Caps continue struggles against Grizzlies, beat Vipers

For the second weekend in a row, the Cowichan Valley Capitals started things off with a loss on the road against the Victoria Grizzlies.

For the second weekend in a row, the Cowichan Valley Capitals started things off with a loss on the road against the Victoria Grizzlies on Friday, then followed it up with a solid win.

The Caps lost to the Grizzlies 2-1 on Friday, continuing their trend of one-goal games against their South Island rivals. On Saturday afternoon, they doubled up on the visiting Vernon Vipers 6-3.

“Victoria played us tough again,” Capitals head coach Bob Beatty said. “I didn’t think we extended ourselves. I didn’t think we brought our best game.”

Goalie Storm Phaneuf was arguably Cowichan’s best player on the night with 36 saves on 38 shots. Patrick Geary had the Capitals’ lone goal.

“They’re an extremely hard-working team,” Beatty said of the Grizzlies, who have won four games in a row but still sit last in the Island Division. “When we were taking our time moving the puck, they were all over us. We had three close games with them where we came out on top, and two where we didn’t. They’re a better team than their record, and I’ve tried to make our team aware of that. They’re going to break loose at some point. We’ve got to learn that we’ve got to bring it every night.”

On Saturday, the Caps were up 3-0 over the Vipers after 20 minutes, and it was 5-1 going into the third period. Vernon scored two goals in the first eight minutes of the final frame, but that was as close as it got, and an empty-netter iced the win.

“I thought we responded pretty well,” Beatty said. “We played better than we did the night before. We don’t see Vernon very often, but it’s always a passionate game.”

Ryan Hogg opened the scoring with his first career goal, in career game No. 55, set up by fellow Cowichan Valley Minor Hockey product Kyle Topping.

“It was fun,” Beatty said of seeing Hogg finally reap the rewards of his hard work. “Everybody was so happy for him. I’ve never seen a dressing room as happy as that. It’s been a long time coming. It’s a monkey off his back, for sure. He’s had his opportunities and played well before that goal. Hopefully that will open a crack in the dike and he’ll notch a few more shortly.”

Kade Kehoe and Adam Osczevski each had a goal and an assist against Vernon, and Luke Santerno, Rhett Willcox and Jared Domin also scored. Ryan Burton had a pair of helpers. Phaneuf was excellent once again with 38 saves on 41 shots.

The Caps will hit the road this weekend, visiting Trail on Friday, Penticton on Saturday and Merritt on Sunday. Penticton has won 19 games in a row, while Trail and Merritt sit at the bottom of their division.

“Obviously we want to come back from the road trip still in first place [in the Island Division],” Beatty said. “That will take a minimum of two wins. The last two years, we’ve gone 0-6 on that road trip, so we hope to turn a page in the history books.”