Untimely infractions undid the Cowichan Valley Capitals as they lost 5-4 in a big game against the Nanaimo Clippers at the Island Savings Centre on Tuesday night.
“We hurt ourselves,” Caps head coach Bob Beatty said. “We took some penalties we didn’t need to take, for sure. Special teams were the difference.”
The Clippers scored two powerplay goals in the second period on top of a shorthanded marker in the first as they edged past the Caps on the night, and edged closer in the B.C. Hockey League Island Division standings.
The Clippers went up by two before Justin Perron got the Caps on the board, and it was 2-1 for Nanaimo after one period. Mitch Skapski and John Sladic scored to give the Caps a 3-2 lead in the second before the Clippers took advantage of back-to-back power play opportunities.
Cowichan defenceman Marshall Skapski was called for holding at 15:12, and the Clippers needed just 23 seconds with the man advantage to tie the score. Eight seconds after that goal, forward Mitch Skapski was whistled for unsportsmanlike conduct. The Caps very nearly killed off that penalty, but the Clippers capitalized just three seconds before Mitch Skapski returned to the ice.
Nanaimo went up by two goals at 12:44 of the third period. Forty-two seconds later, Perron’s second of the night got Cowichan within a goal, but they weren’t able to close the gap.
“We battled back from 2-0, but we shot ourselves in the foot,” Beatty said. “When they scored with three seconds left in the powerplay, that was a back-breaker, no doubt.”
Lane Michasiw was in net for the Caps and made 34 saves for the loss as the Caps were outshot 39-32.
The Caps missed an opportunity to put more ground between themselves and the Clippers for third place in the Island Division. With the win, Nanaimo moved within a point of Cowichan. Both teams have six games left in the regular season, while the Alberni Valley Bulldogs are five points back of the Clips with two games in hand.
“It was an ultimate four-point game, no doubt about it,” Beatty said of Tuesday’s tilt.
The Cowichan defence corps took a potential blow when Marshall Skapski was penalized for an alleged hit to the head of a Nanaimo player late in Tuesday’s game. As of Thursday morning, Beatty was awaiting the league’s decision on a mandatory four-game suspension. Fellow blueliner Nii Noi Tetteh appears to be out for the season with recurring concussion symptoms, making Skapski’s potential absence a larger concern.
The Caps were fortunate that another defenceman, Ben Verrall, wasn’t seriously injured when he blocked a shot in the second period on Tuesday. Verrall had to be helped off the ice, but returned to the game before the period was over and finished the night with two assists.
“That was certainly a moment that caused some concern,” Beatty admitted.
In the forward ranks, Jared Domin will be back from his four-game suspension this Friday night, while Michael Montambault will miss the weekend with an injury.
Ryan Hogg, a Duncan product who spent two and a half years with the Caps before he was traded in January with Trevor Ayre for Mitch Skapski will make his return to the ISC when the Salmon Arm Silverbacks visit on Friday night.
Hogg has one goal in 10 games with Salmon Arm since the trade after putting up 21 points in 41 games with the Caps, while Ayre has three points in nine appearances with the Silverbacks after recording 13 points in 36 games with the Caps and Langley Rivermen.
The puck drops for Friday’s game at 7 p.m., and the Merritt Centennials will be in town on Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m.
This weekend’s contests aren’t divisional battles, but the Caps need to squeeze every point out of their remaining games.
“They’re all getting bigger and bigger,” Beatty said. “Especially when you come out on the short end of a game like [Tuesday], that just makes the weekend that much bigger.”