The Cowichan Valley Capitals gave up two points to the Nanaimo Clippers on Friday, but stayed ahead of their rivals for first place in the B.C. Hockey League’s Island Division thanks to victories on Wednesday and Saturday.
The Caps could have locked up top spot in the division with a win over the Clips in Nanaimo, but a narrow 1-0 win kept the host team in contention for first place. The Caps did win two home games last week, however, beating the Langley Rivermen 4-1 on Wednesday and the Victoria Grizzlies 3-2 on Saturday, to retain a five-point edge in the standings.
Wednesday’s game saw Cowichan goaltender Zach Borgiel step up huge with 47 saves as the Caps were outshot 48-26 while playing without leading scorer Luciano Wilson and fellow forwards Tanner Sidaway and Dan McIntyre. Borgiel also picked up his first point of the season with an assist on Cole Broadhurst’s opening goal at 5:44 of the first period. The Rivermen tied the score late in the first, but Zach Brooks and Will Arquiett had goals for Cowichan in the second and Brady Lynn added an empty-netter in the third. Brooks and Lynn both finished with a goal and an assist.
One save ended up making all the difference on Friday as both teams registered 37 shots. Borgiel finished with 36 stops, beaten only once, midway through the third, while his counterpart, Jordan Naylor, made 37 saves for the shutout. Both teams went 0-for-4 on the powerplay as penalty minutes were down significantly from the last meeting.
Wilson, who returned to action on Friday, opened the scoring on Saturday two minutes into the first period. The Grizzlies tied the score late in the frame, then Cowichan captain Cruz Cote put his team back in front just 42 seconds into the middle period. Victoria pulled even again at 12:06 of the second, and then Broadhurst notched the winner with 3:12 left in regulation. McIntyre was back in the lineup on Saturday for his first game since Jan. 19, after serving seven games due to a pair of suspensions. Borgiel made 42 saves as the Caps outshot the Grizzlies 46-44.
The Caps have 77 points and two games left on the season and the Clippers have 72 points and three games remaining as the race for first in the division comes down to the final weekend of the regular season. The Caps have absolutely dominated the season series between the teams, but if the teams end up tied in points overall, the first tiebreaker is wins, and Nanaimo currently has 35 victories to Cowichan’s 34.
The Caps’ easiest route to securing first place is to win the teams’ head-to-head meeting in Nanaimo this Friday at 7 p.m. Cowichan’s last regular-season home game will take place on Saturday when they host the Alberni Valley Bulldogs at 6 p.m.