After six months of holding on to a berth in the B.C. Hockey League playoffs, the Cowichan Valley Capitals lost their grip on the last day of the season, losing 5-2 to the Victoria Grizzlies to put an end to the 2013/14 campaign.
"We were either holding a playoff spot or in a position to control our own destiny the whole season, up until Saturday night," head coach Bob Beatty noted. "It is very disappointing."
A 6-4 victory at home over the same Victoria team on Friday night gave the Caps a one-point edge over the Alberni Valley Bulldogs for the Island Division’s last playoff spot. The Bulldogs managed a 3-0 win over Powell River, and it was announced on the Bear Mountain Arena PA, but the Caps still could have overcome it.
"We did control our destiny," Beatty said. "All we needed was a point."
Cowichan captain Kyle Horsman scored both goals in the season finale, both set up by Jarrett Brown and Jesse Neher.
Horsman’s first gave the Caps an early edge, but the Grizzlies pulled ahead with a pair during a high-sticking penalty doubleminor to Daniel Wanner. After a scoreless middle frame, the Grizzlies added to their lead early in the third. Horsman narrowed the gap to 3-2, but Victoria potted two more, including an empty-netter, before the buzzer sounded to end the game and the Caps’ season.
Goalie Robin Gusse made 32 saves on 36 shots.
"We just didn’t have the same jump as we did Friday," Beatty said. "A lot of our players were certainly playing at full tilt, but there were some that didn’t have the same type of jump as they did Friday night."
In Friday’s thriller, the Caps got goals from Wanner and Myles Powell to take a 2-0 lead into the third period. A shootout ensued in the final frame, with each team scoring four times.
Horsman, Mason Malkowich, Colton Kehler and Reilly O’Connor did the damage for the Caps, while Powell added two assists. Malkowich, Horsman and Neher all finished the night with two points, and Gusse made 34 saves on 38 shots.
"I certainly thought we played well for two periods," Beatty said. "It was a bit of a wild third period; we competed very well, skated hard and finished our checks, but our puck management left a bit to be desired."
Beatty expressed his gratitude to the fans who came out for the team’s last home game.
"The crowd was excellent; it was a playoff-type atmosphere," he said. "Unfortunately, we’re not going to have any more games like that, not at The Stick anyway."
Ultimately, it was the Caps’ lack of consistency that led to the team missing the postseason, said Beatty.
"We obviously had some ups and downs, but I felt we had things going in the right direction after Christmas; we played well enough over that stretch," he said. "The nine-game losing streak [in November] certainly had a large part in putting us in the battle for the last Island playoff spot, but we were able to dig ourselves out of it and continue on."