The Cowichan Valley Capitals are set for the B.C. Hockey League’s second season.
The Caps return to the playoffs for the first time in four years this week, when they open a best-of-seven opening-round series against the Powell River Kings.
The teams met eight times during the regular season, with the Capitals winning the first four, and the Kings bouncing back to take the final four contests.
“I think it’s a good matchup,” said Caps coach/GM Bob Beatty.
“When you play each other eight times, you get to know each other’s game pretty well. It will come down to execution, basically.”
Beatty said the Capitals (27-25-3-3, good for third in the league’s Island Division) didn’t play their best hockey during the final four contests against the Kings (33-20-4-1, second in the Island Division).
“For us, it’s a matter of consistency,” he said.
“We beat every team in the league except for [powerhouse] Penticton, and we had two exciting games with them. So we know we can play with anybody.”
Beatty said he doesn’t expect any “new wrinkles” during the series.
“We know what they’re going to do,” he said of the Kings. “We have to be strong within our structure, be strong on the forecheck and not try to be too fancy. We’ve got good depth throughout our lineup, so we’ll need everyone to make a contribution.”
Kade Kehoe (22 goals, 33 assists for 55 points) finished the season as Cowichan’s leading scorer, two points up on Ryan Burton (16-37-53).
Josh Adkins (22-26-48) and Matthew Hudie (24-17-41) also cracked the 20-goal plateau.
Beatty indicated Storm Phaneuf (20-17, 3.12 goals-against average and a .915 save percentage) will start in goal.
Powell River head coach/GM Kent Lewis said his team’s performance against Cowichan paralleled its entire year.
“That’s indicative of how our team went all year,” said Lewis. “We started out slowly, we had the fewest returnees of any of the top three teams in our division.
“It takes some time for kids to get used to our system but I’m happy with how we progressed.”
The Kings are led up front by Tristan Mullin (27-29-56), with Kyle Betts and Carter Turnbull also cracking the 20-goal plateau.
Nick Halagian (43 points in 48 games along with 128 penalty minutes) adds a physical veteran presence.
Special teams will play a key role in the series. Defencemen Adam Brubacher (18-31-49) and Rylan Ball (11-28-39) combined for 29 power-play assists for the Kings.
Jeff Smith (25-12, 2.48, .927) will get the starting nod in goal for the Kings.
“They’re going to be a tough opponent,” said Lewis of the Capitals.
“Any time you play a divisional rival, you know you’re in for a battle. They’ve definitely got some weapons, so we know we have to be on top of our game.
“I expect it to be a good series.”
The Caps wrapped up the regular season with a pair of losses to the Nanaimo Clippers – falling 3-0 Friday in the Harbour City, and 6-3 Saturday at Island Savings Centre.
On Friday, the Caps were outshot 42-20 in a listless affair.
Sheldon Rempal, Sean Buchanan and Devin Brosseau scored for Nanaimo, which had six power-play chances to Cowichan’s one.
Lane Michasiw stopped 39 shots for the Caps.
On Saturday, Ayden MacDonald, Adkins and Kehoe scored for Cowichan.
Spencer Rempal scored twice for Nanaimo, giving him 59 on the season. Gavin Gould, Matthew Hoover, Spencer Hewson and Edwin Hookenson also scored for the Clippers, with Jakob Walter making 29 saves to pick up the win in goal.Michasiw made 26 stops for the Caps.
NOTES: The series opens Friday and Saturday in Powell River, with Games 3 and 4 back at the Island Savings Centre on Monday and Tuesday (7 p.m. start times). For tickets, call 250-748-7529.