A trio of exhibition games in a four-day span last weekend gave the Cowichan Valley Capitals a better idea of what they have to work with as the 2015/16 roster picture becomes increasingly clear.
"We've got three games under our belts," head coach Bob Beatty said. "We're whittling things down."
The Caps had 27 players in camp as of Monday morning, and Beatty expected to be down to the final group of 22 by the end of the week, following Wednesday night's exhibition game against the Alberni Valley Bulldogs.
While all the returning players and B.C. Hockey League veterans are still in camp, Beatty acknowledged that there could be some tough decisions to make before the week is over.
"There are certainly some returning players that will be challenged for their positions, for sure," Beatty said.
The Caps opened the preseason schedule last Thursday with a 9-4 loss to Powell River in Lake Cowichan, a game Beatty was understandably disappointed with.
"We were pretty sloppy in our own end," he said. "We had bad net-front coverage. They drove to the net, and we didn't pick up their sticks. We hung our goalie out to dry a little bit. It wasn't the intensity we need in front of the net."
There were still a few bright spots, as Beatty was happy with the line of Cowichan newcomers Jared Domin, Anthony Passero and Matt Hudie, all of whom scored, and the pairing of returning defenceman Ben Verrall and his partner for the game, Josh Owings.
Back at the Island Savings Centre on Saturday night, the Caps blew away the visiting Victoria Grizzlies 5-0.
"I was really pleased with the effort," Beatty said. "I though we had pretty good control of the game from start to finish."
Storm Phaneuf, a veteran of four years in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, picked up the shutout in net.
"He was very composed," Beatty said. "He was square to the puck and had good rebound control. I thought we were good defensively in front of him, too."
Phaneuf will share netminding duties this season with returnee Lane Michasiw, who got the start in Lake Cowichan.
"He'll be one of our goalies, for sure, and Lane will definitely be the other one," Beatty said. "There's no competition there for the spots."
Against the Grizzlies in Victoria on Sunday, the Caps escaped with a 5-4 victory despite a meltdown late in the second period that saw the Grizzlies score three goals in the last minute and a half, including two on the powerplay.
"We took some penalties that we didn't need to," Beatty said. "Usually those ones hurt you, and they did."
The Caps managed to hold off the Grizzlies down the stretch.
"We outscored them three to one in the third, so we were able to get the win," Beatty said.
Results aren't as important in the preseason as they are in the regular season, but Beatty was still pleased to come away with wins in two of three exhibition games.
"It's certainly part of the evaluation process," Beatty said.
On Sunday, Beatty was impressed with the line of Mackenzie Bauer, Nick Wicks and Daniel Wanner. He also noted that Domin scored in all three games and returning forward Ryan Burton had three goals in two games.
The Caps have three more games this week before the end of exhibition play. They host the Bulldogs on Wednesday and the Nanaimo Clippers on Saturday, visiting Nanaimo for a game in between on Friday.
Beatty is hoping the fans turn out for the home games.
"We had a great crowd [last] Saturday night," he said. "It would be nice to see some more support there. They can take a look at the new players, and get their season tickets early."