Garrett James Photography

Cowichan Valley Capitals continue to navigate unusual offseason


The Cowichan Valley Capitals had an impressive 2019-20 season. They held first place in the Island Division for much of the season, before ultimately finishing second. The second place finish awarded them home ice advantage and a date with the Powell River Kings in the first round of the BCHL playoffs.

The Capitals finished off the pesky Kings in five close and entertaining games. The five-game series win for the Caps and Nanaimo’s four game sweep of Alberni Valley meant we would see a much anticipated Cowichan vs. Nanaimo Island Division final.

However, COVID-19 had other plans and the playoffs were canceled before that series began. This meant the end of the line for all of the graduating 20-year-olds. As difficult as it was for the season to end this way, it’s business as usual as the Caps prepare for 2020-21, whenever it gets underway.

The Capitals current situation is no different than other BCHL team, or really any sports team around the world right now. In addition to the cancellation of the BCHL playoffs, the Capitals also had to cancel their spring camp, which was scheduled for May 23rd and 24th.

They are without the usual revenue generated from playoff games, spring camp, or anticipated sponsorships. There is also an inability to use playoffs and championship tournaments as last chance scouting opportunities. The Capitals, like the rest of the BCHL, continue to navigate through a coronavirus-impacted world.

They have experienced a fair amount of change to their roster so far. There has been a change to the head coach and general manager position. The Capitals are also weighing the usual roster transition of graduating players and eligible returnees.

Capitals change head coach and general manager

In April, Cowichan announced that head coach and general manager Mike Vandekamp would not return next season. Vandekamp instead moved on to the Grande Prairie Storm of the Alberta Junior Hockey League.

He spent two seasons as the Caps bench boss, compiling a record of 52-51-10-3. He also won a playoff series in each season he spent with the Capitals. This past season, Vandekamp and the Capitals finished one point out of first place in the Island Division with a 35-16-5-2 record. They would then go on to eliminate the Powell River Kings in five games before the season was canceled.

In 2018-19, the Caps only won 17 games, but they knocked off the 37-win Penticton Vees in six games. The Capitals season would end after losing in six games to the Wenatchee Wild in the second round.

In May, the Capitals announced Geoff Grimwood would be their next head coach and general manager. Grimwood joins Cowichan from the Winkler Flyers of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League. He finished the season as assistant coach of the Flyers after joining them in January.

At the outset of the season, Grimwood was the head coach and general manager of the Swan Valley Stampeders, also of the MJHL. He stepped down from his duties with Swan Valley in December.

Grimwood spent the 2018-19 season in the BCHL as head coach and general manager of the West Kelowna Warriors. The Warriors went 28-28-1-1 under Grimwood that season, losing in game seven of the first round against Wenatchee. In his only other BCHL stint, Grimwood served as an assistant coach with Powell River from 2010 to 2012. He has well over a decade of coaching experience at the junior B, Junior A, and major junior levels.

Cowichan says goodbye to four graduating forwards

With the conclusion of the 2019-20 season, four Capitals forwards played their final game of junior hockey.

Olivier Gauthier just completed his second season as a member of the Capitals. In 116 regular season games, Gauthier racked up 30 goals and 39 assists for 69 points. The forward added six assists in 17 playoff games. He will continue his hockey career at University of Alaska-Anchorage of the NCAA next season.

Brady Lynn played his last game of junior hockey as a member of the Capitals. After being acquired from Nanaimo, Lynn played 89 regular season games in parts of two seasons with Cowichan. In that time, the forward managed 16 goals and 26 assists for 42 points. Lynn also played 17 playoff games, adding seven goals and five assists for the Capitals. The 20-year-old will continue his hockey career with Ontario Tech University of U Sports.

Tanner Sidaway joined the Capitals for his final year of junior hockey after playing four seasons in the Western Hockey League. In 42 games with Cowichan, the 20-year-old contributed 12 goals and nine assists for 21 points, adding 67 penalty minutes.

The final graduating forward of the Capitals is team captain Cruz Cote. The 20-year-old joined the Caps’ after over three seasons with the Grande Prairie Storm. He played 74 regular season games over two seasons with Cowichan, compiling 16 goals and 25 assist for 41 points. In another 17 playoff games with the Capitals, he added three goals and two assists. Cote will continue his hockey career with Red Deer College next season.

Cowichan graduates two defencemen and a goalie to NCAA

In addition to the four graduating forwards from this year’s team, the Capitals also said goodbye to a couple of defensemen who will continue their careers in the NCAA.

Dimitri Mikrogiannakis played two seasons with the Capitals. Over 112 regular season games, he registered 13 goals and 60 assists for 73 points, and 146 penalty-minutes. He added 10 points in 17 playoff games with Cowichan. This season, Mikrogiannakis was a runner-up for the BCHL defenseman of the year award and the Island Division nominee for most valuable player. The Capitals assistant captain moves on to Rochester Institute of Technology of the NCAA this fall.

Tyrell Boucher played one season with the Capitals, after completing three seasons with the Grande Prairie Storm. The defenseman recorded six goals and 31 assists for 37 points in 58 regular season games. He added two assists in the Capitals’ five playoff games. Boucher graduates to the University of Alaska-Anchorage of the NCAA next season.

Goaltender Zach Borgiel has also earned himself an NCAA commitment for next season, with Merrimack College. The 20-year-old played 44 regular season games this season, picking up 26 wins, and adding four shutouts. He carried a 2.55 goals-against-average and a .923 save-percentage. Borgiel also played all five playoff games for the caps, going 4-1 with a 2.62 GAA and a .925 SV%.

BWC forward Adam Grenier commits to Cowichan

On April 28, the Capitals announced a player commitment from Adam Grenier. The 17-year-old from Coquitlam spent last season with Burnaby Winter Club’s U18 Prep team in the Canadian Sport School Hockey League. Grenier is one of seven members from his team to commit to BCHL teams this season. He finished second in team scoring this past season with 15 goals and 24 assists for 39 points in 36 games.

“Growing up in Coquitlam, I’ve always been around the BCHL. I have a lot of buddies that have chosen the BCHL, they say nothing but great things about the league. I chose this route because of the academics, and my style of play, school is really important to me,” said Grenier in a news release announcing the commitment.

Grenier does have one BCHL game under his belt, suiting up for the Chilliwack Chiefs last season. “It was really nice to get that experience in. I’m really excited to come to Cowichan and play for the Capitals,” he added.

Voice of the Caps wins broadcaster of the year

The play-by-play voice of the Cowichan Valley Capitals won BCHL broadcaster of the year earlier this spring. Duncan, BC native Justis Doucet earned the recognition after a vote by all 17 team broadcasters. He has been calling games for his hometown team for the past three seasons.

Previously, he worked for the Kerry Park Islanders of the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League. The 23-year-old is a graduate of the BCIT Broadcast and Online Journalism program.

In an unrelated series of tweets, Doucet wasn’t shy about sharing his feelings about this year’s Capitals team. I highly recommended clicking on the tweet below and reading through the thread.

Clearly, the best broadcaster in the BCHL is also among the most passionate for his team. His sentiments would be echoed by everyone within the organization, as well as the fans. While we all await things to return to normal, Doucet and the rest of the Cowichan Valley can’t wait to get next season started.