Ayden MacDonald and Max Newton combined for 13 points in three games last weekend as the Cowichan Valley Capitals picked up a pair of road wins and continued to hang around the top teams in the B.C. Hockey League.
MacDonald had two goals and five helpers over the course of the weekend road trip and Newton scored three goals and assisted three others as the Caps made up for a 5-3 loss to the Prince George Spruce Kings on Friday with a 4-3 win over the Merritt Centennials on Saturday and a 5-3 victory over the Langley Rivermen on Sunday afternoon.
“If you can get four points out of all your three-game swings, you’ll be sitting pretty good,” Cowichan head coach Bob Beatty said. “We’ll take it.”
Defencemen Josh Owings and Chris Harpur also had productive weekends, each recording a goal and two assists, Harpur putting up all his points against Langley on Sunday.
A late goal by an old friend proved decisive as the Caps fell to Prince George on the first day of the jaunt as former Cowichan defenceman Connor Russell potted the eventual game-winner on Friday.
“He’s a great kid, and we like him,” Beatty said of Russell, who was shipped to P.G. during the offseason to help clear a logjam of 20-year-olds on the roster. “We just didn’t want him to score against us. What stings is to get a preventable goal scored against us that late in a game and lose the opportunity to get at least a point.”
MacDonald opened the scoring, but Prince George drew even late in the period. Rookie Ty Pochipinski scored his first BCHL goal with just less than five minutes remaining in the second, but again the hosts tied the score, this time with only 20 seconds left in the period. The Spruce Kings went ahead for the first time at 4:42 of the second, but diminutive Cowichan forward George Sennott made it 3-3 with a powerplay marker, his first BCHL goal, just 140 seconds later. Russell scored with two minutes left on the clock, and an empty-netter with one minute left iced it for Prince George.
Cowichan goalie Adam Marcoux was saddled with the loss despite making 47 saves on the night. The Caps were outshot by more than a 2-1 margin as they only fired 24 pucks at P.G. goalie Tavin Grant.
Lane Michasiw made 40 saves in the Cowichan net on Saturday night, while the Caps scored their four goals on 34 shots against Merritt netminder Jacob Berger.
“Credit Lane for the win,” Beatty said. “He was real solid. He made some game-saving stops — one in particular with about 10 seconds to go. Full credit to him.”
After a scoreless first period, the Cents got on the board 33 seconds into the middle frame, then went up 2-0 on a powerplay goal at 5:52. Michael Montambault notched his first of the season at 7:17 to keep the Caps in the game. Defenceman Josh Owings scored his third of the season early in the third period to even things up. Merritt went ahead by one, but Ryan Hogg restored the tie, and Newton scored the game-winner with a minute and 21 seconds left to play.
“We did show a lot of pushback,” Beatty said. “We came from behind. It was choppy; their rink has smaller dimensions, so there’s not a lot of room in the neutral zone. It’s not a barn you can be fancy in.”
The momentum from Saturday’s win carried over to Sunday, when the Caps scored four powerplay goals and converted a penalty shot in their win over Langley.
The Caps jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first half of the opening period on powerplay goals by Chris Harpur and Newton, but the Rivermen got on the board at 13:29 of the first and tied the score at 8:53 of the second. Newton restored the Cowichan advantage with another powerplay marker in the final minute of the middle stanza. Langley drew even again just before the midpoint of the third, but MacDonald on the powerplay and Domin on a penalty shot scored goals less than a minute apart to put the Caps up by two once again, and the team held on to that advantage for the rest of the game.
Marcoux got his second start of the road trip and earned his second win of the season by stopping 39 of 42 shots.
“[Assistant coach] Dan Whiteford has been working with the powerplay in practice,” Beatty noted. “Sometimes it clicks, sometimes it doesn’t. The guys seem to be buying in.”
Just prior to the road trip, the Caps dealt defenceman Nathan Ellis to the Humboldt Broncos of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League in exchange for future considerations. Ellis, who had one assist in four appearances with the Caps, was traded to make room for Jake Keremidschieff, who came off the injured list last week.
The Caps still sit second in the Island Division, one point back of the Victoria Grizzlies, who have played one more game. Only the Wenatchee Wild and Penticton Vees have a higher win percentage than the Caps.
The Caps have another road game this Friday against the Grizzlies before coming back to the Island Savings Centre to host the Trail Smoke Eaters on Saturday at 7 p.m. and the Powell River Kings on Sunday at 2 p.m. The Caps will be playing their first games at the Island Savings Centre since Sept. 18.
“This is a huge weekend for us,” Beatty said. “The next five or six weeks, we play a lot of home games and a lot of divisional games. It’s a time where we have to make some ground.”