Capitals forward Lucas Vanroboys carries the puck out of the Cowichan end during the first period of Saturday night’s win over the Trail Smoke Eaters at the Island Savings Centre. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)

Three-point weekend continues turnaround for Cowichan Capitals

Cellar-dwellers have now won three straight at home

After earning a single point in an overtime loss on the road on Friday night, the Cowichan Valley Capitals extended their home winning streak to three games with a victory at the Island Savings Centre on Saturday.

The Caps were edged 5-4 by the Nanaimo Clippers at Frank Crane Arena on Friday, then defeated the Trail Smoke Eaters by a 6-4 final score the next night.

“Where we are overall, a weekend like that could be considered progress,” Capitals head coach Mike Vandekamp said.

The results continued a relatively successful stretch for the Caps. In seven games since a 9-1 loss to the Merritt Centennials on Oct. 14, the team has three wins, three losses and one overtime defeat. They had just two victories in the 14 games before that.

“That’s progress, .500 hockey,” Vandekamp said. “Now we’re looking to expand on that and become an even better team.”

Defenceman Peter Tabor scored for the Caps with 5:46 left in regulation to force overtime against the Clippers. Nanaimo’s Tyler Williams completed his hat trick for Nanaimo at 3:34 of the first extra session. Cowichan led 2-1 after the first period, and the teams were tied 3-3 after two periods. Adam Conquest finished the night with a goal and an assist for the Caps, while Kolton Cousins and Paul Selleck also scored. Former Capital Ethan Scardina had a goal and two assists for Nanaimo.

Blake Wood made his sixth straight start in the Capitals’ net, stopping 32 of 37 shots, while Nanaimo’s Jordan Naylor stopped 28 of 32 Cowichan shots. The Caps went 1-for-6 on the powerplay, while the Clippers were 2-for-4.

“Obviously, we wanted two points in Nanaimo,” Vandekamp said. “We had chances, that’s for darn sure. We didn’t capitalize, and we made some costly errors.”

Trail led 1-0 after the first period, but the Caps scored three times in the first half of the second period and were up 3-2 after 40 minutes before going on to win 6-4.

“I thought we had a pretty slow start in the first period,” Vandekamp commented. “I liked our second period. We played probably our best 10 minutes of hockey in the first 10 minutes of the second.”

Five different players had multi-point nights for the Caps, led by Lucas Vanroboys, who scored twice and added a pair of assists. David Melaragni, Niko Esposito-Selivanov and Brady Lynn each had a goal and two helpers, and Paul Selleck had one of each.

Jack Grant made his first start in the Cowichan net since Oct. 3 and stopped 29 of 33 shots. Former Capitals goalie Adam Marcoux started for Trail and allowed six goals on 34 shots before he was pulled with just under 10 minutes in the game. His replacement, Tanner Marshall, stopped all four shots he faced.

Vandekamp was pleased to see Grant back between the pipes.

“He was playing pretty well before the injury,” the coach said. “That was 11 games without a guy who was establishing himself as our starting goalie. He was a bit rusty. It will take him time to get back to where he was, but it’s a confidence booster for the team.”

The three-point weekend improved the Caps’ record to five wins, 13 losses, two overtime losses and one shootout loss. They still sit last in the Island Division, one point shy of the Nanaimo Clippers, but in the league standings moved ahead of the Surrey Eagles, who have the same number of points in two more games than the Caps.

Four of Cowichan’s five wins this year have come at the Island Savings Centre, and the team will play two games at home this weekend, just the third such weekend for the Caps this season. The Powell River Kings visit on Friday at 7 p.m. and the Victoria Grizzlies stop by on Saturday at 6 p.m. The Grizzlies (14-7-0-1) are first in the Island Division and the Kings (12-8-0-0) are second.

“It’s two tough opponents,” Vandekamp said. “Just playing at home isn’t going to mean automatic wins. It will be a tough challenge both nights. They’re somewhat different teams. Victoria has a really good top line, and Powell River has got depth. They’re at the top of the division for a reason. We need to play six good periods. We won’t have room for lapses or mental breakdowns.”

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