After a week away from all team activities because of B.C. Hockey League COVID-19 protocols, the Cowichan Valley Capitals got back into game action against the Alberni Valley Bulldogs on Tuesday night, and it was clear they hadn’t yet shaken off the rust.
“Not good,” said head coach Brian Passmore, whose team had practiced just once — and not even with a full roster — since taking an obligatory five-day break following some positive COVID tests. “We looked a step behind. The execution wasn’t there. We just weren’t sharp.”
The Caps were outshot 50-20 — 28-7 in the second period alone — in a 4-1 loss to the Bulldogs at the Cowichan Arena.
“They had seven full days of practice,” Passmore noted of the Bulldogs. “They were licking their chops. They were in sync. Fluid.”
Several of the Cowichan players were hit by COVID, as was Passmore, so they weren’t even able to work out on their own during the hiatus.
“Some of them could [train] on their own, but it’s not the same as skating,” Passmore said.
The Bulldogs scored the only goal of the first period, then went up 2-0 with a powerplay goal early in the second. Matty Edwards got the Caps on the board with the first goal of his BCHL career off a faceoff win by Massimo Sarantos Lombardi, but Alberni scored two more in the second, including one more on the powerplay. Evan May was strong in goal for Cowichan, making 46 saves.
Disciplinary issues made the Caps’ job harder as they were assessed 19 minutes in penalties, although they killed off five of seven Alberni powerplays, including a five-minute advantage in the second.
“You’re not going to win in the box,” Passmore said. “It doesn’t matter what kind of legs you have, you’re not going to win if you’re killing penalties all game.”
The Caps had three new additions in the lineup on Tuesday, as recent acquisitions KT Walters and James Bohn made their Cowichan debuts and Adam Grenier returned to the club after spending the first part of the season in Alberta.
In spite of the result, Passmore admitted it was good to play a game again.
“It was definitely nice to play that game,” he said. “I would have liked, obviously, to have three or four days of practice and play again on the weekend, but that’s just more adversity to bond over.”
The Caps had been scheduled to play at home against Langley last Thursday (Jan. 6) and to visit the Alberni Valley Bulldogs on Friday (Jan. 7). Those games will now be made up this weekend. The Caps will travel to Port Alberni on Saturday, and play host to Langley on Sunday at 2 p.m.
This weekend was supposed to be the BCHL 60th Anniversary event in Penticton, including a 3-on-3 All-Star Series, skills competition, Alumni Game and Top Prospects Game. That event has now been postponed until 2023.
Now that the Caps are able to play again, they can focus on the remainder of the season and a push to the playoffs. The Caps are tied with the Coquitlam Express for the eighth and final playoff berth in the Coastal Conference, but the Express have four games in hand. Despite their five-day layoff, the Caps have played more games than any other team in the league.
“We have 24 games left. We’ve got to start stringing games together,” Passmore said. “We have to figure out how to win at home. That’s our main focus.”