Losses last weekend to the last-place team in the Island Division and the top team in the entire B.C. Hockey League ran the Cowichan Valley Capitals’ losing streak to seven games with just a month left in the regular season, but head coach Bob Beatty says there’s nothing to be gained from losing composure.
“I don’t think panicking is going to be very productive,” he said. “There’s only one way to get out of a slump, and that’s to work your way out of it. For people to panic, I don’t know what we would do if we panicked. The trade deadline is over. We have to stick together and work our way out of it.”
Last Friday, the Caps lost 5-2 on the road against the Alberni Valley Bulldogs, who are making a strong push to get out of the Island Division basement. They were beaten 5-0 at home the next night by the Wenatchee Wild, who sit firmly atop the league standings.
The Bulldogs took a 5-0 lead on three goals in the first period and two in the second. Third period powerplay goals by Jared Domin and Max Newton came too late for the Caps to mount a comeback. Cowichan goalie Lane Michasiw stopped 35 of 40 shots.
“We stumbled out of the gate and had trouble moving the puck out of our own end,” Beatty said. “We didn’t play well enough to win.”
Saturday’s loss marked the second time in just two weeks that the Caps were shutout by the Wild, following a 6-0 loss in Wenatchee on Jan. 14. The Wild scored once in the first and second, then piled it on with three in the third.
“I thought we played a pretty good game and had a good effort for the first two periods,” Beatty said. “They opened up the game in the third, and that obviously didn’t work for us, but I thought we played well for the first two periods.”
Adding to the team’s struggles, the Caps were missing defencemen Chris Harpur, Nii Noi Tetteh, Sean Driscoll and Simon Chen for one or more games last weekend, and the flu is making its way through the team. Additionally, Domin was suspended for four games for a blow to the head against Wenatchee.
“It’s a little unusual, I think, to have a blow to the head out of a scrum,” Beatty commented. “It’s highly unusual, actually, but that’s the call that was made.”
Domin is second on the team in goals and points, and third in assists, and was flying on Saturday before he was tossed late in the third period.
“I thought he played his best game of the year Saturday night,” Beatty said. “He was finishing his checks, going hard both ways. Obviously, he didn’t score, but I thought he had his best game of the year.”
The Caps have dealt with depleted lineups throughout the season, and managed to find some success under duress in December. Beatty is hoping to replicate that success now, with even less leeway to work with. The Caps sit third in the Island Division with 45 points and 10 games remaining, the Nanaimo Clippers are second with 42 points and nine games, left, and the Bulldogs are third with 11 games left.
“We did win five of six before the Christmas break with some thin lineups,” Beatty noted. “It was a blessing to be able to get wins before Christmas with some key guys out of the lineup. Now we find ourselves with the same dilemma, and we don’t have much of a cushion.”
The Caps are about to play four divisional games in just five days. They host the Bulldogs on Wednesday at 7 p.m., visit the Powell River Kings for games on Friday and Saturday, then return home to host the Clippers next Tuesday.
“There’s no easy solution to it,” Beatty said. “We have to work hard, get prepared and execute. We have to be able to make the plays in games that we’re able to make in practice, and not grip our sticks too hard. When you’re in a slump, the pressure starts to build.
“It’s not going to be easy. We have to take it one game at a time and build some momentum going into the playoffs.”