Cowichan Valley Capitals defenceman Nolan Barrett gives a shove to Prince George Spruce Kings forward Chong Min Lee during the Caps’ 6-1 win at the Cowichan Arena on Sunday. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)

Wilson’s hat trick leads Caps past Prince George

Coach calls Cowichan’s effort against defending champs their best game so far

Head coach Mike Vandekamp called it his team’s “best game of the season” so far, and it couldn’t have come at a better time.

Duncan’s own Luc Wilson had a natural hat trick as the Caps put a stop to a four-game losing streak by beating the defending B.C. Hockey League champion Prince George Spruce Kings 6-1 at home on Sunday afternoon.

“We needed to have a good game,” Vandekamp said. “We’d been on a bit of a slide. The results in the previous games hadn’t been good — we hadn’t played bad, but we found ways to lose some points. It was important to find our swagger again at home.”

Wilson scored twice in the first period, then capped off the hat trick with a powerplay marker 81 seconds into the second. He later added an assist for a four-point night, and is now seventh in league scoring. He has already matched last year’s totals of 10 goals and 12 assists in just 19 games, marks it took him 48 games to reach as a rookie last season.

“He got banged up in practice earlier in the week and missed the Friday game [in Port Alberni],” Vandekamp noted. “He had a challenging week, but he seemed to have everything kinda going on Sunday. It’s not every day you see a hat trick. It’s not every day you see a natural hat trick, so that was a pretty great moment.”

The coach sees even more potential in Wilson, who doesn’t turn 18 until late November but has already played more BCHL games than all but three of his teammates.

“He’s got a lot of offensive ability, which is evident in his play,” Vandekamp said. “He needs to play with more consistency; that’s the challenge as he becomes more of a veteran player in this league. He needs to be more consistent with his effort and his habits, but the skill level is there, no doubt about that.”

Matthew Crasa had a goal and an assist against Prince George, and Olivier Gauthier and Zach Brooks also scored. Primo Self had three assists, and Dimitri Mikrogiannakis, Cullen Ferguson and Cole Broadhurst each posted two helpers. The Caps outshot P.G. 43-22, chasing starting goalie Jack McGovern midway through the second after he allowed six goals on 18 shots. Replacement Jett Alexander stopped 25 shots. Zach Borgiel made 21 saves in the Cowichan net.

On Friday night, the Caps were edged 4-3 by the Alberni Valley Bulldogs. Cowichan led 2-1 after one period on goals by Tanner Sidaway and Cruz Cote, but Alberni pulled ahead with two in the second, then added some insurance with a powerplay goal early in the third. Crasa got the Caps within one with just over five minutes left to play, but that was as close as things would get. Borgiel made 22 saves as the Caps were outshot 27-26.

Vandekamp liked the way his team started the game, but noted that they got into penalty trouble in the second period, something that plagued the team earlier in the season, but which hasn’t been an issue in more recent games.

“That took the momentum away from us,” he said. “They only went 1-for-8 [on the powerplay], but when that happens, you’re playing with a shorter bench and defending the whole time.”

With 11 wins, seven losses, and two overtime or shootout losses, the Caps are still tied with the Clippers atop the Island Division, although the Clippers have two games in hand. The Caps start November with five straight home games in 10 days, which provides an opportunity to get back on track.

“It’s not a given just because we’re at home,” Vandekamp said. “But it’s a chance to get some confidence and momentum and feeling good about our game.”

The month starts off with Parents Weekend as the Caps play host to the Powell River Kings on Friday at 7 p.m. and Vernon Vipers on Saturday at 6 p.m.

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