After a pair of wins on the road against Island Division opponents, the Cowichan Valley Capitals couldn’t carry that momentum over and win their last home game before the Christmas break.
The Caps won 4-2 over the Nanaimo Clippers last Wednesday and 6-1 over the Alberni Valley Bulldogs on Friday, then lost 3-0 to the Prince George Spruce Kings at home last Saturday.
On Wednesday, four unanswered goals in the second half of the game gave the Caps a 4-2 win over the Clippers.
“We got a little momentum back at the end of the second, and the third period was really good,” Cowichan head coach Bob Beatty said. “It was a good comeback win on the road against a pretty good team.”
The Clippers built up a 2-0 advantage, thanks to a first-period powerplay marker and an even-strength goal just a minute and 23 seconds into the second period. Matt Hudie got the Caps on the board at the 12:18 mark of the middle frame.
The third period was all Cowichan on the scoreboard as Ben Verrall, Connor Russell and Kyle Topping found the net. Hudie ended the game with a goal and two assists, and Russell had one helper to go with his goal. Storm Phaneuf made 33 saves on the night, while his counterpart, Jakob Walter stopped 24 shots.
Although the powerplay didn’t play a major role in the game — the Clippers went 1-for-3 and the Caps were 0-for-2 — the teams did combine for 49 penalty minutes, not including nine separate misconducts. Ryan Hogg helped to spark Cowichan’s third-period surge when he fought Nanaimo’s Nolan Aibel early on.
“Things did get a little heated,” Beatty admitted. “I think the rivalry is heating up It should be a good game on the 30th.”
On Friday, the Caps got a pair of shorthanded efforts among the six goals they scored as Kade Kehoe opened the scoring with a man down and Patrick Geary also scored while his team was at a numerical disadvantage. Defenceman Josh Owings scored the eventual game-winner, which was also his first goal of the season, while Topping, Russell and Jared Domin also found the net.
Geary and Kehoe each finished the game with a goal and an assist, and Ayden MacDonald had two helpers. Phaneuf matched his total from two nights earlier with another 33 saves. The Caps chased Alberni starter Brody Claeys, who allowed four goals on 12 shots. His replacement, Carson Schamerhorn stopped eight of 10 shots.
“The game really wasn’t that lopsided,” Beatty noted. “Storm had to make a lot of saves. He was certainly one of the stars. It was good to score six goals on the road, for sure.”
The Caps were tested on the penalty kill eight times and gave up one goal. They also scored once out of three chances. Cowichan centre Jared Domin was assessed 13 minutes in penalties, plus a misconduct, and received a two-game suspension for a blow to the head of an Alberni player.
Finally on Saturday, the Caps had all 29 shots turned aside by Spruce Kings goalie Sam Tanguay in their first shutout loss of the 2015/16 season. Although things didn’t get as nasty as they had in the two preceding road games, the Caps did spend a bunch of time shorthanded, killing off all seven Prince George powerplays while they only received two themselves.
Exactly a week after he was in goal for a 7-3 loss to the Trail Smoke Eaters, Lane Michasiw returned to the net and was solid, stopping 29 of 32 shots.
“It was disappointing to go into the break with a loss at home,” Beatty said. “We were a bit short-staffed, and that’s going to catch up to you at some point.”
The Caps certainly experienced some upheaval in the lineup over the three games. In addition to Domin’s suspension, recently acquired defenceman Sam Jones played his first three games in red and blue, and centre Luke Santerno suffered an injury against Nanaimo and was sidelined for the next two contests.
The Caps also finalized the Rhett Willcox trade from Dec. 14 by adding forward Josh Adkins from the Alberni Valley Bulldogs, although he has yet to suit up. The 20-year-old Adkins is in the midst of a career season, with 28 points (12 goals and 16 assists) in 34 games so far.
All the injuries, suspensions and trades created some openings in the lineup that were filled ably by a variety of local affiliates. For Wednesday’s game, Ben Berard was called up from the Shawnigan Lake School prep team and Lynden Eddy was summoned from the junior B Kerry Park Islanders. Berard and Shawnigan teammate Jackson Doucet were in the lineup on Friday and Saturday, and another Cowichan minor hockey product, Dawson Frank, was called up from the major midget North Island Silvertips for Friday’s contest.
“I thought they all played well,” Beatty said.
After the winter break, the Caps will be at home again on Wednesday, Dec. 30 when they host the Nanaimo Clippers at 7 p.m.