Offence took centre stage last Saturday as the Cowichan Valley Capitals fell 8-5 to the Alberni Valley Bulldogs in a B.C. Hockey League preseason exhibition game in Port Alberni.
Despite the defeat, head coach Bob Beatty wasn’t dismayed, as his indivudual players still gave him and his staff a lot to think about.
"It was a good game for this early in the year," he said. "There were lots of things to like and some things not to like. Despite the score, we felt we saw some good things, and we identified some areas we have to work on."
Most impressive for Beatty was the fact that each of the players on the line of Brayden Gelsinger, Thomas Gobeil and Colton Kehler scored goals in the defeat.
"That was a line that we thought played well," the coach said. "They moved the puck well."
The Caps’ other two goals came off the stick of Luke Santerno, a BCHL rookie who starred in the junior B ranks last season.
"That was good to see," Beatty said. "I thought his line with [Keegan] Milligan and [Daniel] Wanner was effective at times."
As for areas where the team needs to improve before the season begins, Beatty found a few of those.
"We have to have a little more structure and we have to be more present in the forecheck," he said.
In addition to the output of the Gelsinger-Gobeil-Kehler and Santerno-Milligan-Wanner lines, the Caps also got a pair of assists from defenceman Jake Switzer. Alex Corley played the entire game in net, making 34 saves as Cowichan was outshot 42-27.
The Caps got their camp roster down to 24 players – two above the limit – after sending forward Ben Brar back to Abbotsford’s Yale Academy. It’s likely not the last that fans have seen from Brar, who had 31 points in 24 games for Yale last year.
"He’s a 16-year-old with lots of potential. He had a good, solid week of practice and got a game in [against the Victoria Grizzlies] last Wednesday. We’ll affiliate him and see of we can get him over to practice or play, depending on our other players’ performances and injury situations."
After Tuesday night’s game at home against the Nanaimo Clippers, the Caps have two more exhibition contests left, and while Beatty acknowledged it would be
nice to get a couple of wins, the more important task is to determine which players will don the Capitals colours when the regular season begins.
"We have to make some tough decisions here, but that’s what exhibition games are all about," Beatty said. "The final couple of decisions will be difficult."
The Caps will play their last two pre-season exhibition games on the road, visiting Nanaimo on Wednesday and the Victoria Grizzlies on Saturday.
The regular season opens with the Bauer BCHL Showcase in Chilliwack, where the Caps will play the Vernon Vipers on Friday, Sept. 19 and the Merritt Centennials on Saturday, Sept. 20. The team’s first regular-season home game is on Sept. 26 when Cowichan hosts Victoria.