Capitals not satisfied with .500 road trip

“We were seconds away from making it a lot better. It should be a lesson.”

Going .500 on a three-game road trip is often a good thing.

Not for this year’s Cowichan Valley Capitals.

“It could be worse, but we’re not celebrating,” head coach Bob Beatty said.

The Caps won 5-2 against the Prince George Spruce Kings last Friday, tied the Coquitlam Express 3-3 on Saturday, and lost 4-2 to the Langley Rivermen on Sunday.

The end of the Langley game proved particularly troublesome as the Caps, trying to hold on to another tie, gave up the go-ahead goal with six ticks left on the clock, then surrendered an empty-netter in the final second.

“We were seconds away from making [the trip] a lot better,” Beatty lamented. “It should be a lesson. We had all the momentum going into the last couple of minutes. We had a powerplay late in the game and we had some good chances. Then we had some good, solid chances five-on-five in the last minute, but we failed to pick up a man on the backcheck, and a guy drove to the net and put it in with a few seconds left.

“It’s a hard lesson; maybe it was magnified because of the time, but it can and does happen throughout the game.”

After a scoreless first period, the Rivermen took the lead midway through the second, then added another goal early in the third. Patrick Geary and Ayden MacDonald had powerplay goals to get the Caps back in position to at least salvage a point from the game before the late collapse. Storm Phaneuf, playing his third game in net in as many days, made 30 saves on 33 shots in yet another outstanding effort.

The weekend started off with a win, although Beatty wasn’t particularly excited about the game in Prince George.

“That was our sloppiest game of the road trip,” he said. “We had a terrible first period, just turnover after turnover.”

The Caps trailed 1-0 after the first, but improved gradually over the game. Jared Domin and Ben Verrall scored in the second, and Luke Santerno found the net in the third before Ryan Burton sealed the deal with two late goals, including an empty-netter. Phaneuf stopped 39 of 41 shots for the win.

On Saturday, Geary opened the scoring, but the Caps found themselves down 3-1 midway through the second period. Geary’s second of the game got Cowichan back within one, and Matthew Hudie tied the score in the third.

“Late in the game we had some glorious chances to win it, but we weren’t able to execute,” Beatty said. “We did show some character, battling back from down 3-1.”

Including overtime, Phaneuf played 70 minutes against Coquitlam, stopping 31 of 34 shots. Phaneuf had to play all three games on the weekend as Lane Michasiw was sidelined with an illness. In starting the bulk of the Caps’ contests so far this year, Phaneuf has been extremely reliable.

“His approach to the game is solid,” Beatty said. “He’s a competitor. He’s been very good for us.”

The Caps have another busy weekend coming up as they host the Victoria Grizzlies on Friday at 7 p.m., visit the Alberni Valley Bulldogs on Saturday, then host the Surrey Eagles on Sunday at 2 p.m.

It might be early in the season, but the divisional games against Victoria and Alberni are still huge.

“We’re ahead of both those teams, but we’d like so spread the gap instead of narrow it,” Beatty said. “We’re well aware of how hard it is to make up points come January and February.”