Sweeping a three-game road trip in the B.C. Hockey League is a rare feat on its own. The Cowichan Valley Capitals not only did it for the second time this season when they went three-for-three this past weekend, but they did it under difficult circumstances.
“It’s definitely not a great schedule,” Cowichan head coach Mike Vandekamp said. “You have to deal with three games in two and a half days, and in this particular case, it was a grinding road trip.”
The Caps left Duncan for Prince George before 5 a.m. last Friday, then were delayed after their game that night because of injuries that sent two players to hospital. That in turn meant getting into Chilliwack late, and missing two key skaters for the Saturday and Sunday games.
“To be able to persevere through that is quite an accomplishment,” Vandekamp said.
The trip opened with a 4-2 win over the P.G. Spruce Kings on Friday, followed by a 1-0 victory over the Chilliwack Chiefs the next night, and wrapped up with a 4-3 shootout decision over the Langley Rivermen.
“I think the first two games were similar,” Vandekamp assessed. “There wasn’t a lot of action. We kind of had a boring road game approach. There weren’t a lot of shots; there wasn’t a lot of action.”
It helped the Cowichan cause that the team was shorthanded only three times over the first two games combined.
Brady Lynn led the way on Friday with two goals and an assist, opening the scoring midway through the first period, and then tying the game at 2-2 midway through the second after back-to-back goals by P.G. Zach Brooks scored the eventual game-winner late in the second, and Luc Wilson tacked on a powerplay goal late in the third. Wilson finished with a goal and an assist, and Matt Crasa and Dimitri Mikrogiannakis each had two helpers, Ben Howard stopped 25 of 27 shots for the win, while the Caps had 24 shots on the Spruce Kings’ net.
The Caps were hit by injuries to forward Dan McIntyre, who was struck in the back of the neck by a shot and tended to by paramedics on the ice, and defenceman Clark Webster, who took a stick in the eye. Both players should be back for this weekend’s games.
After waiting for the players to be discharged from hospital, the Caps left Prince George about three hours later than usual, but were still ready come game time in Chilliwack. Zach Borgiel posted a 28-save shutout and Kobe Verbicky’s first goal as a Capital midway through the third period stood up as the winner in the low-scoring affair.
With two wins, the Caps could have chalked up the road trip as a success, especially once they went down 3-0 against Langley, but they found a way to battle back and complete the sweep.
“When you’re tired and shorthanded, and you can dig deep and find a way to win like that, it’s a great feeling for the team,” Vandekamp said. “It was definitely the highlight of the season so far.”
Just 24 seconds after former Capital Jonathan Stein made it 3-0 for Langley at 4:04 of the second period, Crasa got the Caps on the board. Tanner Sidaway scored a quarter of the way through the third, and Will Arquiett tied the game with 44 seconds left in regulation. The Caps appeared to score at the end of overtime, but the officials ruled that the puck crossed the line after the buzzer sounded, sending the game to a shootout.
In the shootout, the first two shooters from each team scored, including Wilson and Crasa for Cowichan, and the next three failed to score. Cowichan’s sixth shooter, captain Cruz Cote, scored, and Borgiel stopped Stein for the win.
Wilson and Lynn finished the day with two assists apiece, and Borgiel made 38 saves through regulation and overtime.
The Caps will host the Nanaimo Clippers as scheduled this Friday at 7 p.m. They have also swapped dates with the Alberni Valley Bulldogs, meaning the teams will play in Cowichan this Saturday at 7 p.m., and in Port Alberni on Nov. 30.