Hugh Larkin corrals the puck near centre ice during the Capitals 3-1 exhibition loss to the Victoria Grizzlies last Friday evening. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)

Hugh Larkin corrals the puck near centre ice during the Capitals 3-1 exhibition loss to the Victoria Grizzlies last Friday evening. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)

Caps’ camp moves to the next level

Veterans in the spotlight after first cuts are made

The Cowichan Valley Capitals’ camp has turned a corner after the first three games of the preseason.

Halfway through the exhibition schedule, the Caps have made most of their cuts, and head coach Brian Passmore is ready to take a look at what his veteran players can do.

“We’re getting down to it now,” Passmore said on Monday, after the Caps played exhibition games last Thursday and Friday, and on Sunday afternoon. “We’ll look to play more veterans this week. We’ve given the young guys ample time to show us what they can do.”

About four or five players, he said, are still vying for spots on the opening-day roster. Passmore liked what he saw from the youngsters in the first few outings.

“The kids are hard-working,” he noted. “The first couple of games, I liked their tenacity on the puck. We hadn’t gone over systems yet, so it was more about seeing how they communicate and how they respond to different situations.”

The Caps split a home-and-home series against the Victoria Grizzlies to open the preseason, winning 6-4 at Juan de Fuca Arena on Thursday and losing 3-1 at the Island Savings Centre the next night.

Brett Roloson scored twice and added an assist on Thursday, and Hugh Larkin added a goal and one helper. Tyler Wickman also notched a couple of assists.

The Grizzlies were up 3-0 on Friday before Landon Dziadyk scored Cowichan’s lone goal of the evening in the second period.

The Caps were routed 8-0 on Sunday by the Powell River Kings, who iced a lot more regulars than the host team did.

“We ran into a veteran team that’s pretty much ready to begin the season,” Passmore pointed out. “It was a case of experience versus guys trying to crack the club.”

Larkin has been one of the biggest surprises of camp, earning a commitment from the team with his strong preseason play. A forward who put up 15 points in 23 games with the Detroit Little Caesars U18 team last year, Larkin was invited to camp on the recommendation of head scout Lou Gravel.

“He’s physical; he created time and space for his teammates,” Passmore commented. “He kept impressing us each game. You think he’d fade away, but he kept getting better and better.”

Passmore has also been pleased with the goaltenders in camp, particularly Jason Pichette, who played junior B hockey with the Spokane Braves of the KIJHL last year. Veterans Adam Marcoux and Yann Dery are already locked in as the Caps’ goaltending tandem, but the Caps are hoping they can affiliate Pichette and find him a spot with a nearby junior B team.

One area that Passmore would like to shore up before the season begins is offence.

“Right now we have an issue with goal-scoring,” he said.

The team is “always looking” at what’s available elsewhere, the coach acknowledged, but he would like to see what they can do with different combinations of players they have now.

The Caps were in action again on Tuesday, hosting the Nanaimo Clippers at the Island Savings Centre. They host the Alberni Valley Bulldogs on Thursday at 7 p.m., then visit Nanaimo on Friday. The Clippers are in town again for the regular-season opener on Saturday, Sept. 9.