Grizzlies wary of rising Caps
GAME DAY: VICTORIA AT COWICHAN, 7 P.M.
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.”