The Cowichan Valley Capitals were able to stretch their season-opening winning streak to three games before suffering their first loss of the B.C. Hockey League campaign in challenging circumstances on Sunday afternoon.
Brady Lynn and Will Arquiett both scored twice as the Caps defeated the Chilliwack Chiefs 4-2 at home on Saturday evening. A quick turnaround before a road trip to Powell River the next afternoon, however, resulted in Cowichan’s first loss of the year at the hands of the Kings.
“I really liked the Saturday game,” Capitals head coach Mike Vandekamp said. “They’re a strong team in our league. We played a pretty good 60 minutes. We were maybe a little sluggish in the first, but we took over the game in the second.”
Lynn had Cowichan’s only goal in the first period on Saturday, but Arquiett potted a pair late in the middle frame, the second coming on the powerplay. The Chiefs got on the board in the third with one goal on either side of Lynn’s powerplay marker.
Olivier Gauthier and defenceman Tyrell Boucher each had three assists on Saturday, and Capitals goalie Zach Borgiel was perfect through two periods before allowing two goals in the third. The Caps outshot the Chiefs 36-20. The win marked the first time since 2015-16 that the team has won three to open the season.
That streak had to come to an end sometime, and that time came on Sunday. After an early-morning trek to Powell River without some key forwards, the Caps suffered a 7-2 setback.
“We weren’t going to win every game, I guess,” Vandekamp shrugged.
The Kings led 2-1 after the first period and 4-2 after the second, getting their goals from Gauthier and Cole Broadhurst. Early in the third, a Cowichan defenceman lost the puck after colliding with a referee, which led to the first of Powell River’s three unanswered goals in the final third.
“It was a tough turnaround, to play the night before then be back at the arena at 6:40 a.m. It didn’t go our way, that’s for sure.”
Ben Howard made his first appearance in the Cowichan net after Borgiel started the first three games, and stopped 32 of 39 shots in a result that Vandekamp didn’t feel portrayed his goalie’s play fairly.
“I didn’t think it was as bad as it looked on paper,” the coach said. “He was the victim — in the third period, particularly — of the team letting him down. It was a team loss. I thought he battled hard. It was certainly the weakest game we’ve played as a team, and he was a victim of that.”
The Caps lost returning forward Dan McIntyre after he was hit in the head late in Saturday’s game. Nikita Nesterenko, the Chilliwack player who struck him, was handed a two-game suspension, while McIntyre has yet to return to the Cowichan lineup.
Arquiett was issued a five-game suspension for a blow to the head of a Powell River player on Sunday, and the Kings player reportedly didn’t miss a shift.
Vandekamp didn’t want to comment on the difference between the suspensions to Nesterenko and Arquiett, ostensibly for similar offences, but he did reflect on the absence of McIntyre, who had three goals and an assist in the Caps’ second game of the season.
“Dan was off to a good start, and with Tanner Sidaway already out of the lineup, that’s two good centres not playing,” he said. “It’s tough playing without those two guys. We ran out of gas at the end [on Sunday].”
On Wednesday at 7 p.m., the Caps will play host to the Surrey Eagles, who have won two of their first three after finishing dead last in the BCHL last season.
“They’re an improved hockey team,” Vandekamp said. “I think they’ll be a tough opponent for us. We’ll be short some players, and that will definitely be tough. There’s never an easy night in our league, and it will be another tough challenge. We’ve played well in our barn so far. Hopefully we’ll keep that going.”
On the weekend, the Caps will host the Alberni Valley Bulldogs on Friday at 7:30 and the Penticton Vees on Saturday at 6 p.m. Saturday’s game will mark the first meeting between the teams since Cowichan upset Penticton in the playoffs last spring.