After opening the B.C. Hockey League playoffs with an upset victory last Thursday, the Cowichan Valley Capitals felt let down somewhat that they didn’t follow it up with another win.
“Because we won game one, I think we left a little disappointed that we only got the split,” Caps head coach Mike Vandekamp said after his team returned from Penticton with a win and a loss in the first two games of the best-of-seven first-round series against the Vees. “It was a big win for us to get off to a good start in the series.”
Both games at the South Okanagan Events Centre ended in 4-1 final scores, with the Caps taking the opener and the Vees prevailing on Saturday. Other than who won, Vandekamp didn’t see a lot of differences between the two games.
“I thought we capitalized on our chances in game one,” he said. “I thought our penalty kill was really good. In game two, they obviously got a big goal on the powerplay, and the night before we were 100 per cent on the penalty kill.
“I thought the games were very similar. They had a bit more of a territorial advantage, but we defended really well. The first night we capitalized, the second night they capitalized.”
Niko Esposito-Selivanov scored twice and added two assists on Thursday, and Cowichan goalie Pierce Diamond outdueled Penticton’s first-team all-star Jack LaFontaine 40 saves to 24 as the wildcard Caps beat the Interior Division’s top team last Thursday.
Esposito-Selivanov set up Paul Selleck for the only goal of the first period. After the Vees evened things up early in the second, Esposit0-Selivanov scored one of his own on a breakaway set up by David Melaragni, then earned the first assist on a goal by Dimitri Mikrogiannakis. Finally, he fired the puck into an empty net with 64 seconds left in the game.
“He was just doing what he had to to help us win,” Vandekamp said of Esposito-Selivanov’s offensive explosion.
Cowichan killed off all five of Penticton’s powerplay opportunities in the opener, while the Vees managed to avoid the penalty box altogether until the very end of the game when Caps forward Cole Broadhurst and Penticton’s Carson Kosobud took matching roughing minors.
On Saturday, the Vees opened the scoring on Saturday with a powerplay goal midway through the first period, but Brady Lynn replied for Cowichan a few minutes later, also on the man advantage. The Vees scored twice in the second, including a shorthanded marker, and added an empty-netter late in the third.
The Vees outshot the Caps 38-23, but Diamond was solid again with 34 saves in a losing cause, while LaFontaine had 22 stops. Both teams went 1-for-3 on the powerplay.
The series moved to the Island Savings Centre for games three and four on Tuesday and Wednesday, both starting at 7 p.m. It’s a change of scenery, but the players on both sides remain the same, Vandekamp pointed out.
“They’re still a really good team,” he commented. “A change of venue doesn’t change a whole bunch. It doesn’t change the challenge that we face.”
The Caps need to be at their best to keep pace with the Vees as the series continues.
“To give ourselves a chance to win, we need to play hard and be discpilined and be good defensively,” the coach said. “We need our special teams to be solid. The reality of it is tthat wwe’re underdogs. We have to play hard and smart, literally every shift. We don’t have a lot of room for error. We’ve got to be sharp all night long.”
One advantage the Caps could have is supportive fans in the building.
“Hopefully we’ll get good crowds to support the team,” Vandekamp said. “We’ve had some good games in our rink, especially in the second half. Hopefully we can use that to our advantage.”