Cowichan Caps gain ground on ‘Dogs

Some of the Cowichan Valley Capitals’ young guns helped them make up some ground on the Alberni Valley Bulldogs in the battle for the last Island Division playoff spot.

Adam Osczevski and Luke Santerno each scored twice over the weekend, and Darien Craighead, who was gearing up to play in the Canadian Junior Hockey League Prospects Game in Ontario on Tuesday, added one goal as the Caps took three out of four points from the team they are chasing for a postseason berth.

"It was nice to see Luke get rewarded," head coach Bob Beatty said. "He made a really good play on the second goal [Saturday], and that was a big shorthanded goal in the first period by Adam. He’s been a real workhorse. He’s playing really well, playing the right way, and it pays off."

The Caps tied the Bulldogs 2-2 at home on Friday, a late penalty helping to decide their fate. A powerplay goal with three and a half minutes left in regulation gave the Bulldogs a tie as the visitors came back from a 2-0 deficit in the third period.

"We played well," Beatty said. "It would have been nice to win in regulation, but I guess it wasn’t to be. I thought we probably deserved to win."

Osczevski opened the scoring with his 12th goal of the season on a powerplay early in the second period, and Craighead made it 2-0 four minutes and 18 seconds into the third period.

Alberni got on the board a minute and a half after Craighead’s goal, then tied the score with three minutes and 29 seconds left, converting an extra-man opportunity after Cowichan defenceman Julien Lepage was sent off for slashing. The teams played five minutes of 4-on-4 overtime, and another five minutes of 3-on-3, but nothing changed on the scoresheet.

Goalie Lane Michasiw made 39 saves over 70 minutes of action in the Cowichan net as the Caps were outshot 41-29.

On Saturday, the Bulldogs opened the scoring less than five minutes into the first period, but Osczevski’s shorthanded marker drew Cowichan even before intermission. Santerno staked the Caps to a lead in the middle frame, and they never looked back. Santerno added an empty-netter, his seventh goal of the season, before the final buzzer.

Michasiw started in goal again, and stopped 42 of 43 shots. The Caps were again outshot as they mustered 24 on the Alberni net.

"We were outshot, and probably outplayed, in the first period," Beatty admitted. "Lane definitely gave us a chance to win, and the guys came through for him. The Caps showed no ill effects from the deadline trade of veteran forward Thomas Gobeil to the Victoria Grizzlies. In fact, the deal opened up opportunities for other players.

"He’s a game-breaker, no doubt," Beatty said of Gobeil. "He can certainly be a big impact player. But we have a lot of guys on the team who have the opportunity to step up and play some more minutes and more situations. It’s good to have those players get the experience of playing under pressure now."

In spite of their success last weekend, the Caps remain six points back of the Bulldogs for the last Island Division playoff spot. Alberni has five games in hand. The Caps are about to play five games over a nine-game span, which could well decide their playoff fate.

"Our work is cut out, but we’re still in there," Beatty said. "The games keep getting bigger. That five-game stretch will tell the tale. Either we’ll still be in it or we’ll be playing for pride."

Cowichan will visit the Nanaimo Clippers this Friday, then host the Chilliwack Chiefs at 2 p.m. on Sunday. Next Tuesday, the Caps will be at home to the Powell River Kings at 7 p.m.