Cruz Cote had a goal and an assist on Friday and Matt Crasa and Tyrell Boucher both replicated the feat on Saturday as the Cowichan Valley Capitals earned three points in their first two games back from the B.C. Hockey League’s holiday break.
The Caps came out ahead in the home-and-home series against the Nanaimo Clippers, getting a single point out of a 3-2 overtime loss in Nanaimo on Friday, then two points from a 3-1 regulation win at the Cowichan Arena on Saturday.
“It was a close weekend,” Caps head coach Mike Vandekamp said. “Those were big games in the standings. We didn’t have a lot of ice before we got back into it; we didn’t skate a lot. But we played pretty well in both games.”
The Clippers opened the scoring on Friday with a goal at 5:22 of the first period, but Cowichan captain Cote replied with his eighth of the year less than a minute and a half later, then helped set up David Wang’s fourth of the season to put the Caps ahead through the first period. It stayed that way until 13:30 of the third when the Clippers pulled even, and then former Capital and current Nanaimo captain Ethan Scardina potted the winner just before the halfway mark of the five-minute overtime. Zach Borgiel made 28 saves as the Caps outshot the Clippers 38-31.
“They gained a bit of momentum on us in the third period, in the middle stages,” Vandekamp said. “They tied the game, then got the bounce in OT.”
Crasa got the Caps on the board in the first period on Saturday, then helped set up Tyrell Boucher’s second period goal. Nanaimo got their first at 6:46 of the third, then Cote sent the puck into the empty net on a setup from Boucher with a minute left. Borgiel finished with 42 saves as the Caps again outshot the Clippers, this time 32-31.
“It was a solid outing, a tight game,” Vandekamp said. “It was a good weekend overall.”
With a record of 25 wins, 12 regulation losses and five overtime or shootout defeats, the Caps remain second in the Island Division and fourth in the league, one point back of the Clippers. Both teams have 16 games left. The Alberni Valley Bulldogs are third in the division, 11 points back of the Caps but with four games in hand. According to Vandekamp, the team isn’t worried about those positions right now.
“Our focus isn’t on the standings,” he said. “We’re focused on smaller goals. We’re aware of what the standings are and how close things are.”
Still, the games against the Clippers and other division rivals are taking on even more importance.
“We came out of Christmas break with 18 games left to play, and six of them were against Nanaimo,” Vandekamp said. “An emphasis on those games is just natural.”
The Caps will play three divisional games this weekend, visiting the Victoria Grizzlies on Friday, then hosting the Clippers on Saturday at 6 p.m. and the Powell River Kings on Sunday at 2 p.m.
“It’s a big weekend again,” the coach commented. “Games are flying by. This month will be busy for us. We’ll focus right now on a good week of practice and prepare for three big games. Hopefully we’ll play nine good periods.”