Caps book return to BCHL playoffs

Back-to-back home victories last weekend clinched a playoff spot for the Cowichan Valley Capitals for the first time since 2012.

Back-to-back home victories last weekend clinched a playoff spot for the Cowichan Valley Capitals for the first time since 2012.

The Caps beat the Merritt Centennials 4-2 last Friday and the Chilliwack Chiefs 3-1 on Saturday to get their first wins of February and book a place in the B.C. Hockey League postseason. The games were a huge improvement over the two shutout losses the Caps had against Powell River a week earlier.

“I think everything was better,” head coach Bob Beatty said. “Our goaltending was really solid both games. I thought we were a lot better in our own end. Our D played solid; they were aggressive in our end, getting pucks back and preventing scoring chances. We battled hard. The guys got in on the forecheck and played the way they need to to be successful. They were going to the net hard and creating a lot of chances around the net.”

The Caps may have guaranteed themselves a playoff berth, but Beatty wants the team to keep rolling through the remaining six games of the regular season.

“We’re getting down to the crunch and we have to get into playoff mode,” he said. “We seem to have been in, at least the last two games.”

Against Merritt, Patrick Geary opened the scoring in the first period, and Matthew Hudie scored a pair just three minutes apart in the early going of the second. The Centennials got on the board midway through the second, and it was 3-1 for Cowichan when the teams went to the locker room.

Jared Domin gave Cowichan a 4-1 lead 36 seconds into the third period, and although they gave up one more goal, the Caps held on to win.

Lane Michasiw got the start in net and stopped 26 of 28 shots.

After a scoreless first period on Saturday, the Chiefs opened the scoring midway through the second. Hudie tied things up with 24 seconds remaining in the middle frame, then added his second of the game in the third period, and Josh Adkins added some insurance.

Storm Phaneuf made 38 saves for the win, and is now one away from 20 on the season, matching Robin Gusse’s total from 2013/14. The last Cowichan goalie to win more than 20 games was league MVP Chris Rawlings in 2008/09.

Hudie has five goals in the last three games, and finished last weekend with four goals and an assist. He wasn’t the only player to put up noteworthy numbers as Geary had a goal and three assists, Kehoe had four helpers, Ryan Burton had three helpers, and Adkins had a goal and an assist.

“He’s been outstanding,” Beatty said of Hudie, “He’s going to the net and making things happen. A few guys have had a hot stick lately. I think all our forwards are contributing.”

The Capitals’ new forward line combinations, led by the trios of Hudie, Geary and Kehoe, and Burton, Domin and Adkins seem to have clicked.

“I think that’s helped, and maybe just shuffling the deck has benefited a lot of guys,” Beatty said.

The Capitals played host to the Victoria Grizzlies on Tuesday. A win over Victoria would clinch third place in the Island Division. The Caps are on the road this coming weekend.