The 2014/15 B.C. Hockey League regular season got underway with Showcase games in Chilliwack last weekend, but it wasn't the start the Cowichan Valley Capitals wanted.
The Caps lost both games at the Showcase, falling 2-0 to the Vernon Vipers on Friday and 5-3 to the Merritt Centennials on Saturday.
"It wasn't the result we were looking for, that's for sure," head coach Bob Beatty said. "But we're not panicking; we played two very solid teams."
Friday's game was scoreless until seven minutes into the third period, when Vernon's Thomas Aldworth scored shorthanded. Riley Brandt added an even-strength goal just over a minute later.
"We were sloppy in the first game," Beatty acknowledged. "We had a lot of turnovers. Whether it was nerves or what have you, we turned the puck over a lot, and it was some of the players you wouldn't expect to turn the puck over."
As a result, the Caps didn't spend a lot of time in the offensive zone, and mustered only 13 shots on Vernon netminder Danny Todosychuk.
"It wasn't just a matter of not shooting the puck," Beatty said. "You have to have zone time to put shots on goal, and when we turned the puck over, we weren't efficient at getting the puck back. You don't create a lot of opportunities when you're doing that."
Things looked better for the Caps on Saturday. Colton Kehler scored Cowichan's first goal of the season midway through the first period, assisted by linemates Thomas Gobeil - who earned his first BCHL point after compiling 50 over three seasons in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League - and Brayden Gelsinger. The Centennials scored a powerplay goal late in the frame to tie things up.
Sean Harrison restored the Caps' lead 11 and a half minutes into the second period, but Merritt again tied the score 16 seconds after that, then went on a three-goal tear in the third. Gobeil scored his first as a Cap with 24 seconds remaining in the contest, but it was too little, too late.
Despite the loss, Beatty felt better about his team's play.
"I thought that was a significantly better effort," he said. "We had an outstanding first period. We came out and played a decent second period. In the third, we had breakdowns, and the fourth and fifth goals coming 10 seconds apart, that was a killer."
Improving on their offensive zone time,
the Caps managed 33 shots on Merritt's Jonah Imoo but only three slipped past.
Beatty was especially pleased with the play of BCHL newcomers such as Sean Harrison, Ryan Burton and Luke Santerno. "We had great efforts from our so-called third and fourth lines, although I'm not sure which is which, to be honest," he said. "It's a good sign that we're going to have some balance there."
Beatty also liked what he saw from his goalies in Chilliwack. Rookie Lane Michasiw took the loss on Friday in his BCHL regular-season debut, stopping 39 of 41 shots.
"He was very, very good," the coach said. "Very solid. He played a really strong game. He saw a lot of rubber; there were a lot of scoring opportunities against him."
Matt Zentner, acquired by the Caps last Thursday from the Alberta Junior Hockey League's Camrose Kodiaks in exchange for future considerations, stopped 20 of 25 shots on Saturday.
"Despite the stats, I thought he had a good game," Beatty said. "We had some breakdowns that led to a couple of quick goals." Although the Showcase game against Merritt will go down as a home game, the Caps will make their proper home debut this Friday against the Victoria Grizzlies at 7 p.m. On Sunday, they will host Powell River at 2 p.m. "It's a huge game," Beatty said of the home opener. "Friday night will be exciting. We've got to get a win under our belts this weekend for sure. They're two division rivals, so the points will be important."