In their first game under returning head coach Mike Vandekamp, who relived outgoing coach Brian Passmore of his duties late last week, the Cowichan Capitals and Chilliwack Chiefs put on a show for the more than 2,200 fans at the Chilliwack Coliseum Friday night.
“It was exciting for me to come back to the Capitals and back to the BCHL,” the coach said. “We only had two days together before hitting the road so I’d say we did pretty well this weekend considering the circumstances.”
It was a back-and-forth battle featuring multiple lead changes and at least three goals in each of the three periods.
Cowichan’s Ian Kern got his first of the year from Owen Goodbrand and Andrew Haxton to get their team off on the right foot under their new bench boss.
No long thereafter, Chilliwack responded but before that goal could even be announced, Cowichan’s Anton Yatsyshin potted his first puck as a Capital since being acquired earlier in the month. Kai Dunits and Kern earned the helpers.
The Chiefs started the second period scoring but Yatsyshin replied quickly to keep their one goal lead at 3-2. Assists went to Dunits and call-up player Quinn Abbott.
The rest of the period belonged to the Chiefs, however with two more goals giving Chilliwack the 4-3 lead heading into the final frame.
Another Cowichan newcomer, Luke Lavery, took just 90 seconds to pull the Capitals even with Chilliwack after the third period began. Unfortunately, Chilliwack scored a short-handed marker just over a minute after that.
Dunits stepped up, however, at 4:24 of the third on a pass from Luke Strickland, to even the score at five goals apiece.
Two overtime periods yielded no winner so off to a shootout they went. Chilliwack scored twice on McCow Bidewell, who ended up with the shootout loss. Cowichan failed to convert any of its shootout attempts.
Cowichan outshout the Chiefs 33-24 despite taking the loss, a good sign for a team looking to put more pucks in the back of the net.
The Caps kept up their shooting intensity during their game against the Langley Rivermen the following night, in Langley, putting 40 pucks on the net, scoring five times overall, to take the victory 5-2.
Cowichan goalie Lukas Renaud got the win, stopping 21 of 23 shots he faced.
Special teams was clicking for Cowichan with powerplay goals from Aaron Brown (from Lavery and Dunits) and Cole Melady (from Massimo Sarantos Lombardi and Strickland) in the first and second period respectively.
Dunits (from Matthew Biros and William Elias) and Lavery also scored even-strength markers while Logan Camp (Lavery) finished it off with an empty netter at the end.
“The boys have been very receptive to me so far and seem excited to be a part of this new direction,” Vandekamp said. “We made tons of mistakes this weekend, which is to be expected, but we certainly had the spirit and work ethic to be successful. I look forward to our first game together at home this upcoming Friday versus Victoria.”