Cowichan Capitals beat Bulldogs to lock up playoff spot

The Cowichan Valley Capitals secured a berth in the 2017 B.C. Hockey League playoffs.

The Cowichan Valley Capitals secured a berth in the 2017 B.C. Hockey League playoffs with a 5-1 win on the road against the Alberni Valley Bulldogs on Tuesday evening.

The Caps returned to the BCHL postseason last year for the first time since 2012. This will mark the first time the Caps will make back-to-back playoff appearances since 2009 and 2010. With more work still to be done, including another divisional game on Wednesday, it wasn’t a reason for celebrating.

“We still had another task at hand,” Cowichan head coach Bob Beatty said.

Neither Tuesday’s win in Port Alberni nor Wednesday’s 5-3 loss to the Clippers in Nanaimo started the way Beatty would have liked, but the goalies kept their team alive.

“We didn’t start either game well, to say the least,” Beatty said. “Lane [Michasiw] was lights-out on Tuesday night, and without Adam, we would have certainly been in a bigger hole [on Wednesday].”

After the Caps survived their sketchy start on Tuesday, Nick Wilson opened the scoring with the only goal of the first period. Chris Harpur scored the eventual game-winner at 6:09 of the second. The Bulldogs got on the board with 2:34 left in the second, but Ty Pochipinski responded for the Caps again a minute and two seconds later.

Ayden MacDonald scored at 13:42 of the third period, and Harpur added his second of the game 35 seconds later.

Wilson finished the game with a goal and an assist, while affiliate forward Cory Hatcher recorded an assist in his first outing in a Cowichan jersey. Michasiw stopped 42 of 43 Bulldogs shots.

The Clippers got on the board first on Wednesday, midway through the first period. Mitch Skapski replied 13 seconds into the middle frame, but the Clippers restored their lead at 10:38. Nanaimo went up 3-1 in the first minute of the third period, but MacDonald scored twice in 33 seconds at 9:07 and 9:40 to even things up again. The Clippers pulled ahead, then added some insurance with a pair of powerplay goals as the Caps were issued a series of penalties late in the game.

George Sennott was whistled for high sticking at 17:47, and the Caps were issued a bench minor for unsportsmanlike conduct when a player tried to call a timeout at 18:53. Skapski and defenceman Ben Verrall were also issued misconducts down the stretch as well.

Before the tide turned in the final minutes, it looked likely the Caps would head home with at least one point.

“Whether we deserved it or not, we were in that position,” Beatty said. “We didn’t play well enough for the first 40 minutes, but we turned it on and played about 15 minutes of solid hockey in the third.”

Skapski finished the game with a goal and two helpers, while Marcoux made 42 saves in the loss. Mill Bay’s Jojo Tanaka-Campbell was called up as an AP from Shawnigan Lake School’s prep team for his second BCHL game this year.

The Caps now have 51 points (23-27-3-2) with three games left this year, putting them in third place in the Island Division for the time being. They can’t be passed by the fifth-place Bulldogs (41 points, five games left), but the fourth-place Clippers (50 points, four games left) could still edge past them. The Clippers and Bulldogs are still contesting the final playoff spot in the division, while the Victoria Grizzlies (77 points, five games left) and Powell River Kings (71 points, four games left) are battling for first place.

Cowichan’s remaining regular-season games will all be played at home, as they host the Salmon Arm Silverbacks next Wednesday at 6 p.m., the Alberni Valley Bulldogs next Friday at 7 p.m., and the Powell River Kings next Sunday at 2 p.m.