston is 10 points back in the Eastlink North Division at 22-7-5.
“You look at the standings and you look at the teams around the league, obviously this is probably the biggest game of the season for both teams I would say,” said Caps head coach Billy McGuigan on Wednesday.
It will mark the first meeting between the Capitals and Blizzard since Summerside rallied for a 3-2 win in Edmundston on Dec. 8. The Caps have won five games in a row and six of their last seven, while Edmundston has won two in a row and three of four.
Forward Carson MacKinnon of Summerside will make his Summerside debut on Thursday. MacKinnon recently signed with the Caps after playing the last 4 ½ years with Rimouski and Gatineau in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
“Edmundston picked up two or three players who are going to be impactful players for their hockey club and we picked up one in Carson MacKinnon, who we feel is the best one of them all,” said McGuigan. “It’s going to be an interesting game because we haven’t played them in quite a while and the teams have improved quite a bit.”
McGuigan said he expects MacKinnon to start his Caps’ tenure on a line with veterans Brodie MacArthur and Kallum Muirhead.
McGuigan also confirmed the team released defenceman Gianluca Fuoco, who had nine points in 34 regular-season games, to make room for MacKinnon. Each team is allowed eight 20-year-olds and MacKinnon’s arrival gave the Caps nine.
“Gianluca was a good defenceman and it takes away from our D, but we have Isaac Wilson, who has played forward most of the year for us,” said McGuigan. “We’ve implemented Isaac back to the blue-line.
“He’s going to play defence for us and he played defence last year and made our team as a defenceman.”
MacKinnon was the only addition the Caps made at Friday’s trade deadline. It came shortly after they lost 18-year-old forward Bennett MacArthur to the Acadie-Bathurst Titan of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. He had 41 points in 30 regular-season games before being called up..
“That was a big loss for us,” said McGuigan. “He still sits third in our team in scoring and he’s in the top 10 in league scoring.”
McGuigan said the fact the Caps “haven’t made any drastic moves all year” is a benefit.
“It’s been pretty status-quo because we’ve had so much success as a team and the line combinations have kind of stayed the same except for a little bit of tweaking from time to time,” said McGuigan. “We are pretty much the exact team today as we had in September and then you add Carson MacKinnon into the mix.”
- Click here for story on Western Capitals ranked eighth in latest Canadian Junior Hockey League standings:
- Click here for story on Summerside Western Capitals' game at Yarmouth Mariners on Saturday:
- Click here for story on Summerside Western Capitals' game at South Shore Lumberjacks on Friday:
- Click here for story on Summrside Western Capitals' home game vs. Grand Falls Rapids on Thursday:
- Click here for story on Summerside Western Capitals preparing for three games in three days last week:
- Summerside Western Capitals’ notebook:
- Capitals forward Colby MacArthur is expected back in the lineup for Thursday’s home game against the Edmundston Blizzard after playing in the Canadian Junior Hockey League/National Hockey League Prospects Game in Hamilton, Ont., on Tuesday.
- Caps head coach Billy McGuigan said veteran Dominik Tmej will get the start in goal against Edmundston.
- The Capitals will host the Fredericton Red Wings on Saturday at 7 p.m.