David Melaragni scored in overtime to give the Caps a 4-3 win over the Clippers on Saturday and two crucial points in the standings. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)

Close games end in split for Caps against Clips

Cowichan wins home date in overtime

After losing a close one on the road on Friday night, the Cowichan Valley Capitals came back home on Saturday and used an overtime victory to pick up a split in their home-and-home series with the Nanaimo Clippers.

The Caps were edged 2-1 on Friday night, then prevailed 4-3 over their B.C. Hockey League rivals back at the Cowichan Arena the following evening.

“They were two close games, as we expected them to be,” Caps head coach Mike Vandekamp said. “I thought we deserved a better fate in the first game. Their goaltender played well both nights — we had trouble scoring the first night. I thought if we stuck with it for the second game, maybe we’d find a way to score.”

After a scoreless opening period on Friday, the teams traded goals in the second, then Nanaimo scored halfway through the third to break the deadlock. Both of the Clippers’ goals were scored on the powerplay.

Niko Esposito-Selivanov had Cowichan’s goal, assisted by David Melaragni. The Caps outshot the Clippers 43-24, but Cowichan netminder Pierce Diamond was outdueled by Nanaimo’s Landon Pavlisin.

On Saturday, Cruz Cote scored with 26 seconds left in regulation and Melaragni potted the winner 32 seconds into OT.

On the tying goal, the Caps won the faceoff, but the puck squeaked loose. Brady Lynn made a big effort to get it back, and fed it back to the Dimitri Mikrogiannakis at the point. Cote then deflected Mikrogiannakis’s point shot past Pavlisin. The winning goal also came off a faceoff win in the Nanaimo end. Cote won the draw, then worked a give-and-go with Melaragni, who ended up burying it blocker side.

It was the first overtime win for the Caps in six tries this season.

“It’s nice to have that,” Vandekamp acknowledged. “It’s always a bit more exciting.”

Esposito-Selivanov and Paul Selleck also scored for Cowichan on Saturday, and Diamond made 17 saves for the win. The Caps outshot the Clippers significantly for the second night in a row, peppering Landon Pavlisin with 32 shots.

The Caps are far enough back of the Clippers in the Island Division standings that they didn’t mind giving up a single point to Nanaimo; their main concern right now is clinching a playoff berth and perhaps getting past the Alberni Valley Bulldogs and into fourth in the Island.

“We just kind of needed two points ourselves,” Vandekamp said. “We could have had more than two on the weekend.”

The Caps are two points back of the Bulldogs, who have one game in hand. The teams still have two more head-to-head matches remaining, which will be vital to a top-four division finish. There are numerous advantages to opening the playoffs on the Island rather than finishing fifth and having to face an Interior team.

“We just want to make the playoffs and get a good run at whoever it is we end up playing,” Vandekamp said. “We’ll just do the best we can and finish as high as we can.

“I’ve said all year it will take this team 58 games to reach its potential. We’re getting better, playing better hockey every game. I think we could be a really good playoff team no matter who we play.”

The Caps visit the Victoria Grizzlies on Thursday then host the Wenatchee Wild on Friday at 7 p.m.

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