A powerplay goal on a controversial penalty put an end to the Cowichan Valley Capitals’ season on Wednesday night.
Just four minutes after Capitals forward Haydn Hopkins scored to tie game four of the Caps’ first-round B.C. Hockey League playoff series against the Powell River Kings, he was assessed a two-minute minor penalty on a boarding call that some in the building contended was embellished.
Hopkins’ infraction was called in the last second of the third period, meaning the Kings started the extra session with a full two-minutes of the man advantage on fresh ice. The Caps got within 11 seconds of killing the penalty before Powell River defenceman Carmine Buono scored to give his team the 4-3 victory.
“We’re obviously disappointed,” Cowichan head coach Bob Beatty said. “There aren’t many times that you make the playoffs and win your last game of the year, but you’re always a bit crushed when it comes to an end.
“I thought we deserved a little better fate, but I guess it wasn’t to be. It was typical of our season, really: we get one powerplay, they get five. And then there’s a chintzy call going into overtime. When there’s a referee who isn’t within two zones of the play that calls a penalty and one with a good vantage point from 20 feet away that doesn’t call it, it doesn’t sit well.”
After a scoreless first period on Wednesday, the Caps got on the board first as forward Mitch Skapski scored on the powerplay just 35 ticks into the second. Skapski, playing in what would turn out to be his last BCHL game, set up Max Newton at 2:13 of the second to give the Caps a 2-0 edge.
Duncan native Ben Berard scored at 5:06 of the second to cut Cowichan’s lead to one goal. Powell River then struck at 4:56 and 8:05 of the third to pull ahead before Hopkins took a feed from Michael Montambault in front of the net and slipped it past Kings goalie Brian Wilson.
Wilson ended up with the win after a 30-save performance, while Lane Michasiw stopped 26 shots in the Cowichan net.
“When you lose, and I always feel this way, but I saw the Willie Desjardins comment in the paper that you can walk away from a game when you lose if you know you gave your best effort,” Beatty said. “I think that was the case [Wednesday], but I don’t think it was the case for the entire series.
“[Assistant coach] Rob DeClark said that we played well for about five or six of the 12 periods, and you can’t beat a team that plays well for 12 periods.”
The Caps lost the first two games of the series in Powell River 4-2 and 4-3, and hoped to turn things around with home-ice advantage. They wouldn’t have been facing elimination on Wednesday if not for a 5-0 loss to the Kings on Tuesday. Wilson turned aside all 30 Cowichan shots for the shutout that night. Michasiw started in net for the Caps and gave up four goals on 37 shots before Adam Marcoux relieved him for the last six minutes and 42 seconds, stopping four of the five shots he faced.
Capitals forward Rhett Kingston was tossed from the game just prior to the seven-minute mark, penalized for a hit to the head, which came with a four-game suspension that kept him out of Thursday’s game as well. The Caps were without forward Jared Domin for the entire first-round series, and the absence of their fourth-leading scorer from the regular season was clearly felt.
Montambault ended up as the Capitals’ leading scorer in the postseason, with five points (one goal and four assists) in four games. Skapski and Ayden MacDonald each had three points, while Newton had a team-high two goals.
At least six Capitals played their final junior hockey games on Wednesday as they wrapped up their 20-year-old seasons. Most notably, the Caps will lose half their defence corps as captain Chris Harpur, alternate Ben Verrall and Josh Owings age out. From the forward pack, Skapski, who only joined the team in January but provided an electrifying presence, and the consistent MacDonald will graduate. Michasiw, who has backstopped the team to 31 wins in 88 games over the last three seasons, will also move on.
Beatty gave credit to the Kings for their success, and pointed to the growth of Duncan product and BCHL rookie Ben Berard as an illustration of what the organization does.
“Powell River is a great hockey club,” he said. “They’ve done a great job building their team. Ben Berard is a good example: he had a slow start to the season but he’s playing very well. He has improved his play, improved his conditioning. He’s just one of a strong group of players that they have.”