Caps get closer after weekend games

A hat trick by Alec Zawatsky helped the Cowichan Valley Capitals collect their first win of the preseason on Saturday.

A hat trick by Alec Zawatsky helped the Cowichan Valley Capitals collect their first win of the preseason on Saturday, and helped Zawatsky make his case for a spot with the B.C. Hockey League team when the 2016-17 season begins.

The 16-year-old Zawatsky, who spent last season with the major midget Okanagan Rockets, scored three times as the Capitals edged past the Nanaimo Clippers 4-3 at the Island Savings Centre.

“If he can score three every night, we’ll keep him around,” Cowichan head coach Bob Beatty joked. “He’s certainly making a big push for it. He’s got a good chance to make the team, for sure.”

The Caps had started the exhibition schedule with a 6-2 loss to the Victoria Grizzlies on Thursday and a 9-2 loss to the Grizzlies in Victoria on Friday.

“I certainly liked Saturday night better than the other two games,” Cowichan head coach Bob Beatty said. “We seemed to have a bit more chemistry. They were getting it a little bit more away from the puck. Exhibition games tend to be a little choppy. I wouldn’t say Saturday night was any different than that, but our play away from the puck was better.”

With a couple of dust-ups against the Clippers, the Caps showed plenty of preseason feistiness.

“The game, as it usually does against Nanaimo, got a little physical, even chippy,” Beatty said. “There was some pushback, which was nice to see. I thought we played better after it got more physical.”

With 25 players left in camp after the weekend, the Caps were closer to the 22-man roster they will begin the campaign with, with the decisions only getting tougher.

“There will be a little bit of coming and going here in the next little while,” Beatty said.

The Caps will wrap up the exhibition schedule with a home-and-home series against the Alberni Valley Bulldogs this weekend, in Port Alberni Friday and at home at The Stick on Saturday at 7 p.m.

“We still have some decisions to make, but we’ll be closer to our opening-day lineup, for sure,” Beatty said. “We’ll be implementing some systems this week and we’ll see how things go.”