Griz­zlies wary of ris­ing Caps

GAME DAY: VIC­TO­RIA AT COWICHAN, 7 P.M.

Times Colonist - - Sports - CLEVE DHEENSAW cd­heen­saw@times­colonist.com Twit­ter.com/tc_vic­sports

There are stir­rings of im­prove­ment at The Stick — a.k.a. Is­land Sav­ings Cen­tre in Dun­can — even though the Cowichan Val­ley Cap­i­tals re­main mired at the foot of the Is­land Divi­sion (5-13-3 head­ing into Fri­day night’s game against Pow­ell River).

That’s why Vic­to­ria Griz­zlies head coach and GM Craig Did­mon is wary head­ing into tonight’s B.C. Hockey League game at The Stick: “The Cap­i­tals are go­ing to be pre­pared and in­spired, and we bet­ter match that.”

The Griz­zlies (14-7-1) lead the Is­land Divi­sion and know they come in with a bull’s-eye on their backs.

“We need to keep play­ing how we are play­ing and not take any games for granted,” said Did­mon.

The Cap­i­tals were the only team among the 17 in the BCHL to miss the play­offs last spring, which is the sort of glar­ing stat line no team wants. But the Cap­i­tals are be­ing re­built by vet­eran coach and GM Mike Van­dekamp, who came to Dun­can af­ter seven sea­sons at the helm of the Nanaimo Clip­pers and 23 in to­tal in the BCHL, Al­berta Ju­nior Hockey League and West­ern Hockey League. The Caps went 10-41-5 last sea­son. Head­ing into Fri­day night un­der Van­dekamp, they had won three straight at home and had al­ready reached half their win to­tal from last sea­son. It’s a mod­est achieve­ment but it’s some­thing.

Cowichan Val­ley’s list of play­ers com­mit­ted to NCAA Div. 1 schools — Adam Con­quest to Bowl­ing Green and Jor­dan Robert to Clark­son — is tied for the low­est to­tal in the BCHL with Salmon Arm and Sur­rey. That com­pares with Vic­to­ria’s six com­mit­ments, in­clud­ing 2018 New York Rangers draft pick Ri­ley Hughes, who’s ex­pected to join North­east­ern next fall, pro­jected first-round 2019 NHL draft pick Alex Ne­whook, who will likely be Bos­ton Col­lege­bound in the fall, and fel­lowGriz­zlies 2019 NHL-draft pro­jected for­ward Alex Camp­bell, who’s ex­pected to join Clark­son.

Things are only go­ing to im­prove in­cre­men­tally at The Stick, but the process has al­ready be­gun, ac­cord­ing to Did­mon: “The Cap­i­tals have some good play­ers and Cowichan Val­ley is be­com­ing a team that is hard to play against.”

Tonight is the first of five con­sec­u­tive road games for the Griz­zlies, con­tin­u­ing next week­end in Co­quit­lam, Pen­tic­ton and Ver­non and con­clud­ing back on the Is­land on Nov. 23 in the Al­berni Val­ley. The Griz­zlies do not play at The Q Cen­tre un­til Nov. 24 against Nanaimo.

“This is a big block of road games and we are look­ing at it as a five-game seg­ment,” said Did­mon.

“We’ve worked hard this week to pre­pare be­cause we want to have a good start to this road seg­ment [tonight] in Dun­can.”

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