Capitals a win away from provincial final

Nobody gave the eventual gold-medallists a better challenge than the Cowichan Valley Capitals.

Nobody at the peewee Tier 2 provincial hockey championships in Fort St. John last week gave the eventual gold-medallists a better challenge than the Cowichan Valley Capitals.

The Capitals faced Greater Vernon in the last round-robin game for both teams. Greater Vernon had already locked up a spot in the final, while the Capitals needed a win in order to give themselves a chance to play for gold. Cowichan fell behind early, but worked their way back into the game. Unfortunately, they were unable to close the gap and had to settle for a 5-3 loss, coming away from the tournament with the bronze medal.

Dawson Elzinga, Cullen Plester and James Joyce each scored once against Vernon, while Parker Klippenstein had two assists and Kyler Smith added one.

“We needed to win it, but we came up a little short,” Cowichan head coach Rick Brant said. “It was two of the top teams playing against each other. The gold-medal game was a bit anticlimactic. It took a lot out of Greater Vernon to beat us.”

The Capitals’ first game of the tournament, a 6-4 loss to North Delta, ended up keeping them out of the provincial final.

“It certainly wasn’t our best game,” Brant admitted. “North Delta came out and played us well. We’d love to have that first game back. Things would have been so different.”

Elzinga led the way with a hat trick in that game. Braden Blace had the other Cowichan goal, while Ben Brant and Matthew Schure each had two helpers.

Between their games against North Delta and Greater Vernon, the Capitals rolled over the other teams.

Elzinga and Joyce each had hat tricks in a 10-3 win over Cranbrook, with Elzinga also recording an assist. Ben Brant had a goal and four assists, Plester and Klippenstein each had a goal and an assist, Joran Branting scored once, and Blace had three assists.

Next came a 12-0 win over host Fort St. John. Schure finished with three goals and an assist, Brant had two goals and two assists, Joyce had two goals and one assist, Plester scored twice, Blace had a goal and three helpers, Nolan Wilkinson had a goal and an assist, Smith had one goal, and Elzinga had two assists. Goalie Brendon Wilson was perfect to record the shutout.

Elzinga had two goals and two assists and Plester also scored twice in an 8-1 win over Quesnel. Blace had a goal and an assist, and Brant, Joyce and Branting each scored once.

Schure had two goals and an assist as the Capitals beat Burnaby Winter Club 6-3. Klippenstein had a goal and two assists, Klippenstein, Smith and Kal Nagy each had a goal and one helper, and Plester added one goal.

The players were disappointed after the loss to Vernon on the last day of the tournament, but eventually came around to appreciate what they had accomplished.

“Probably a couple of hours after the game, they realized how well they did play,” Brant said. “Looking back at the results of the season, if you told us we’d win the provincial bronze medal, we would have been happy with that.”

The entire roster — which also included Adam Strobl, Jacob Stocks, Anthony Wilson and Brayden Ganter — played well throughout the tournament.

“Everyone stepped up at various times,” Rick Brant said. “We played our best team hockey of the season.”

Also stepping up were the team sponsors — Quality Box, Mike Ganter of Raymond James, the Ryan Clark Memorial Tournament, the Cowichan Valley Minor Hockey Association, the Vancouver Island Amateur Hockey Association, and Wideglide Entertainment/Sunfest — as well as the Cowichan community that helped make the trip to Fort St. John possible.

“The community really stepped up,” Brant said. “We are really thankful with the way the community showed support.”