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Former Western Capitals captain MacDonald returns to Summerside as Grand Falls assistant coach

Forward Morgan MacDonald, 11, in action with the Summerside Western Capitals during the 2017-18 Maritime Junior Hockey League season.
Forward Morgan MacDonald, 11, in action with the Summerside Western Capitals during the 2017-18 Maritime Junior Hockey League season. - Jason Simmonds

Morgan MacDonald could be excused if he makes his way to the wrong bench or dressing room Thursday night.

The former Summerside D. Alex MacDonald Ford Western Capitals’ hard-working forward will return to Eastlink Arena with the opposition. MacDonald is an assistant coach with the Grand Falls Rapids, who visit the Capitals for a Maritime Junior Hockey League contest at 7 p.m.

“It’s an exciting game for us as they have been hot of late,” said MacDonald, who played three seasons with the Capitals and served as team captain for the 2017-18 season. “We feel we have been building the right way and when we go up against them we want to make sure we are playing them hard and playing the right way.”

The Capitals, who sport a league-best record of 18-3-0 (won-lost-overtime losses), moved up to No. 9 in this week’s Canadian Junior Hockey League’s top-20 rankings and will not be lacking motivation. Not only are the Capitals looking to extend a 10-game winning streak, but the Rapids defeated Summerside in the last meeting between the two teams in Grand Falls, N.B., on Oct. 4.

“The last time we played them we were disappointed and they kind of ran over us and it was a 5-1 game,” said Capitals assistant coach Jason Gallant. “I expect us to be ready and it to be a high compete game.”

The Rapids are fifth in the Eastlink North Division at 7-10-2. Grand Falls is two points back of the fourth-place Fredericton Red Wings (9-8-1).

“They play hard,” continued Gallant. “They have some heavy guys up front that like to crash and bang.

“There’s no doubt that we have the skill, high speed and high-end talent on our team and it’s about matching that with grit. It’s a really good opportunity for us to play a gritty team that plays the right way.”

The Rapids will look to repeat their performance from their last meeting with the Capitals.

“The biggest thing is we played the way we want to play,” said MacDonald, who is from Little Pond. “We played hard and physical and took away their time and space. 

“With a team with a lot of skill like they have, you have to make every play tough for them.”

MacDonald is in his first season with the Rapids working with head coach Brad MacKenzie and assistant coach Nicholas Tremere of Borden-Carleton. Paul Drew of Cornwall is the team’s goaltending consultant.

“It’s been great,” said MacDonald, 22. “Coaching was something I was interested in when I finished playing and coming up here I wasn’t quite sure how I would fit with the guys so close in age, but the team has been great. 

“I have learned a lot through the other two coaches and have grown as a coach and it’s great to be back in the MHL.”

Another P.E.I. connection with the Rapids is rookie defenceman Zac Arsenault, who played the last three seasons with the Kensington Wild of the New Brunswick/P.E.I. Major Midget Hockey League. Arsenault has five points, including two goals and one game-winning tally, and 26 penalty minutes in 20 regular-season games with the Rapids.

Homestand

With the Capitals coming off back-to-back road wins over the Edmundston Blizzard on Saturday and Sunday, Thursday marks the first of a four-game homestand and an opportunity to widen the gap atop the Eastlink North Division. Second-place Edmundston is nine points back at 13-6-1.

 “We don’t want to be in a position where we are looking at points right now,” said Gallant. “It’s about being the best version of ourselves. 

“Going and stealing four points from a great, hard-working team in Edmundston in a really hard building to play in was a good start. What we look for is our consistency and ability to play every night.”

Jason.simmonds@journalpioneer.com

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