Treating their last seven game of the shortened 2020-21 B.C. Hockey League season like a best-of-seven playoff series, the Cowichan Valley Capitals emerged victorious, earning their fourth win of the series in grand fashion by trouncing the Nanaimo Clippers 6-1 last Saturday.
“We were pleased with the way we finished,” Capitals head coach and general manager Brian Passmore said. “The boys played with pride and respect. They played hard. The feedback I got from the other coaches was that we were a hardworking team; tough to play against.”
The 6-1 thumping not only the Caps’ most decisive victory of the season, it was also their first win by more than one goal.
Riley Wallack scored twice in the season finale to finish with four goals in the team’s last three contests. Wallack came on strong down the stretch for the Caps, scoring four times in the team’s last three games. Loaned to the Caps when the Langley Rivermen opted out of the season, Wallack had one assist over the Caps’ first 14 games, then scored five goals and set up two more over the last six contests.
“Riley started on forward the first 10 games, and then we had some injuries, so he ended up playing defence the last 10,” Passmore noted. “All his points came as a D-man. He stepped up and did a good job for us.”
After playing his first two BCHL campaigns on the front lines, Wallack should consider changing positions when he goes back to Langley, Passmore suggested.
“We told him he might want to think about playing D next year,” the coach said.
The Caps took a 5-0 lead in the first period against Nanaimo, and never looked back.
“We hadn’t scored five in a game, and then we scored five in one period,” Passmore noted. “I guess the guys were loose, leaving it all on the ice. One last showcase for themselves.”
Sean Ramsay, Sam Schofield and Dylan MacTavish — with his first in the BCHL — got things going before Wallack potted his pair. Colby Feist scored in the second, and the Clippers got their lone goal on a third-period powerplay. Kahlil Fontana had two assists, while Cowichan goalie Lucas Pfeil stopped 39 of 40 shots.
The Caps chased Clippers’ starting netminder Jordan Naylor, scoring three times on their first nine shots over 13 minutes and 53 seconds. Backup Ethan Neitsch played the balance, stopping 30 of 33 shots.
The Caps went into their final three games with a 3-1 lead in their seven-game series, but got themselves into a bit of trouble with a 7-3 loss to the Alberni Valley Bulldogs last Wednesday and a 4-3 defeat at the hands of the Clippers on Friday.
The Caps led the Bulldogs 2-0 by the four-minute mark, and were up 3-1 after 11 minutes, then gave up six unanswered goals. Jackson Alexeev scored his third of the season just 66 seconds in, then Wallack added his second of the year at 3:39 of the first. The Bulldogs answered back, but Alec Scouras scored his second of the year to restore the two-goal edge. The Bulldogs started their roll with a powerplay goal late in the first, then added one in the second and four in the third.
Pfeil went the distance and made 30 saves, while Alberni’s Luke Pearson stopped 22 of 25 shots. The Bulldogs got offensive contributions from three players with Cowichan Valley ties: Shawnigan Lake School graduate Ethan Hersant scored his first BCHL goal, and Cowichan Bay product and former junior B Kerry Park Islanders captain Matt Baird and Crofton product Braden Blace both registered assists.
On Friday, the Caps and Clippers played through a scoreless first period before Nanaimo got things going with a shorthanded goal in the second. Fontana replied, but the Clippers got back in front before the second intermission. Wallack tied the score in the third before Nanaimo scored twice. Defenceman Logan Rands notched his first of the year to get his team back within one.
Jayden Shull stopped 29 of 33 shots in the Cowichan net, while Naylor stopped 47 of 50.
The Caps completed their 20-game season in the Port Alberni pod with a record of seven wins, 11 regulation losses and two overtime losses, although they went 5-2-1 in their last eight contests.
“It was really a roller-coaster,” Passmore said. “You’re not playing for a playoff spot or the big grand prize. It was neat to see the excitement for the players to get the pod season. Even through the low points, they were striving to play hard and play better.
“It seemed like a season where you play for yourself, and play to be looked at [by scouts], but they learned that whey they played for the team first, they looked better in the end.”
The Caps’ top four point-getters are eligible to return next season: 2001-born forwards Jacob Brockman (18 games played, four goals, 10 assists, 14 points), Fontana (17GP, 3G, 7A, 10P) and Max Bulawka (20GP, 4G, 5A, 9P), and 2002-born defenceman Tanner Komzak (20 GP, 4G, 5A, 9P).
Also eligible to return are forwards Sam Schofield, Sean Ramsay, Brett Fudger, Colby Feist, Adam Grenier, Alec Scouras and Simon Pollock, blueliners Owen Philps and Austen McIvor, and goalie Shull. AP defencemen MacTavish ,Cory Liu and Owen Evers could also be back in Cowichan colours.
Forwards Jackson Alexeev and Tyler Leibl, and goalie Pfeil have aged out of junior eligibility.
Forward Joey Moffatt and defencemen Rands and Kian Calder were loaned to the Caps from the Manitoba Junior Hockey League, and their rights will revert to their MJHL teams on June 1, the same situation as Langley transfers Wallack and Stephen Sielsky.
“They were all good additions in terms of what they brought with their work ethic and character,” Passmore said of the Manitoba and Langley players. “We lost some key players [before the season] and the guys we brought in did a good job for us.”