Last weekend’s three-game road trip looked like a good opportunity for the Cowichan Valley Capitals to improve their record.
Aside from visiting the always-dangerous Wenatchee Wild on Friday, the Caps were facing the two teams with the worst records in the league: the Merritt Centennials on Saturday and Coquitlam Express on Sunday.
When it was all over, the Caps limped back into town with three more losses and a league-worst record of one win and seven losses to begin the B.C. Hockey League season.
“It was pretty miserable,” lamented Cowichan head coach Brian Passmore, whose team leads the league with 173 penalty minutes, and also has the league’s worst penalty kill and has given up the most goals so far.
Discipline continued to be a major issue for the Caps last weekend. They gave up five powerplay goals in an 11-1 loss to Wenatchee, four more in a 7-1 loss to Merritt, and two in a 3-2 loss to Coquitlam.
“After Friday, I didn’t like the Saturday night response from the group,” Passmore said “There wasn’t much character. Sunday was a better effort. We ran into penalty trouble, but it wasn’t a bad game. It was tight.”
The lack of discipline is clearly frustrating for the first-year junior A coach.
“The guys aren’t learning,” he said. “We had 11 penalties in Wenatchee and gave up five goals on the powerplay. I’ll take responsibility for the penalty kill. We’ve got to get that on track, and I’m trying. Then the next night, we had 11 penalties again.”
Against Wenatchee, the Caps trailed 3-1 after one period, their lone goal by affiliate player Darwin Lakoduk, who was summoned from the junior B Victoria Cougars for the weekend. The Wild went on to score eight unanswered goals: six in the second and two more, both on the powerplay, in the third.
On Saturday, Cowichan again trailed 3-1 after the first, David Laroche accounting for the lone Cowichan goal. The Caps gave up a pair of goals in each of the next two periods, including a shorthanded marker in the second and two more powerplay goals in the third.
On Sunday, the Caps and Express each scored twice in the second period, Ty Pochipinski and Ethan Scardina finding the net for Cowichan. Coquitlam pulled ahead for good at 2:41 of the third period.
Although his team surrendered 21 goals in three games, adding to their league-worst total of 46 against in eight contests, Passmore isn’t close to giving up on the goaltending tandem of Adam Marcoux and Yann Dery, blaming the numbers on team defence.
“I do have faith in our goalies,” he said. “They’re facing 50 shots in every game. We’re spending [the equivalent of] one out of three games on the road in the penalty box, and they’re getting peppered with shots.”
A pair of recent trades showed that the Caps are looking outside the organization for help.
On Sept. 22, they acquired Raphael Gosselin from the Notre Dame Hounds of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League in exchange for Alec Zawatsky. The 20-year-old Gosselin had 42 points (23G, 19A) in 33 games with the Champlain St. Lawrence Lions of the Quebec high school league last year. Zawatsky, a 1999 birth, had four points in five games with the Caps this season after posting 13 points in 52 games as a rookie last year
Gosselin played in all three games last weekend, but didn’t get on the scoresheet.
“We thought Gosselin would bring us more offence,” said Passmore. “And he’s a centreman, and we need centremen.”
Last week, the Caps sent 20-year-old Haydn Hopkins to the Carleton Place Canadians of the CCHL for future considerations. An alternate captain to begin this season, Hopkins was acquired late last year along with Mitch Skapski in the trade that sent Ryan Hogg and Trevor Ayre to the Salmon Arm Silverbacks. He had a goal and two assists in four games with the Caps this year.
“He’s going to the top-place team in Ontario,” Passmore explained. “They have a chance to win the East this year. It’s his last year in junior and we wish him the best.”
The Caps have one more game on the road as they visit the Victoria Grizzlies on Friday. On Sunday, they return home to host Wenatchee at 2 p.m.. After last weekend’s 11-1 defeat, Passmore is hoping to catch the Wild off guard at the end of a long road trip.
“That will be their third game, and we have Saturday off,” he said. “I’m looking forward to that game to see what we bring to it.”