Sports

Better late than never for Caps to make a surge

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They're fighting like Caps and 'Dogs. Four’s a big crowd along the boards, with the Caps’ Reilly O’Connor and Dane Gibson and Alberni Valley’s Hunter Stewart and Justin Georgeson all trying to gain control of the puck.
— image credit: Andrew Leong

Responsible defence and timely offense combined to give the Cowichan Valley Capitals back-to-back 2-1 victories in B.C. Hockey League weekend games at Cowichan Arena.

The Caps got a goal from Myles Powell 57 seconds into overtime to beat the Bulldogs Friday and Taylor Allan’s second-period marker stood up as the winner Sunday afternoon, as the Caps nipped the Salmon Arm SilverBacks by the same score but in regulation time.

Both games were more typical of the style of play the Caps will need down the stretch to secure a playoff berth and then potentially do well in the playoffs compared to the previous weekend on the Lower Mainland when they scored more goals but also gave up a lot more in going 0-2-1.

“We were flat to start all three games,’’ added Caps’ coach Bob Beatty of the previous foray to the Lower Mainland.

There was none of that this weekend, as the Caps came ready to play in both games, knowing full well the regular season is winding down fast and they need to get on a roll quickly if they want to go anywhere.

“We certainly can’t take our foot off the gas,’’ said Beatty. “We have to be ready each game.’’

Powell’s overtime marker was the only goal of the weekend not scored on the power play.

Jarrett Brown converted a man advantage for a 1-0 Caps’ lead against Alberni after the second period. Harlan Orr tied it for Alberni on a power play early in the third, but Powell salvaged the two points for the Caps.

The Caps needed the one point difference to stay narrowly ahead of the Bulldogs in the Island Division standings.

Against a much better Salmon Arm team Sunday, the Caps were sharp from the start and undeterred after giving up a power play goal to league scoring leader Landon Smith in the first six minutes of the game.

Matthew Berry-Lamontagna got that one back late in the first on a power play and Allan made the SilverBacks’ Connor Brown-Maloski pay for a second-period blow to the head penalty that eventually decided the outcome.

“We’re getting a little more consistent play without the puck, not giving up as many opportunities,’’ said Beatty of the two games.

Blake Butzow, acquired from the Penticton Vees at the Jan. 10 trade deadline, made his Caps’ debut against Salmon Arm and helped anchor the defence.

“I thought he played a real stable game,’’ said Beatty.

There wasn’t a whole lot of other trade activity for the Caps to consider.

“We try to balance going forward and what we want to accomplish right now,’’ said Beatty.

On top of that, the Caps didn’t have much flexibility.

“We did consider making a move to get better,’’ said Beatty. “We ran out of room.’’

When Ambrose Firkus refused to report after a trade in December, the Caps burned a card there. But it turned out to be a blessing in disguise with the Caps acquiring Allan from Okotoks of the Alberta Junior Hockey League, who’s turned out to be a very good addition.

“We’re pleased at the return we got out of it,’’ said Beatty.

Best of all, Allan is pleased to be here.

“I’m getting more opportunities in different areas,’’ said Allan, 18. “I think I’m playing a lot better as well. It’s a different style.

“It’s nice here. I like it. It’s not snowy like Okotoks.’’

The transition to the team is working out well for Allan.

“I feel like I fit right in,’’ he said. “I came in here and they wanted me to be a big piece of it. It’s been nice getting to know new guys. I think we’re heading in the right direction.’’

Beatty agrees but knows there’s lots of hard work ahead to build momentum off the strong efforts.

“There’s no comfort zone,’’ he said. “We start getting comfortable, we’re going to have a short season.’’

“We’re going to have to do anything to win,’’ reasoned Allan.

He said it was good to see how the Caps protected the lead on Salmon Arm by playing a smart game.

“We’re really cautious, keeping things simple and getting the puck deep.’’

Allan is the epitome of the two-way play necessary from the forwards at this crucial time of the season.

“I think they want me to play hard defensively but obviously chip in offensively as well,’’ he said.

The schedule is suddenly tilted in the Caps’ favour to make a bit of a run, with four more games at home before they hit the road again.

Another doubleheader weekend features Prince George Spruce Kings at Cowichan Arena Saturday at 7 p.m. and the Powell River Kings Sunday at 2 p.m. The following Friday, it’s Powell River here again and Langley Saturday.

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