For the first time in five years the Summerside Western Capitals are regular season champions in the Maritime Hockey League, finishing with a massive 22-point lead over Woodstock for the Meek Division lead, and seven points up on Truro for first in the MHL.
It’s the seventh time the Western Capitals have finished first in their league since 1973; Summerside has added the playoff championship to their regular season crown on three occasions – in 1984, 1989 and 2009.
The RBC Cup hosts finished the season on a remarkable run, winning 24 of their final 25 games from Dec. 9 on, the lone loss coming to Woodstock on Feb. 1. They held a top-five spot in the CJHL national rankings for much of the season, coming in at No. 3 in the final poll of the year.
Midseason acquisition Danny Chiasson was an offensive juggernaut for the Western Capitals, recording at least a point in 19 of 21 games after the Dec. 21 trade with Dieppe and finishing the year with points in 12 straight.
Chiasson’s 35 points with Summerside, and 88 overall, left him tied for the league scoring lead, while Mitchell Maynard, the MHL’s Player of the Year, made it two Caps in the top five with 70 points.
Overall, Summerside finished No. 2 in the MHL in goals scored (222) and shots on goal (1,922), and was third on the power play at 23.9%.
While the offence was solid, the defence was lights-out, leading the MHL in goals against, with just 119 allowed in 52 games, and penalty killing, with an 87.3% success rate. Summerside was second-best in shots allowed with 1,447, just five behind Truro.
Goaltender Kevin Bailie, a trade deadline pick-up from the OHL, posted a 1.90 goals-against average in 11 games with Summerside, while Jacob Riley finished second in the league with 23 wins and was top five in both GAA (2.37) and save percentage (.915), giving the Western Capitals options in goal entering the postseason.
“We feel we have a great one-two punch with these two individuals,” head coach Billy McGuigan told the Summerside Journal Pioneer. “Jake Riley has been the most consistent goaltender in the MHL this season.
“We picked up Kevin Bailie at the trade deadline, and he has been a fantastic goaltender for us as well. Obviously, with the best combined GAA in the league, we are comfortable with either of them between the pipes.”
Looking for its sixth league championship, and third in the last six years, Summerside opens the playoffs against the Miramichi Timberwolves. The Western Capitals were a perfect 7-0 against Miramichi in the regular season, outscoring the Timberwolves 37-12.
“(The players) are anxious to get going,” McGuigan said to the Journal Pioneer. “We have had a good season, and anytime you have a good season guys are happy and success is contagious. They want to get the playoffs rolling.”
SUMMERSIDE WESTERN CAPITALS VS. MIRAMICHI TIMBERWOLVES
Game 1 – Sunday, March 17 – Miramichi @ Summerside
Game 2 – Tuesday, March 19 – Summerside @ Miramichi
Game 3 – Thursday, March 21 – Miramichi @ Summerside
Game 4 – Saturday, March 23 – Summerside @ Miramichi
*Game 5 – Monday, March 25 – Miramichi @ Summerside
*Game 6 – Wednesday, March 27 – Summerside @ Miramichi
*Game 7 – Friday, March 29 – Miramichi @ Summerside
* if necessary