Before heading into a first round playoff date with the formidable Penticton Vees, Cowichan Valley Capitals head coach Mike Vandekamp determined some house cleaning was in order.
“We took the bad record [of the regular season] and threw it away,” Vandekamp said at the Caps’ year-end awards banquet last Wednesday.
“We built some belief and won a series.”
The Caps surprised a lot of people by pulling the biggest B.C. Hockey League upset in 15 years against the heavily favoured Vees who finished first in the Interior Division with a record of 37-16. The Caps barely made post-season action with a record of 17-35.
“We won the first game against Penticton and we didn’t steal anything. We earned it,” Vandekamp said.
The Caps went on to take the series in seven games, wrapping it up with an exciting final game at home before a packed and loud arena.
Marketing manager Scott Yanko was thrilled with the team’s success against the Vees.
“They’re going to be talking about you guys for 20 years on coffee row,” Yanko predicted.
On a high heading into the second round against Wenatchee Wild, the Caps played well only to see their season end with two straight overtime losses.
“The guys on this team still think we should be playing. We got rid of any kind of negative stuff.”
Vandekamp, in his first year as coach of the Capitals, says the team had a learning experience that will serve them well in the future.
“It takes a lot of stuff to put your heart out there,” he said. “It ended up getting broken but that’s OK. You just get back up on the horse.”
The awards night was an opportunity for the organization to thank billet families, volunteers, medical team volunteers and the community for their support.
Six graduating players — captain Vincent Millette, fellow forwards Paul Selleck, Jordan Robert and Niko Esposito-Selivanov, defenceman David Melaragni and goaltender Pierce Diamond — were honoured for their contribution to the program and hardware was presented to a number of players.
Melaragni, a blueliner from Philadelphia, led the team in scoring and was named the most valuable player and the Top Gun D-man. Melaragni tallied 12 goals and added 28 assists during the regular season and chipped in with five goals in 12 playoff games.
Dan McIntyre was named the most improved player and Adam Conquest was honoured with the rookie of the year award.
Hometown product Luc Wilson earned the community involvement award and Olivier Gauthier was named the most inspirational player. Vandekamp also selected Gauthier for the coaches award.