The Cowichan Valley Capitals took four of six points on their last road trip of 2019, as they took on the top two teams in the B.C. Hockey League’s Interior Division and one club that’s a contender for last in the league.
The Caps opened the trek with a 4-3 loss to the Trail Smoke Eaters on Friday, but followed that up with a 6-5 shootout win over the Penticton Vees on Saturday and a 5-3 comeback victory over the Merritt Centennials on Sunday.
On Friday, Cowichan and Trail ended the first period tied at 2-2, the Caps getting their goals from Matt Crasa and Tanner Sidaway, and the Smokies getting both of theirs from BCHL scoring leader Kent Johnson. Cowichan captain Cruz Cote, who earned an assist on Sidaway’s goal, gave the Caps a lead in the second period, but Trail came back with two in the third. Zach Borgiel got the start between the pipes and made 24 saves as the Caps outshot the Smoke Eaters 41-28.
On Saturday, Penticton opened the scoring, but the Caps went ahead on goals by Zach Brooks, David Wang and Dan McIntyre. The Vees scored one more, but the Caps were up 3-2 when the first period came to a close. The Vees drew even with the only goal of the second period, then Brooks and Wang scored their second goals of the night to restore Cowichan’s two-goal advantage. Late goals for Penticton from NHL progeny Lucas Sillinger and Danny Weight, whose dads both played more than 1,000 games at the top level, sent the teams to overtime.
Neither team scored in OT, although both managed four shots on the other team’s net. It then took seven shooters from each team to decide the shootout. Each team got one goal out of their first three, Luciano Wilson providing Cowichan’s successful attempt. The sixth shooters for each team scored, Dan McIntyre doing the damage for the Caps, and then Primo Self found the net on Cowichan’s seventh attempt, and Ben Howard stopped the last Penticton shooter.
Howard had come into the game late in the second period after starter Borgiel left with an apparent injury. Borgiel stopped 21 of 24 shots, then Howard turned aside eight of 10 attempts over the remainder of the contest and collected the shootout victory. Cote also finished the night with three helpers.
On Sunday, Olivier Gauthier opened the scoring, but the Caps were down 2-1 at the end of the first period, then trailed 3-1 before Dimitri Mikrogiannakis scored a powerplay goal with 21 seconds left in the penalty-packed middle frame. Nolan Barrett tied the score in the third, then Brooks put Cowichan ahead, and John Lundy capped things off with an empty-netter.
Only three assists were handed out on the Capitals’ five goals on Sunday afternoon, with all of them going to Lynn.
Howard made 21 saves as the Caps outshot the Centennials 45-24.
The Caps go into the break tied with the Nanaimo Clippers atop the Island Division, although Cowichan has played 40 games to Nanaimo’s 38. Both teams are 10 points ahead of the Alberni Valley Bulldogs. The Caps and Clippers are also tied for third in the league, four points back of Penticton and two ahead of Trail.
On an individual level, the Caps have two players among the league’s top 20 scorers. Wilson is eighth with 40 points (13 goals and 27 assists), and Mikrogiannakis is 12th with 38 points (seven goals and 31 assists). Mikrogiannakis is also the league’s highest-scoring defenceman.
The Caps return to action in the New Year with a home-and-home series against the Nanaimo Clippers. The arch-rivals will meet in Nanaimo next Friday (Jan. 3) and back at the Cowichan Arena on Saturday (Jan. 4).