Kevin Rothbauer Citizen
Hockey fans came out in force to check out the B.C. Hockey League’s first entry from Washington state in 20 years as the Cowichan Valley Capitals played host to the Wenatchee Wild last Friday night.
They were rewarded with more than just a glimpse of the BCHL’s newest team, however, as the teams played to a hard-earned and thoroughly entertaining 2-2 deadlock.
“There was a lot of curiosity about the new team,” Capitals head coach Bob Beatty said. “We had a pretty good crowd, and I don’t think they went away disappointed.
“I thought it was a very exciting game. It had a great pace to it. Both teams had lots of scoring chances.”
After a scoreless opening period, the Wild got on the board first with a powerplay marker three minutes and two seconds into the second frame. The Caps tied it up with a powerplay goal from Luke Santerno at the 1:37 mark of the third period, and that’s when the fans finally got to cover the ice with stuffies for the team’s annual Teddy Bear Toss.
Play resumed after an extended break to clear away the toys. The Wild pulled ahead with four minutes and 43 seconds remaining in regulation, but Adam Osczevski made it even with a controversial effort exactly a minute later.
The teams played five minutes each of four-on-four and three-on-three overtime, but it didn’t change a thing. Still, Beatty was pleased that his team was able to dig deep and score late to force overtime.
“We had chances to put it away, too,” he noted. “In an out-of-division game like that, you can open up and try to put it away.”
Cowichan goalie Storm Phaneuf was brilliant, making 47 saves on 49 shots, while his Wenatchee counterpart, Garrett Nieto, made 30 stops. Beatty was willing to consider the performance as one of Phaneuf’s best of the year.
“I think it was one of them,” he said. “He played some outstanding games early in the year that built some confidence in him and the team.”
The game may not have been tactically perfect, but even the coach could appreciate the fact that the fans got their money’s worth last Friday.
“There were some mistakes, from a coaching perspective, certainly,” he said. “But I don’t think anybody would have left that game feeling ripped off.”
The same couldn’t be said about the Capitals’ next outing, an ugly 7-3 loss to the Trail Smoke Eaters on Sunday afternoon.
Beatty was at a loss to what happened between Friday night and Sunday afternoon.
“That’s really a good question,” he said. “We’re going to go over the video and try to get some answers. It was a real stinker, and I’d like to know what happened.”
When the teams played in Trail on Nov. 13, the Caps crushed the Smokies, but the tables were turned in the rematch.
“We beat them 6-1, but it didn’t feel like a 6-1 game,” Beatty said of the November game. “We capitalized on our chances and they didn’t. It was the opposite this time.”
The Caps were down 4-0 after the first period and had given up seven straight before Luke Santerno finally solved Trail goalie Bailey MacBurnie with less than five minutes to go in the second. Connor Russell, on the powerplay, and Ayden MacDonald scored in the third, but the game was long gone by then.
It didn’t impress Beatty that his team managed to score three times even after the game was clearly out of hand.
“Nobody’s getting a badge for that,” the coach said. “I can tell you that right now. There’s a certain standard we need to meet, and we didn’t meet that. They aren’t going to change that rule in hockey that you need to play at least 60 minutes.”
Lane Michasiw had a rough outing in the Cowichan net, allowing seven goals on 21 shots. The Caps did manage to limit the Smokies to just two shots in the third period while firing 14 at the Trail net.
Also over the weekend, the Caps traded forward Rhett Willcox to the Alberni Valley Bulldogs for future considerations, and in a separate deal, received defenceman Sam Jones from the Penticton Vees, also for futures.
BCHL rookie Jones, who was born in England and grew up in Penticton, has played 27 games this year, accumulating four assists and 19 penalty minutes. Willcox had three goals, six assists and 23 penalty minutes in 17 games with the Caps after he was acquired from Trail on Oct. 16 for defenceman Mitch Stapley.
The 18-year-old Jones arrived in Duncan on Monday morning.
“We’re looking forward to getting him in the lineup,” Beatty said.
The Caps will be on the road Wednesday and Friday for divisional games against Nanaimo and Alberni. They return home Saturday against the Prince George Spruce Kings, their last game before the Christmas break.
“Hopefully we’ll get some of that lost fire from Sunday and put it into the last three games,” Beatty said.