Cowichan Valley Capitals AP defenceman Connor Bissett recorded his first BCHL point against the Victoria Grizzlies last Wednesday. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)

Hockey gods aren’t making it easy for Capitals

Cowichan club battles injuries as playoff hopes fade

Things just aren’t getting any easier for the Cowichan Valley Capitals.

Wins have been difficult for the team to come by throughout the B.C. Hockey League season, but a rash of injuries have made it even harder down the stretch.

The Caps were missing five BCHL-calibre defencemen on Sunday, leaving only one healthy regular — Marshall Skapski, who played somewhere around 40 minutes. Filling out the blueline with AP defencemen — hard to come by this time of year as their junior B or midget teams are making playoff pushes — and forwards playing out of position, isn’t a recipe for success.

The Cowichan forwards have also been hit by the injury bug, and the team has struggled to ice an 18-man lineup. Last Wednesday, the Caps got off to a 2-0 lead against the Victoria Grizzlies, but when the lead evaporated, the Caps just couldn’t stay in the fight and lost 6-3.

“There wasn’t enough gas in the tank to battle back,” Capitals head coach Brian Passmore said.

The team’s best game last week came in a 3-1 loss to the West Kelowna Warriors on Friday. The Warriors opened the scoring in the first period, and Brendan Cherwalk answered back for the Caps in the second. Tied 1-1 with less than a minute to go, the Caps tried to clear the puck, but it bounced off a ref and ended up on the stick of a Warriors player who buried it.

“Everyone just looked to the sky,” Passmore lamented. “That was the feeling of our whole season, right there. But the guys picked up their socks and came out the next day ready to play again. It’s been really hard on them.”

The Caps pulled goalie Michael Corson in the hopes of getting the equalizer, but the Warriors scored into the empty net to win 3-1. Corson finished the game with 32 saves on 34 shots.

Hugh Larkin scored just 1:28 into last Wednesday’s game against Victoria, and captain Troy MacTavish added a powerplay goal midway through the first period, and the Caps were up 2-0 after 20 minutes. The Grizzlies pulled even in the second, then went up with four straight in the third before McCann scored with just 1:17 left to play. Corson stopped 37 of 43 shots.

Facing the Grizzlies again on Saturday in their only road game of the week, the Caps surrendered the first two goals, but answered back on markers by Nick Wilson and Ty Pochipinski before the first period was over. The Grizzlies went ahead with two in the second and three in the third. Cowichan goalie J.J. Pichette finished with 40 saves on 47 shots.

The weekend wrapped up on Sunday with a 4-0 loss to the Merritt Centennials. Merritt scored once in the first and three times in the second. Austin Roden made 20 saves for the shutout and Corson stopped 31 of 35 shots.

There were a few bright spots in the rough week, including APs and local products Connor Bissett and Luc Wilson recording their first BCHL points. Defenceman Bissett had an assist against Victoria last Wednesday, and forward Wilson had a helper against the Grizzlies on Saturday.

With five games left, the Caps officially can’t catch the Alberni Valley Bulldogs for the fourth playoff spot in the Island Division. Their last hope is to catch the Coquitlam Express for the wildcard spot; the Express also have five games left and are up on the Caps by seven points.

“They’re losing games, too,” Passmore said of Coquitlam. “But we’re not making any ground up on them at all.”

The Caps host the Nanaimo Clippers on Wednesday, visit Nanaimo on Friday, and play at home against Vernon on Saturday.

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