A win in one of the toughest rinks in the B.C. Hockey League for visiting teams allowed the Cowichan Valley Capitals to get back in the win column after nine straight losses.
“It was obviously an excited bunch of guys to finally break the losing streak,” Capitals head coach Bob Beatty said of his team’s 5-3 victory over the Powell River Kings in Powell River on Saturday. “You can’t get too excited about winning one in a row, but it’s a start. It was a gutsy effort. We were battling.”
After losing 4-1 to the Kings the night before, the Caps got on the board first on Saturday on a powerplay goal by John Sladic, and led 1-0 at the first intermission. Mitch Skapski (shorthanded), Sladic and Justin Perron added second-period markers before the Kings got on the board.
Powell River started to make things interesting with two goals early in the third, but the Caps held on, then locked the win away with Max Newton’s empty-netter in the last minute. Cowichan goalie Lane Michasiw stopped 46 shots for the win.
“We played hard,” Beatty said. “I thought we played pretty well. Obviously, you don’t play mistake-free in junior hockey very often, but the effort was certainly there.
Beatty wasn’t disappointed with his team’s performance the pervious night, in spite of the result.
“It was 2-1 with three and a half minutes to go, and we certainly had our share of scoring opportunities,” Beatty said. “We could have been up one with two and a half minutes to go.”
Duncan product Ben Berard opened the scoring, but Mitch Skapski replied with a powerplay goal and the score was 1-1 at the first intermission. The Kings went up 2-1 in the second period, and the game was close until the last three and a half minutes of the third period, when the Kings added two more. Adam Marcoux made 32 saves in the loss.
Beatty is hoping the play in Powell River shows that his team has turned a corner with less than three weeks remaining in the regular season.
“I don’t want to put the cart before the horse, but we seem to be working harder and playing better as a group,” Beatty said. “And it was nice to score some goals on Saturday.”
A surprise boost came on Saturday in the form of a Cowichan Valley atom hockey team that was in Powell River for a game and came to cheer on the Caps from behind their bench.
“It was good to have a bit of a cheering section pumping us up,” Beatty said.
The Caps were also playing without injured forward Michael Montambault on Saturday, and centre Jared Domin all weekend as he served the second and third games of a four-game suspension he incurred on Jan. 28.
The team did benefit from offensive contributions from forwards John Sladic, Haydn Hopkins and Mitch Skapski on Saturday. Sladic joined the team in October and promptly missed two months with an injury, while Hopkins and Skapski were acquired from the Salmon Arm Silverbacks at the BCHL trade deadline.
Sladic had four points in five games before getting injured in November. After two months off, he had three points in his first nine games back before putting up three more on Saturday. Skapski has points in his last three games after recording just one goal in his first seven with the Caps, and Hopkins had two assists on Saturday, after also scoring only once in his first nine games in Cowichan.
“I think they’re getting a little more confident,” Beatty said of the surging trio. “The effort has been there. They’re working hard and contributing. It’s never been from lack of effort, but things are starting to gel a little out there.”
Before heading to Powell River, the Caps suffered a 6-2 loss to the Alberni Valley Bulldogs at the Island Savings Centre last Wednesday night. The Bulldogs scored powerplay and shorthanded goals in the first and were up 3-0 in the second before Ayden Macdonald got the Caps on the board by jamming home his 19th of the season. Alberni added another shorthanded marker early in the third. Max Newton replied for the Caps with his 23rd goal of the season (with both Mitch Skapski and Macdonald recording their 23rd assists of the year). The Bulldogs iced it with two more. Michasiw made 24 assists in the loss.
The start of the game was delayed by about 15 minutes due to a blown fuse in the score clock.
In spite of their nine-game losing streak, the Caps remain in third place in the Island Division with seven games left to play. They are three points up on the Nanaimo Clippers, and six ahead of the Bulldogs, who have two games in hand.
The Caps played host to Nanaimo on Tuesday and will be visited by the Silverbacks on Friday at 7 p.m. and the Merritt Centennials on Sunday starting at 2 p.m.