After playing their final exhibition game last Friday night, the Cowichan Valley Capitals took most of the long weekend off, returning to the ice on Tuesday afternoon.
The beginning of the B.C. Hockey League regular season is finally in sight, and it’s crunch time.
“We’re right down to it now,” Capitals head coach Brian Passmore said on Tuesday morning, days away from coaching his first junior A hockey game.
The Caps finalized their opening-day roster over the weekend when they rounded out their defence corps with the acquisition of 20-year-old defenceman Alexandre Drapeau, who played the last two seasons with the Quebec Remparts of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. The 5-foot-10 defender had two goals, two assists and 67 penalty minutes in 49 games last season.
Passmore is pleased with the 22 players he has picked to start the season with.
“It’s a good group of kids,” he said. “They’re hard-working and they’ve bonded really well over the course of camp. It’s been a demanding two weeks. They’ve worked extremely hard. We are very comfortable with where we are at right now.”
Although the roster includes potential snipers David Laroche and Azzaro Tinling, who electrified crowds with some of their moves in the preseason, Passmore isn’t expecting one player to stand out offensively.
“We’ll be scoring goals as a team,” he said. “No one player is going to run away with it. It will be a group effort. This will be a team that finishes and attacks, but also plays very disciplined.”
The Caps played preseason games against each of their divisional rivals, including two meetings apiece with the Victoria Grizzlies and Nanaimo Clippers, giving Passmore a chance to assess the other teams, even if they weren’t finalized either.
“From all the games we played, the teams will be even,” he said.
The Grizzlies and Powell River Kings are expected to have a lot of firepower this year. The Clippers should be a physical unit, and Passmore anticipates that the Alberni Valley Bulldogs will be fast and “opportunistic.”
“Powell River and Victoria do have high-scoring teams,” Passmore said. They have more veterans and school commitments.”
The Caps wrapped up the exhibition schedule last week with a 6-3 win over Alberni at the Island Savings Centre on Thursday, followed by a 3-1 loss to the Clippers in Nanaimo on Friday.
“We just couldn’t get any traction with the number of penalties we took,” Passmore said of the Nanaimo game. “It seemed like we were always killing penalties, and the guys got tired from doing that.”
Passmore wants his team to have a reputation of being tough to beat.
“We want to be known as a physical team, a team that’s in the middle of everything, a hard-working team that’s hard to play against.” he said. “We want to start off September over .500.”
The season gets underway this Saturday when the Caps host the Clippers at the Island Savings Centre at 7 p.m. The players are eager for some meaningful action, and Passmore wants to see them prove they belong at this level.
“The kids we do have here have earned every right to be in the lineup,” he said.