Saturday, March 17th 2012
The Meek Division final goes on Sunday and it's a re-match between two rivals. The Woodstock Slammers will welcome the Summerside Western Capitals for a Sunday afternoon match for game one of the Meek final, a re-match of last year's pairing. In that series, a dramatic game seven win by Summerside was unforgettable and the Caps went on to win the Kent Cup. This time around, the Caps have a younger team and the Slammers have been one of the top teams in Canada all season long.
Slammers Head Coach Jason Tatarnic, who has had the opportunity to allow his team to rest and prepare this week, was pleased with his team's play in the first round and feels that the Slammers can take the positives from their series against Campbellton into the Meek Final.
The goal is to win four and we were fortunate enough to do so in four straight games", said Tatarnic. "For the most part I thought we played well especially on the defensive side of the puck. I thought it was a good series for us and Campbellton. We will take a few things from that series and apply them to this one, we want to continue to focus on the simple things and play well defensively."
Like Tatarnic, Caps Head Coach Billy McGuigan also saw a number of positives in his team's first round win over the Commandos, but also recognizes that a big game three turnaround and never losing their confidence was the key to keeping the alive and moving on.
"We are very equal and similar teams and we knew and understood it was going to be a good long series", says McGuigan. "They got out to an early two game lead but in game three we gave Jarred Kelly the call and he came in and played great and stole for us a much needed win. That gave us a pulse in the series. Game four saw us go down early and 4-0 our team was still feeling very good about our chances and stayed with it for the comeback win. That game was a major momentum swing and showed Dieppe that we had a lot of character and strong will. We had guys working and it gave us an advantage in later games as we got lots of use out of our bench. We really like our overall game right now and we will continue with what gave us success".
McGuigan adds that although his team is young, they are hungry and excited to have a chance to play against a club as strong as the Slammers.
"Our young kids are very hungry and they are having a lot of fun and that combination could be very dangerous. Mix that with some great leadership, and some guys that won this league last season gives us a real sense of this being a good opportunity for us. And we are excited and ready to go. Woodstock is at the top of the league and were ranked #1 in Canada for a number of weeks we know they have an excellent team. We feel the pressure is solely on them".
Having been that top team in the nation and having taken four straight from Campbellton does not have Coach Tatarnic taking the Caps for granted.
"Summerside has played well all season and they have some veteran players with some experience. This will be the fourth time we've met in the division final. It's great for the fans".
And how about this as a chance at redemption from what most view as a crushing playoff loss last season? Tatarnic makes it clear that his team is singularly focused on the 'now'.
"We have 11 players on our team from last season and our focus has been on this year, and now our focus on this season's playoffs".
Let's see how the Slammers and Caps have matched up.
For the third year running the Meek Division title comes down to a 7 game playoff between the Woodstock Slammers and the Summerside Western Capitals. Last year the Caps won the title in a closely fought 7 game series in which each of the final 5 games went to the visiting team. Two years ago, 2009-2010, Woodstock took 5 games to oust Summerside in the division final. The two teams also meet in the division final in 2005-06 when the Slammers took the title 4 games to 3.
The Slammers dominated the regular season series between the two teams this year, winning 6 of the 7 games and only losing the 7th in a shootout. Woodstock held the Caps to just 14 goals while scoring 31 of their own. Slammer goalies Matt Murphy and Sam Renault both have shutouts against Summerside.
The Slammers' top scorer, Bradley Green, had 5 goals against Summerside in the regular season. Nick Huard, Connor Tresham, and Andrew Langan had 4 each. Greene was shutout in the Meek semi-final against Campbellton, but Huard had 3 goals and Tresham and Langan 2. Ben McSwain also scored 3 times in that series. Colton Parson was the best Western Capital against Woodstock in the regular season with a pair of goals. Brock Morrison has had a hot hand in the playoffs for the PEI team, netting 4 goals against Dieppe in the semi-final. Steven Brazil had 3.
Slammer goalies have posted great numbers against Summerside. Matt Murphy has 3 wins and a tie (the game that went to a shootout) and had a 1.52 GAA and a .951 save %; he has one shutout against the Caps. Sam Renault started 3 games (and finished a 4th) and has 3 wins, one a shutout, against Summerside finishing with a 2.24 GAA and a .904 save % in Caps games.
Landon Noel started 5 Woodstock games for the Caps and ended up with 4 losses and a tie. His GAA in those games was 3.15 and the save % was .915. Jared Kelly started the other two games, losing both, and finished with a 5.83 GAA and a .847 save %.