Owen Gilhula admits he did not know what to expect when he committed to the Summerside D. Alex MacDonald Ford Western Capitals for the 2020-21 Maritime Junior Hockey League (MHL) season.
“I wasn’t sure about the East Coast hockey honestly, but it’s really surprised me,” said the 20-year-old forward from Stratford, Ont. “Honestly, I really like it.
“Our coaches are amazing, the team is great, we have great facilities here (at Credit Union Place), and P.E.I. is unbelievable. It’s my first time living on the East Coast, so it’s a great experience. I’m really happy I am here.”
Gilhula, who signed with the Capitals as a free agent following four seasons in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) with the Sudbury Wolves, has made an immediate impact. He is averaging a goal a game and has seven points in five regular-season contests while helping the Caps to a 3-1-1 (won-lost-overtime losses) start.
The five-foot-10 and 183-pound Gilhula scored two goals and was named the first star in the Caps’ 3-1 home-ice victory over the South Shore Lumberjacks (0-8-0) on Saturday night. That victory, combined with Friday night’s 4-3 overtime loss on the road to the Berwick, N.S.-based Valley Wildcats, earned the Caps three of a possible four points last weekend.
Gilhula’s goal with under 10 minutes remaining in the third period lifted the Caps into a 3-3 tie with Valley and forced overtime.
“He’s a great addition,” said Caps head coach Billy McGuigan. “You can see him getting better every single game. He's skilled, plays on our power play, penalty kill and, as time goes on, he is going to get better and better.”
“It’s a different speed, but as long as you attack with speed everything is OK, too. Other than that, the quality of hockey is really good. It’s a very skilled league, and guys want to come out here, especially with our team. We are a winning team with a winning culture and a winning organization. I am happy that I am here, and they are giving me a great opportunity.”
- Owen Gilhula
Gilhula said he's noticed one adjustment transitioning from major junior to junior A.
“It’s a different speed, but as long as you attack with speed everything is OK, too,” he said. “Other than that, the quality of hockey is really good.
“It’s a very skilled league, and guys want to come out here, especially with our team. We are a winning team with a winning culture and a winning organization.
“I am happy that I am here, and they are giving me a great opportunity.”
The Capitals announced the acquisition of another Ontario player, goaltender Nathan Torchia from the Georgetown Raiders of the Ontario Junior Hockey League (OJHL), in exchange for a player development fee last week.
Torchia arrived in Summerside on Nov. 18, and will join the Caps as soon as his 14 days of self-isolation expires.
“He’s a guy we targeted back in May and stayed in contact with the team in Ontario all along,” said Capitals general manager Pat McIver. “He was voted the top goalie in the OJHL last year, and he finished runner-up in the MVP voting.
“He’s a legitimate, bona fide junior A goaltender. We are ecstatic to land him.”
Torchia posted a 2.56 goals-against average and .925 save percentage, in 134 OJHL games, over four seasons. He recorded 10 shutouts during this stretch.
The five-foot-10 and 185-pound Torchia is from Waterloo.
Torchia’s father, Mike Torchia, was also a goaltender. The senior Torchia was named a Memorial Cup all-star in 1990 with the Kitchener Rangers, and went on to enjoy a length professional career, including six games in the National Hockey League with the Dallas Stars during the 1994-95 season.
The Capitals announced the signing of six-foot-four and 185-pound defenceman Isaac Abbott on Sunday night. The 16-year-old Halifax native previously played at Deerfield Academy in Massachusetts.
Jason Simmonds is the sports reporter for the Journal Pioneer.