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Capitals Smother Grizzlies in Home Opener

The goals came early and often for the Cowichan Valley Capitals as they defeated the Victoria Grizzlies 8-2 in front of 1002 fans in the home opener at the Island Savings Center in Duncan on Saturday night. Fresh off a 2-0 win against the Nanaimo Clippers the night before, the Capitals (2-0) picked up where they left off and did not allow the young Grizzlies (0-1) much room for offense.

Both teams have played each other a lot recently, splitting victories and penalty minutes as their rivalry has intensified. Tonight’s game was no different with 29 minutes in penalties between the clubs, including a 5 minute major and game misconduct penalty going to Grizzlies defenseman Isack Bandu. He cross-checked Capitals forward Andy Bridgewater for celebrating the team’s sixth goal a little too excessively.

Cowichan came into the game with a lineup of 11 forwards and 7 defensemen after center (and former Victoria Royal) Tanner Sidaway was suspended for two games for an illegal check to the head in the first period of the game against Nanaimo.

Despite the team scoring eight goals, Cowichan goaltender Zach Borgiel made a strong case to be named Player of the Game. After stopping all 35 shots in the shutout victory on Friday night, Borgiel turned aside 32 shots including many high-quality chances on a 5-on-3 penalty kill that could have flipped the momentum and changed the outcome of the game.

The Grizzlies defenders had a tough game against the stronger Capitals forwards. Their passes were often off the target, which caused turnovers which directly led to goals against. Victoria seemed one-step behind all game. It is to be expected, as the team have not played much together with many new faces. A positive for the Grizzlies was their speed, displayed at times during the game including on their second goal, scored by Eddie Yan. Cowichan knew this was coming and did a great job in stifling their breakout, forcing the forwards to stand still to set up in the offensive zone which led to a lot of dead plays.

After a scrappy ending to the second period, the Capitals took a little extra time to hit the ice for the third and were assessed a delay of game penalty, which gave the Grizzlies a power-play and eventually, their first goal of the season. Scored by Cody Monds, the goal snapped Borgiel’s shutout streak of 101:18 to start the season. It was Capitals forward Dan McIntyre’s hat-trick goal to make it 7-2 late in the third to put the exclamation on a solid 60-minute performance by the home team.

The Cowichan Valley Capitals could not have asked for a better game in front of their fans. They peppered goaltender Joe Howe with shots all game, and although he let in eight goals on 43 shots, he certainly was not the reason why the Grizzlies lost. Cowichan limited turnovers and pressured the opposing defensemen into making low percentage plays, putting the puck in the net with every opportunity.

These teams play again on October 15 in Victoria and I am sure that Grizzlies head coach Craig Didmon will not have to do much to get his team pumped for another game in this rivalry. Cowichan plays again on September 14 against Chilliwack at home, while Victoria battles Prince George on September 13 for their second game on this seven-game road trip.