Seen here in a recent home game against Powell River, defenceman Marshall Skapski is one of the few Caps still making the grade in a difficult season. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)

Winless road trip for struggling Capitals

Cowichan coach looking for answers

Another difficult weekend left Cowichan Valley Capitals head coach Brian Passmore at a loss.

“It’s a team failure right now, and I don’t have the answers,” he said after the B.C. Hockey League team returned from another road trip on which they lost three games in three days. “I don’t know what needs to change.”

The Caps were outscored 22-4 in the three games, losing 4-1 to the Salmon Arm Silverbacks on Friday, 10-1 to the Penticton Vees on Saturday, and 8-2 to the Chilliwack Chiefs on Sunday.

Most of the players aren’t competing hard enough, Passmore acknowledged.

“The other teams were pretty good,” he said. “But we’re not playing with the puck enough to do any damage.”

When the Caps didn’t have the puck, the coach said, they weren’t defending well, and taking too many penalties.

An issue with their bus meant the Caps didn’t leave for Salmon Arm until 2 a.m. on Friday, several hours later than they planned. As a result, they didn’t get there until 3 p.m., and they looked tired on the ice. Marshall Skapski scored Cowichan’s lone goal that night, while Adam Marcoux made 41 saves. Neither team got anything going on the powerplay, as the Caps went 0-for-5 and the Silverbacks were 0-for-6.

The Vees scored just 22 seconds into Saturday’s contest, which spelled disaster for the Caps.

“It’s a mental thing,” Passmore said. “They shut off when things aren’t going their way. They have to find a way to play in this league. When things go wrong, you can’t just pack it in. We get down by a couple of goals, and instead of that fight-back mentality, they stop playing.”

Penticton scored the first two goals. Ty Pochipnski’s powerplay goal made it 2-1, but the Vees ran the show after that. Marcoux allowed five goals on 20 shots over 25 minutes and 30 seconds before he was replaced by recently inked backup J.J. Pichette, who stopped 22 of 27 shots over the remainder of the game. The Caps went 1-for-4 on the powerplay, and the Vees were 2-for-4.

On Sunday, Chilliwack led 5-0 after two periods before David Laroche and Raphael Gosselin scored for the Caps to make things a little interesting. The Chiefs shut down any hope for a Cowichan resurgence. Marcoux made it to 20 seconds after the halfway point of the game, stopping 16 of 21 shots. Pichette played the balance, stopping 13 of 16. The Caps were an anemic 1-for-9 on the powerplay, while the Chiefs went 3-for-7.

Aside from a handful of players, most of the Caps are waiting for things to change and not doing anything about it, Passmore said. He named Pochipinski and Skapski as two players who are pulling their weights right now.

“We’re getting great leadership from the guys who are showing up to play every game,” the coach said. “But we have too many passengers.”

Prior to the road trip, the Caps traded goalie Yann Dery to the Waywayseecappo Wolverines of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League. The team had been carrying two 19-year-old goalies, and Marcoux had emerged as the clear No.1, but Dery needed playing time as well, Passmore explained. Pichette, who the Caps brought up from the Kerry Park Islanders, is a year younger and was playing well in junior B, and will fill the backup role well. In exchange for Dery, the Caps got the Canadian junior A rights to forward Brandon Stanley, who is currently with Philadelphia Rebels of the NAHL. Cowichan has not yet been in touch with Stanley.

The Caps have been a different team at home, Passmore said. The team will host the Alberni Valley Bulldogs this Wednesday at 7 p.m. in a divisional matchup they have a chance to win. The team will travel to Powell River on the weekend for a pair of games against the Kings.

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