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Abbies, Caps Ready for Atlantics
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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Abbies look to retain Atlantic minor midget AAA crown
STEPHEN BRUN

Transcontinental Media
The Charlottetown OK Tire Abbies are looking to defend the Atlantic minor midget AAA hockey championship in Summerside this weekend. But the matchup could be intriguing if head coach Mike White leads his squad to a gold-medal game against his former teammate, Summerside Hemphill GM Capitals head coach Jason (Lefty) Gallant. White and Gallant won the 1997 Canadian junior 'A' hockey championship with the Summerside-based Hemphill Pontiac Western Capitals.
 
The Abbies, who won last year's championship in Amherst, N.S., open round-robin play today at 1:30 p.m. against another group of Caps - the team from Fredericton, N.B. "We're pretty familiar with Fredericton since we played them in the final of the Monctonian and we had the chance to see them at other tournaments, so we know their style of play," said White. "We just have to focus on one team at a time and donít get too far ahead of ourselves." The five-team tournament, which takes place at Credit Union Place until Sunday, also includes provincial teams from Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador.
 
The Abbies are the provincial champions, but they'll be playing in what's traditionally rival territory - the host Summerside team's arena. A pair of solid goaltenders, Kurt Willis and Kyle Craswell, along with six solid defencemen, bolster the Charlottetown team. Conor McAleer, who led the team with 76 regular-season points, and his linemates will be key in getting the Abbies off to a strong start. Friday night's meeting between the Abbies and the Summerside Capitals is sure to be the marquee contest. And while a championship meeting between the two Island teams would carry bragging rights along with the Atlantic title, White said the Abbies are simply focused on making it to the final.
 
Midget Caps look to take advantage of home ice
STEPHEN BRUN
Transcontinental Media
 
The Summerside Hemphill GM Capitals have a secret weapon for the Atlantic minor midget AAA hockey championship this week - warmth. While many teams would say they rely on a hot goaltender or a streaking scorer, the tournament's host team is anticipating a different kind of home-ice advantage.
 
"Credit Union Place is one of the warmest rinks in the Maritimes, and the other teams are used to playing in a colder atmosphere," said Caps head coach Jason (Lefty) Gallant. "Because we practice and play there all year, we should be better conditioned than the other teams and used to playing in that environment." In addition to the warmth, both in the arena and from the hometown fans, the Summerside team members will be able to go home and sleep in their own beds. That could be a big advantage in a short tournament, said Gallant. "We try to never look past the first (game)," he said. "These are the top teams from each province, so there are no giveaway games and no walks in the park. You have to prepare yourself for a battle because it's definitely going to be a competitive tournament."

The Caps will try to keep the Atlantic championship within the province, but to do that they may well have to go through the defending-champion Charlottetown OK Tire Abbies. Two of Gallant's former junior 'A' teammates with the Summerside-based Hemphill Pontiac Western Capitals, Mark and Mike White, coach the Charlottetown squad. But Gallant said the two teams have a mutual respect for each other. "Just like Montreal-Toronto or Montreal-Boston, you want to beat the best," Gallant said. "Charlottetown has been the heavy favourite, and they've won every tournament they've entered this year. If we play our game, we can play with them."
 
Summerside opens the tournament Thursday against Fredericton, N.B., at 8:30 p.m. Gallant expects the New Brunswick team to try and match Summerside's intensity. "Emotions are going to be high, especially after the opening ceremonies, so you have to keep those in check," he said. "We have to control our emotions and make smart plays instead of being bulls in a China shop. We still want to play our style, put some pressure on the teams and be the aggressor."

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