Cowichan forward Cruz Cote pursues the puck in front of the Wenatchee crease during. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)

Caps work overtime to clinch playoff berth

Cowichan beat Victoria in a shootout, edged by Wenatchee in OT

What overtime giveth, overtime taketh away.

The Cowichan Valley Capitals have gone beyond regulation in their last three B.C. Hockey League games, earning their first overtime win of the season against the Nanaimo Clippers on Feb. 2, followed by their first shootout win of the campaign over the Victoria Grizzlies last Thursday, then an overtime loss to the Wenatchee Wild on Friday night.

“Overtime and shootouts seem to be just a little bit cyclical,” said Caps head coach Mike Vandekamp, who has stated before that he doesn’t put a lot of stock into results of games that go longer than three periods. “They’ve created a type of hockey to solve the final score.”

Paul Selleck and Niko Esposito-Selivanov scored on Cowichan’s first two shots of Thursday’s shootout, and goalie Pierce Diamond stopped both of the Grizzlies’ scoring attempts to earn the 5-4 win over the Grizzlies.

Forward Cruz Cote forced overtime by scoring the tying goal with 13 seconds left in regulation. Preston Brodziak scored twice and David Melaragni had the Caps’ other goal. Diamond stopped 33 of 37 shots in regulation and overtime, while the Caps fired 46 shots at Victoria netminder Zachary Rose, who made 42 saves.

The Caps dominated possession in the three-on-three overtime period against Wenatchee on Friday, but the Wild made good on a rare opportunity and slipped the puck past Diamond at 3:28 of the extra session to win 4-3.

“We had the puck the whole overtime,” Vandekamp said. “We had the puck, we had chances. They had the puck twice, and they scored on the second time.”

Cote and Olivier Gauthier each had a goal and an assist and David Melaragni also scored as the Caps led 3-2 after two periods. The Wild scored the only goal of the third to force overtime. Diamond finished the night with 24 saves.

The Caps have now clinched a playoff spot with the elimination of the Surrey Eagles. They can still get past the Alberni Valley Bulldogs for fourth place on the Island and avoid a crossover series with the first-place team from the Interior. With five wins, three losses and one overtime defeat in their last nine games, the Caps have moved to within a single point of the Bulldogs.

“We’ve been playing good hockey,” Vandekamp commented. “We’ve been winning more games than we’re losing. It’s a big step from where we were.

“I don’t think it’s our goal to be in the crossover series. We do have our sights set on trying to leapfrog Port Alberni.”

The Caps have five games remaining in the regular season, including two crucial meetings with Alberni.

Next up is a home date with the Victoria Grizzlies on Wednesday at 7 p.m. They visit Alberni on Friday, then host the Coquitlam Express on Sunday at 2 p.m.

“It’s like a pro hockey schedule,” Vandekamp said. “I like it, especially this time of year. You can only get so much out of guys at practice, and we’ve had a lot of practices this year.”

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