Key wins keep Caps in playoff spot

A pair of crucial wins at home last weekend kept the Cowichan Valley Capitals just ahead of the Alberni Valley Bulldogs in the B.C. Hockey League playoff hunt.

The Caps edged the Bulldogs themselves 2-1 in overtime on Friday, then got by the Salmon Arm Silverbacks by the same score on Sunday afternoon.

"They were key wins, for sure," Capitals head coach Bob Beatty said. "They were hard-fought wins.

"I thought we had a good effort from everybody. Not to use a cliché, but it was a good, solid team effort. Our play away from the puck was better than it had been the weekend before."

The wins marked the first backto-back victories for the Capitals since a three game streak between Oct. 16 and 19.

Beatty was especially pleased with his team’s play in the defensive end. Goalie Robin Gusse got both starts, making 30 saves on Friday and 24 on Sunday.

"We gave up one goal both games, which is a tribute to our goaltender," he said. "Friday night, both goaltenders [Gusse and former Cap Connor LaCouvee] were exemplary. We just happened to score in overtime to get the extra point."

Defenceman Jarrett Brown opened the scoring on Friday with a second-period powerplay goal set up by Mason Malkowich and Clint Filbrandt. The Bulldogs replied early in the third period, setting up the extra session, where Myles Powell needed just 57 seconds to score the decisive marker.

Going into overtime, Beatty wasn’t concerned about giving Alberni one point in the standings, preferring to focus on making sure his team got the additional point.

"You can’t turn the clock back," he said. "We didn’t really want to give them a point, but we were grateful to get the win and the extra point."

All the scoring on Sunday was done with the man advantage. The Silverbacks got on the board at 6:22 of the first, but Matthew Berry-LaMontagna evened the score late in the frame, and Taylor Allan potted the eventual gamewinner at 12:27 of the second. "Salmon Arm’s top line has put significant numbers up, but we were able to shut them down for the most part," Beatty noted.

"They did score on the powerplay on a scramble we didn’t tie up, but I felt our defence played quite well."

The BCHL’s trade deadline passed last Friday, and the Caps made a pair of moves, shipping forward Alexis Guilbault back to Quebec and bolstering their blueline by adding six-foot-six American defender Blake Butzow from the Penticton Vees.

"We were pretty pleased to be able to pick him up," Beatty said. "He’s got experience and size, and he’s a good defender."

The Caps have four more home games before they head back on the road, beginning this weekend as they host the Prince George Spruce Kings as part of Hockey Day in the Valley on Saturday, and the Powell River Kings on Sunday.

"We have to take advantage of home ice and put some wins together," the coach said. "I don’t think you can call two in a row a streak, but we’d like to get on a roll."

With 34 points, the Caps are just two ahead of the Bulldogs for the fourth and final Island Division playoff spot. The Bulldogs have two games in hand.