Capitals captain Brett Fudger had five points last weekend, including three in Cowichan’s 3-1 win over the Coquitlam Express on Sunday. (Citizen file)

Capitals captain Brett Fudger had five points last weekend, including three in Cowichan’s 3-1 win over the Coquitlam Express on Sunday. (Citizen file)

Cowichan Capitals get huge win over Express on strong Mainland trip

Caps move into playoff spot with victory

A strong weekend on the road, including a win in the most important of their three games, helped the Cowichan Valley Capitals move past the Coquitlam Express in the B.C. Hockey League playoff race.

Captain Brett Fudger had two goals and an assist and McCoy Bidewell came within 53 seconds of recording his first BCHL shutout as the Caps beat the Express 3-1 in Coquitlam in a huge game on Sunday with postseason implications.

“It was probably the most complete road game we’ve played all year,” said Cowichan head coach Brian Passmore, whose team has won seven of its last 10 road games dating back to the beginning of December. “We scored when we needed to and played really sound defence.”

Fudger opened the scoring with 5:35 left in the first period, set up the eventual game-winner by defenceman Connor Elliott 12 seconds into the middle frame, and added one more at 3:59 of the second. David Jacobs finished with two helpers, and Bidewell finished with 28 saves as the Caps narrowly outshot the Express 29-28.

With the win, the Caps moved into eighth place in the Coastal Conference with 23 points to 21 for Coquitlam, although the Express have five games in hand. The teams still meet three more times in Duncan before the regular season ends in late March.

“The thing about having games in hand is they have to win those games, and they have a tough schedule in February,” Passmore pointed out. “We’ll take care of ourselves and keep getting points. We’ve been getting some traction lately.”

The Coquitlam game was the Caps’ third on a three-day trip to the Mainland that began with back-to-back dates with the Conference-leading Langley Rivermen. Both games ended in one-goal losses as the Caps pushed the Rivermen to the brink.

On Friday, the Caps were up 2-0 in the third period before the Rivermen scored twice with their goalie pulled for the extra attacker. Langley notched the winner less than a minute into the extra frame.

“It was little details,” Passmore said. “It wasn’t like we played poorly.”

Sam Schofield had a shorthanded goal and James Bohn scored on the powerplay, while Bidewell stopped 43 of 46 shots in the loss.

The next night, the Caps went down 2-0 early and spent the rest of the night playing catch-up. Shortly after scoring their fourth goal, the Caps had a 5-on-3 powerplay that they were unable to convert.

Fudger had a goal and an assist; Jacobs, Haymes and K.T. Walters also scored; and Elliott had a pair of helpers. Evan May made 31 saves as the Caps outshot the Rivermen 38-36.

“It felt like we could have gotten the split [against Langley], but we beat ourselves,” Passmore said. “We had some injuries, guys leaving the game. I thought the team as a whole played really well.”

Passmore was impressed with the play of the youngest players on the team, 16-year-olds Arjun Bawa and Matty Edwards, whose physical play, including a fight for Bawa on Friday, gave the team some spark on the weekend.

“They’re being responsible,” the coach said. “You can trust them when you put them out there. They’re big boys that aren’t afraid to use their bodies. They don’t get the recognition that comes from scoring goals, but they’re a big part of the way we’re playing right now.”

The Caps have two more games against a team they are chasing in the playoff hunt as they have a home-and-home series with the Powell River Kings this week. The teams met in Powell River on Wednesday night and will battle at the Cowichan Arena on Friday at 7 p.m. The Caps are two points back of the Kings, but Powell River has three games in hand. The team is also set to play host to the Alberni Valley Bulldogs next Wednesday.