The Cowichan Valley Capitals remarkable playoff run came to an end on Sunday night, just short of six minutes into overtime of game six of their best-of-seven series against the Wenatchee Wild.
Wenatchee defenceman Chad Sasaki scored to give the Wild their fourth win of the series, sending his team to the Interior Division final.
Capitals head coach Mike Vandekamp had talked throughout the playoffs about how his players all believed in each other, and that sense of belief made the loss harder to take.
“I just told the boys that I think that it’s heartbreaking because we had the guts to put our heart into it,” Vandekamp said. “You’ve gotta take a pretty big risk in anything in life if you’re gonna put your heart into something and it might get broken.”
The Caps finished 16th out of 17 teams in the B.C. Hockey League regular season, but peaked in the postseason, beating the Penticton Vees in six games in the first round before giving the defending league champion Wild a serious challenge in the second round.
“We’ve got a lot of upset kids after this, and there was a time earlier in the year where we didn’t even know where we were as a team yet,” Vandekamp noted. “So to come that far and put your hearts out there the way, take the risk that it might not go your way in the end — you have to put it all out there, and I think our kids did that. We played against a really good team this series. They’re very good and they’re deep.”
Preston Brodziak scored the lond goal of the first period on Sunday. David Melaragni put the Caps ahead at 6:10 of the second, but the Wild answered back less than two minutes later, then took a 3-2 lead in the third. Jordan Robert tied the game for the Caps with 4:16 left to play in regulation.
Playoff hero Pierce Diamond made 30 saves on the night, including stopping a penalty shot with 29 seconds left in the second period. Wenatchee netminder Austin Park allowed three goals on 19 shots.
The Wild also won game five in overtime, edging the Caps 2-1 in Wenatchee on Friday night.
The response by fans in the Cowichan Valley to his team’s success did not go unnoticed by Vandekamp, who gave the Caps their first playoff series win in 10 years in his first year behind the bench. He hopes the support carries over to .
“The way the rink was electrified, that’s pretty exciting stuff to see that many people get out there and support the club,” he said. “Hopefully they’re as excited about the team as we are.”