Summerside D. Alex MacDonald Ford Western Capitals head coach Billy McGuigan understands maintaining focus around the holidays can be a challenging time of the year for players.
“Things get a little looser this time of the year and guys from away are excited about going back home and seeing their families,” said McGuigan. “Kids are shopping for presents and their families are getting set up for Christmas dinners. You just have to loosen the reins a bit and understand it’s that time of the year and try to stay focused in your games.”
The Caps, coming off a 2-0 loss to the Pictou County Crushers Thursday in the Maritime Junior Hockey League action in New Glasgow, N.S., will play two more games – both at Eastlink Arena – before the Christmas break.
The Capitals, who sport a league-leading record of 23-4-1, host the Miramichi Timberwolves (8-16-3) tonight at 7 p.m., and the Amherst Ramblers (14-11-1) Thursday at 11 a.m. Fans are asked to note the special start time for Thursday’s game, which is expected to attract 3,000 school-aged children.
Tonight’s game will also be the Caps seventh annual teddy bear toss game where fans will throw the bears they have brought with them over the glass after Summerside scores its first goal.
“Our team knows the importance of the games right now,” said McGuigan. “We are going to be ready and focused.”
Capitals defenceman Jacob Arsenault of Richmond said it’s all about players maintaining their intensity.
“For some people, it might be (a distraction), but if you are a hockey player you are focused on the game and that’s all that is on your mind,” said Arsenault, an assistant captain. “For us, if we can improve every night, at the end of the year we will be a strong team.
“If we take nights off we will just go back and it will hurt us in the long run.”
Rebounding from rare loss
Thursday’s result was the Capitals’ first regulation loss in 17 games. The Caps, who were the third-ranked team in this week’s Canadian Junior Hockey League rankings, were 15-0-1 since a 4-3 road loss to the Campbellton Tigers on Oct. 14.
“Coming off the first part of the season, our record is fantastic, the team has played well and we are really happy with the first part of the season,” McGuigan said.
The Timberwolves come to Summerside last in the six-team Eastlink North Division at 8-16-4.
Arsenault said the Timberwolves cannot be taken lightly.
“They deserve more credit than they get,” said Arsenault. “They are a hard-working team, they have some skill upfront and they stick around in games.
“You never go to the rink when you are playing them knowing it’s going to be an easy game. It’s always a tough game, they are a strong team and we have to show up.”