The B.C. Hockey League regular season is just around the corner for the Cowichan Valley Capitals.
The Caps will open the season on the road against the Nanaimo Clippers on Friday, followed the next night by their home opener against the Victoria Grizzlies.
In roster terms, the Caps are set for the campaign, with 22 players remaining in camp as of Tuesday morning, and one more in a Western Hockey League camp.
“We’re basically down to numbers,” Cowichan head coach and general manager Mike Vandekamp said, noting that further changes are always possible. “Your eyes and ears are always open this time of year, but we like what we’ve seen from the group so far. The boys have worked hard from day one. The attitude and work ethic have been really good.”
The Caps wrapped up the preseason with a pair of exhibition games against the Victoria Grizzlies, losing 3-2 at the Cowichan Arena on Friday evening, then winning 5-2 at Seaparc Arena in Sooke on Saturday afternoon.
Cole Broadhurst and Will Arquiett each scored powerplay markers in both games. Andy Bridgewater added a pair of goals on Saturday, and Josh Kagan scored once.
“[On Friday] I thought we played really well,” Vandekamp said. “It got away from us with the penalties we took. That’s kind of when that one slipped away.”
For what it’s worth, the Caps posted an impressive record in exhibition.
“We finished off the preseason 3-1, which essentially means nothing,” Vandekamp said. “But it’s good to get results.”
The projected roster for the season-opening weekend features a strong group of returning players including 1999 defenceman Dimitri Mikrogiannakis, and forwards Broadhurst, Cruz Cote, Kolton Cousins, Olivier Gauthier, Brady Lynn, Dan McIntyre, and Luc Wilson, who was injured to start camp but played in the last exhibition game.
The newcomers are highlighted by forwards Bridgewater, Arquiett and Zach Brooks, who all played well in exhibition. Vandekamp has also been impressed with the play of 18-year-old blueline addition Cullen Ferguson, who will have to sit out the first weekend because of a suspension he incurred on Saturday.
“He showed signs of being a good go-to guy on defence,” the coach said.
The team will also go with Ben Howard and Zach Borgiel between the pipes to start the season. The Caps are still unsure what will happen with goalie Simon Berube, who had a promising start to camp before returning to Quebec for family reasons.
As much as the team has accomplished already in the lead-up to the season, Vandekamp acknowledged there is still a lot to do before Friday. The Caps have practice days scheduled from Monday to Thursday, as well as team and individual meetings.
“We’ll do our best to be as ready as possible,” the coach said. “It jumps up on you pretty fast. We’ll be as ready as we can be.”