Cowichan Caps split preseason series with Clippers

The Cowichan Valley Capitals continued their preseason exhibition schedule on Tuesday and Wednesday with a home-andhome series against the Nanaimo Clippers.

Despite making only a few alterations to their lineup, the Caps played like two different teams in the back-to-back games, winning 5-4 at home on Tuesday and losing 7-3 in Nanaimo on Wednesday.

"We were very good, I thought, on Tuesday night," head coach Bob Beatty said. "We were pretty happy with that game. [Wednesday night] was a different story. We didn’t move the puck and execute as well. We didn’t win races to the pucks. We didn’t seem to be the same team."

Beatty wasn’t about to try to explain away Wednesday’s defeat.

"We’re not going to search for excuses," he said. "We’re going to find solutions."

The line of Thomas Gobeil, Brayden Gelsinger and Colton Kehler once again sparked the Capitals’ offence on Tuesday, combining for two goals and four points as Kehler converted a powerplay opportunity and Gobeil scored a shorthanded marker.

"They seem to have real good chemistry," Beatty said of the trio that is shaping up as the team’s number-one line. "They’re clicking well."

Keegan Milligan scored twice on Tuesday, and Jesse Neher had a goal and an assist. Jake Switzer also finished with two points on a pair of assists. Special teams ruled the day as 28 penalties were called in the game, which saw a pair of late fights as Capitals Daniel Wanner and Rylan Bechtel squared off with Clippers Ryan Fritz and Anthony Rinaldi.

Cowichan goalie Lane Michasiw played the entire game and made 37 saves for the win.

Gobeil and Neher were out of the lineup on Wednesday, along with fellow 20-year-old Skylar Pacheco, as well as Charlie Pelnik, who has missed the entire exhibition season as he recovers from an injury. The lack of 20-year-olds wasn’t the cause of the team’s poor play in Nanaimo, Beatty emphasized.

"We had enough veterans in the lineup that I thought we should have had a better effort," he said. "But that’s part of the evaluation process. There were some things we had to determine, and some decisions were made clearer."

Playing in his first exhibition game for the Caps after coming over from the Alberta Junior Hockey League in an off-season trade, another 20-year-old, Alex Bechtold, scored Cowichan’s third goal on Wednesday and made a positive impression on his new coach.

"He added some grit and determination to the lineup, but I didn’t think there was enough support in the lineup behind him," Beatty said.

The Caps trailed 5-0 in the second period before Milligan got them on the scoreboard. Sean Harrison also scored late in that frame, and Bechtold potted his in the third.

Alex Corley got the start in net, but was replaced by Michasiw to start the third period.

The Caps have one more exhibition game to go, against the Victoria Grizzlies in Sooke Saturday night, and Beatty wants to wrap up the preseason on a positive note.

"We need a more consistent effort. We’d like to get a win, whether it’s exhibition or not. We need to have a lot more focus, and a lot more jump. We didn’t win a lot of races to pucks [Wednesday night]. I don’t think it’s because we’re not fast enough; we’re not thinking ahead or focused enough to pay the price."

The Caps will open the regular season with games against Vernon and Merritt at the BCHL Showcase in Chilliwack on Sept. 19 and 20, with their proper home opener set for Sept. 26 against the Grizzlies.