The Cowichan Valley Capitals' season ended in the blink of an eye last Saturday.
Seventy-two seconds into overtime in game six of the Caps’ first-round B.C. Hockey League series with Powell River, Kings forward Kyle Betts took a swipe at the puck and knocked it past goaltender Storm Phaneuf, giving the Kings a 3-2 win that night and a 4-2 win in the series.
It wasn’t how head coach Bob Beatty pictured the season ending.
“It seemed a bit surreal at the time,” Beatty recalled earlier this week. “It was a bitter pill to take. The season ends every year, but you’re never prepared for it to end that way.
“It’s tough to swallow because I thought we probably deserved a little bit better. In game six we didn’t bury pucks, but I thought we were carrying the play. It’s just my opinion, but I think we did have some opportunities to win the game and just didn’t hit the back of the net.”
The Caps lost the first two games of the series in Powell River, then split the two games in Duncan. After stealing a victory in Powell River in game five, Beatty believed his team was building momentum.
“I felt that if we could take it back to Powell River, we had more gas left in the tank than they did,” he said.
Playoff success is the ultimate goal, but could the coach take some solace in the fact that the Caps made the playoffs for the first time in four years?
“I guess so,” he said. “You’ve got to look at it in terms of progression. We put a pretty good product on the ice this year. There were times during the season that we didn’t have consistency, but I don’t think we disappointed in the playoffs. There was a strong effort from all the guys in those six games.”
The Caps went all-in this season, with five 20-year-olds on the roster — Phaneuf, captain Adam Osczevski, forwards Josh Adkins and Pat Geary, and swingman Jacob Switzer — as well as three 19-year-olds who are committed to colleges for 2016/17: forwards Ryan Burton, Corey Hoffman and blueliner Mitch Meek.
Of the 10 other 19-year-olds — forwards Kade Kehoe, Matt Hudie, Ayden MacDonald and Luke Santerno, defencemen Chris Harpur, Connor Russell, Josh Owings, Carter Cochrane and Ben Verrall, and goalie Lane Michasiw — at least four will have to go in order to get the team under the limit of six 20-year-olds next year.
“We were definitely an older team,” Beatty agreed. “We needed to put as good a product on the ice as we could, to be honest. We had missed the playoffs three years in a row, and we needed to regenerate some enthusiasm. If we get past Powell River and into the semis against Nanaimo, we gain some momentum as a team and as an entity in the community.”
Although the roster will look different in 2016/17 Beatty feels the club will carry some momentum into next season regardless.
“People who have called me and talked to me about the team think we have a real good nucleus,” Beatty said. “To be honest, we have a much better resource base than we had before. There are certainly some good players who should translate into some younger players with trades.”
The Capitals brass don’t have long to wait before they can start building next year’s team. The team’s spring identification camp is set for April 15-17.