The Cowichan Valley Capitals played what head coach Brian Passmore felt was their best hockey of the season on Saturday, but were foiled, in large part thanks to a huge outing by a product of the local minor hockey system.
The Caps had five goals on Saturday in the back half of a two-game set in Powell River, the most they’ve scored in a game since mid-September, but Ben Berard, a Duncan product now skating for the Kings, answered back with four of his own, and an assist, as the hosts prevailed 7-5.
Despite being outshot 13-6, the Caps led 3-2 after the first period on goals by Caleb Franklin — another Valley product — newcomer Tate Coughlin and Raphael Gosselin, and forced the Kings to change goalies. The team made just one costly mistake in the period, Passmore felt.
“It could have been 3-1 without the error,” he said.
The Caps were even better in the second period, as Hugh Larkin scored to put them ahead 4-2.
“The second period was possibly the best period of hockey we’ve played all year,” Passmore said.
That held up for the first 17 minutes, at least, or until Berard scored his second and third goals of the day in the last two and a half minutes of the middle frame.
“We played so hard, then one bad thing and it goes away,” Passmore lamented. “It’s like a valve goes off. We played a great period only for it to evaporate within three minutes.”
The Caps just didn’t have an answer for Berard.
“Everything he shot was going in,” Passmore said. “We’ve got to key on that guy, and we didn’t do a good job.”
For his third of the game, Berard beat three Caps before using the last defender as a screen, finishing off what he Passmore called “probably one of the nicest goals I’ve seen all year.”
From the end of the second period until late in the third, the Kings scored five straight goals before Brendan Cherwalk added one more for the Caps with just under three minutes to play. Passmore was pleased to see his team keep pushing.
“I liked that we didn’t go away,” he said. “We made it interesting.”
Recently signed goalie J.J. Pichette got his first junior A start on Saturday, and made 34 stops against the top team in the Island Division.
“He kept us in the game,” Passmore said. “I think he’s learning that some of the junior A guys have better shots than guys in junior B.”
Saturday’s outing was “a complete turnaround” from Friday’s game, a 7-0 win for Powell River and the first time this year that the Caps have been shut out.
“It was not a good effort,” Passmore admitted.
The Caps stayed out of the penalty box on Friday, taking just two penalties, both in the third period, but didn’t play good defence. Cowichan went down by a pair in the first period, then offered decent push-back in the second before the Kings added to their total with a goal off a turnover and then a shorthanded marker.
“Once it got to four, it was like we weren’t focused on the rest of the game,” Passmore said. “We didn’t play hard enough in the third period.”
Cowichan goalie Adam Marcoux made 32 saves in the loss, while Matteo Paler-Chow stopped all 34 shots the Caps fired at him.
At home last Wednesday, the Caps earned a single point in a 4-4 tie with the Alberni Valley Bulldogs, moving them out of the B.C. Hockey League basement and just ahead of the Coquitlam Express.
“We scored four. We should have won the game.”
Coughlin scored the opening goal in his Cowichan debut. David Laroche also found the net in the first period, and Andrew Jackson and Ty Pochipinski had second-period markers as the Caps took a 4-3 lead into the third period. They killed off a two-man advantage to start the third period, then gave up a goal at even strength that tied things up. The Caps outshot Alberni 7-4 in overtime, and had a two-minute powerplay that they couldn’t generate anything with.
Passmore hopes to build on Saturday’s strong play as the team heads into the month of December.
“Hopefully we’ll go out in our next game and score five,” he said. “And not give up seven.”
The Caps visit the Nanaimo Clippers on Wednesday and host the Mainland Division-leading Langley Rivermen on Saturday at 7 p.m. in the first games of seven before the Christmas break.