Entering a span of seven games where they play the Powell River Kings five times, and with every point of the utmost importance, the Cowichan Valley Capitals needed to set the tone when the teams faced off at the Island Savings Centre last Sunday.
And they did, beating the Island Division leaders 2-1. "It was a big win," Capitals head coach Bob Beatty said. "We have a pretty steady diet of Powell River coming up, so it was good to get a win against them. It was a really strong team effort, and our goaltending bounced back from Saturday night."
On Saturday, the Caps fell 6-4 to the visiting Prince George Spruce Kings, who last weekend became just the second team to secure a berth in the B.C. Hockey League playoffs.
"[Goalie Robin Gusse] didn’t have a lot of luck on Saturday, but he played extremely well on Sunday and backstopped us to the win," Beatty said.
The entire team effort was better against Powell River, according to the coach.
"There was a lot of push back," he said. "The guys were pretty assertive; they played a hard, physical game."
Mason Malkowich and Taylor Allan had the goals against Powell River, and Gusse stopped 35 of 36 shots to earn the win.
The problem on Saturday was pretty clear to Beatty.
"We gave up six goals," he said. "Obviously, you don’t win too many games when your opponent scores six. We weren’t terrible, and the guys didn’t hang their heads when we got down, but it wasn’t enough."
Malkowich, Adam Moody, Dane Gibson and Brayden Gelsinger scored against Prince George, with Moody and Gelsinger also contributing assists. Gusse had an off night, allowing six goals on 21 shots before Francis Marotte replaced him, making six saves down the stretch.
Chemainus product Jesse Jenks earned the win for the Spruce Kings, stopping 31 of the Caps’ 35 shots, but it was Prince George’s scoring ability that most impressed Beatty.
"That was the best I’ve seen them play in three meetings this year," he said. "They’ve got a lot of offensive punch. They outplayed us, and we had a lot of scoring opportunities that we weren’t able to capitalize on. That was the difference."
In the battle for fourth place in the Island Division, the Caps remain three points up on the Alberni Valley Bulldogs, who have one game in hand. Beatty is relishing the race.
"It’s good for both teams and the fan base to be in a battle like this," he said. "Whether it’s for first or for fourth, it makes the games mean a lot. It gets us playing under pressure; it’s a great experience to be in something like that."
The players have responded well to the pressure.
"I give them a lot of credit," Beatty said. "They’re playing extremely hard, and they’re focused on what we need to accomplish."
The Caps will host the BCHL’s two current point leaders this weekend when the Kings return on Friday, followed by the Langley Rivermen on Saturday.
"They’re 1-2 in the league," Beatty noted. It’s certainly a big weekend for us, being that we’re playing the two top teams in the league, statistically, right now."
Sunday’s win might not have a direct effect on next Friday’s result, but it can’t hurt.
"Each game is each game," Beatty said. "I wouldn’t say it gives us an advantage, but we’re playing with a lot of confidence. It takes a lot of mental block away, knowing that we can beat them."
As for the Rivermen, Beatty believes they are as beatable as anyone.
"There’s pretty good parity in the league," he commented. "It’s been proven that any team can beat anybody else on any give night provided they play their best."