The Cowichan Valley Capitals headed to Powell River with a 2-0 lead over the Kings in their first-round B.C. Hockey League playoff series after two games in the Cowichan Arena on the weekend, but head coach Mike Vandekamp wasn’t satisfied.
The Caps scored five unanswered goals to come back and win 6-3 on Friday, then got by the Kings 7-6 in overtime on Saturday. Saturday’s game, especially, wasn’t good enough for the coach.
“We know that we need to play better,” he said. “Obviously, this time of year, you take wins however you get them. It’s a tough road.”
The two games weren’t short on individual heroes, as Brady Lynn scored twice on Friday and added the overtime winner on Saturday, and Primo Self potted his first hat trick on Saturday, but Vandekamp was looking for a better team game going forward.
“We have to play better and keep pucks out of our net,” he said. “I don’t think we can rely on scoring to win this time of year. It definitely can’t be our approach to be winning 7-6.”
On Friday, Lynn scored late in the second period with his team down 3-1, and his teammates carried the momentum into the third. Cruz Cote needed just 17 seconds to even the score in the third, and Will Arquiett gave Cowichan the lead less than 90 seconds later. Zach Brooks added another shortly after the Caps killed off a double minor he took for high sticking, and Lynn topped it all off with his second of the night.
“It felt good out there,” Lynn said. “I felt like my feet were moving and everyone just played a good game. I thought we played a great game.”
The Kings struck first midway through the opening period, but the Caps came on stronger in the second. Moments after he was denied on a breakaway, Matt Crasa got the Caps on the board with a powerplay goal at 5:40 of the second. The Kings pulled ahead again just over a minute after that, then went up 3-1 with a powerplay marker of their own at 14:32. Lynn got put Cowichan back within a goal before the middle frame was over.
Lynn added an assist to finish with three points on the night. Luciano Wilson and Dimitri Mikrogiannakis also recorded three helpers apiece.
Cowichan netminder Zach Borgiel outplayed Powell River counterpart Derek Krall, stopping 38 of 41 shots, while Krall finished with 34 stops on 40 shots.
On Saturday, Lynn scored at 13:58 of overtime to salvage the night after the Caps gave away a three-goal second-period lead. The Caps were up 6-3 late in the second and took a 6-4 lead into the third period, but the Kings got within one midway through the final frame, then tied the score with 12 seconds left in regulation.
Cowichan defenceman Dimitri Mikrogiannakis admitted some of the younger players might have been nervous going into overtime, but Vandekamp was able to calm any nerves.
“I know Mike’s coached us well, so he settled some of us down,” the blueliner said. “For me, I’ve been in a lot of those situations, played a lot of junior games, so I was OK, but I think the older guys, the veterans and our coaching staff did a good job keeping composure in the room.”
The teams were deadlocked 3-3 after the first period, Cowichan’s goals coming from Self, Matt Crasa and Austin Chorney. Self added two more in the second, and defenceman Cullen Ferguson potted one. Self also assisted on Chorney’s goal and finished with four points on the night.
“It felt good,” he said. “I had a really great game, so that was nice to see. My linemates make it really easy, so I just had to put the puck in the net, and luckily I could do that tonight, so that’s a great feeling.”
Borgiel finished with 47 saves as the Caps were outshot 53-40.
The Cowichan players were both thrilled and relieved to head to Powell River with two wins under their belts.
“It’s always nice to start off a series up, and we’ve just got to go into Powell River and take the next one, too,” Mikrogiannakis said.
The Caps were among the best teams in the league on the powerplay and penalty kill in the regular season, and the Kings were among the worst in both, but the Caps went 1-for-6 with the advantage over both games, and the Kings went 5-for-11, including 4-for-6 on Saturday.
“It’s not every day you’re going to lose special teams battles as badly as we did and win games,” Vandekamp observed. “We need to be better on the penalty kill.”
The coach expected more from his team when the series resumed in Powell River on Tuesday night.
“We need to play better. We need to defend better. We need better special teams. The word of the day is to try to improve.”
If the best-of-seven series isn’t decided after games in Powell River on Tuesday and Wednesday, the teams will return to the Cowichan Arena on Friday at 7 p.m. Further games are scheduled for Saturday in Powell River and next Monday in Duncan.
Visit cowichanvalleycitizen.com for updates.