It may be a small sample size, but it still defies explanation.
The Cowichan Valley Capitals have won two out of three games against the Clippers in Nanaimo, while the Clippers have won both games between the B.C. Hockey League arch-rivals in Duncan.
So much for home-ice advantage. It’s got Caps head coach Brian Passmore, for one, perplexed.
“I wish I had the answer to that one,” he said with a laugh.
Passmore did have a couple of ideas for why the teams split their two games last week, with the Clippers winning 6-3 at the Cowichan Arena on Wednesday and the Caps prevailing 3-1 at the Frank Crane on Friday.
“Their powerplay was hot on Wednesday night, and we couldn’t keep up with it,” Passmore said. “Friday was a good game in their rink. We outlasted them.”
The Clippers went 3-for-6 with the man advantage on Wednesday, while the Caps were 2-for-5 in a typical penalty-filled game.
“It was a game where it was hard to get going 5-on-5,” Passmore acknowledged.
The Clippers were up 3-2 after the first, and no one scored in the second, although the Caps registered 22 shots in the middle frame. Nanaimo added two more early in the third, including one right off a faceoff that Passmore conceded was “kind of the dagger.” The Caps got one more, then Nanaimo scored into an empty net. Luke Haymes had a pair of goals for the Caps, and Aidan Cobb scored the other. Evan May made 36 saves as the Caps outshot the Clippers 46-41.
“It was closer than the final score,” Passmore said. “The boys played pretty hard. If we eliminated some of the mistakes it would have been a better result.”
There were a lot of penalties again in the rematch; both teams were assessed 19 minutes worth of infractions and things got especially heated late in the third, but the Caps held Nanaimo scoreless in four powerplay opportunities while going 0-for-3 themselves.
“Our PK was better on Friday,” Passmore said. “That was the difference.”
Brett Fudger scored in the first and Shane LaVelle put the Caps up 2-0 in the second before the Clippers got on the board. Defenceman Connor Elliott added one more for the Caps in the third, his second in four games with the Caps after going without a goal in 16 games with Prince George. McCoy Bidewell made 31 saves as the Caps were outshot 32-26.
Fudger has been suspended for five games as a result of an incident late in the third period for which he was assessed a roughing penalty and a gross misconduct. He will be eligible to return on Jan. 11 when the Caps play host to the Alberni Valley Bulldogs. It is the Caps’ fifth suspension of the season and Fudger’s second; the captain was previously suspended for one game in early November.
Passmore didn’t know exactly what provoked the suspension.
“I don’t know what it was,” he said. “I didn’t see it. The ref wrote it in his report, but I have no inkling of what it was.”
Losing their captain for five games just as the Caps are gaining some momentum is not ideal.
“It’s had timing,” Passmore said. “We’ll need him when we get back. It will allow someone else to step up and get that ice time. We’re gonna miss him.”
The Caps sit ninth in the Coastal Conference with seven wins, 18 regulation losses and one shootout loss, but they are 4-2-0-1 in December and sit just two points out of a playoff position. Nine of their last 27 games are against the Coquitlam Express and Powell River Kings, who they are chasing in the standings, so the team has a chance to make up some ground.
The Caps are on a nine-day break before they visit the Alberni Valley Bulldogs on Dec. 29. They will play host to the Bulldogs on Jan. 1 at 7 p.m. and the Kings on Jan. 2 at 2 p.m.
“It’s a good break,” Passmore said. “It’s just long enough for the players to be, ‘OK, I’m ready to get back.’ It’s needed for everyone.”