The Cowichan Valley Capitals never quite recovered from a slow start on Wednesday, and ultimately fell 4-1 to the visiting Wenatchee Wild in game four of their best-of-seven B.C. Hockey League Interior Division semifinal.
The Caps trailed 1-0 after the opening frame, and got better as the game went on, but the goals just weren’t coming and the game ended in the team’s first home loss of the 2019 postseason.
“I didn’t like our first period,” Capitals head coach Mike Vandekamp admitted. “I thought we got a lot of skating legs going the rest of the game, actually. We’re playing against a very good team on the other side; they’re very fast, tenacious, work hard.
“I think our D corps needs to move the puck faster, simpler; I think we’re over-handling the puck at times, and there were some turnovers that were caused by their second efforts on the forecheck and stuff that were costly to us.”
The Wild were up 2-0 after two periods before Brady Lynn got the Caps on the board just before the five-minute mark of the third. Niko Esposito-Selivanov, who led the Cowichan with 19 goals in the regular season, came close to tying the score not long after after he was sprung on a breakaway.
“The puck kind of rolled on him and he was unable to bury it,” Vandekamp commented. “I think that was a goal that we desperately needed tonight. It was a tough bounce.”
Wenatchee’s other two goals included an empty-netter after the Caps pulled netminder Pierce Diamond for the extra attacker.
The Wild outshot the Caps 18-7 in the first period, but the rest of the game was fairly even on that front. Diamond finished with 33 saves, while Austin Park made 27 stops for Wenatchee.
“We had our chances,” Vandekamp said. “We’re glad to be in the battle. It’s a tied series; that’s OK. We’ve been saying throughout the playoffs that the odd-numbered games are the most important games in the series, and we’ve won the majority of those odd-numbered games so far in the playoffs. Game five is 48 hours or so from now, and that’s going to be a big game for our team.”
The referees’ whistles were quiet, as a total of seven penalties were handed out in spite of a hard-hitting, emotional game. The Caps went 0-for-1 on the powerplay and the Wild were 0-for-2.
“I think the game has been left to the players to decide,” Vandekamp said. “There’s times when you wish you could get a call, but there’s times, I’m sure, when they wish they could get a call too. There’s a fine balance the refs have to go with, but I think they did a good job.”
The teams will head to Wenatchee for game five on Friday, and game six will take place at the Big Stick on Sunday at 7:05 p.m. If a seventh game is necessary, it will go in Wenatchee next Tuesday.
“There’s a lot of series left to play,” Vandekamp said. “We know we’re going at least six right now, so we’re going to grind it out, and we have to do it the hard way now.”