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Game Day: Caps, Cents Meet for Third and Final Time

The Cowichan Valley Capitals (21-26-3-2, 4th Island) return to action after a five-day layoff thanks to Friday night’s postponement vs. Salmon Arm; they’ll host the Merritt Centennials (20-22-8-2, 5th Interior), who are playing their third game in three days this weekend.

The Capitals today begin a stretch of three games in four days; they’ll play on Tuesday night in Alberni Valley and in Nanaimo on Wednesday night, then will have seven days off until their next game (Wed, Feb 22 vs. Salmon Arm). For the Centennials, they’re off until Friday night following today’s game, when they’ll play the first of a home-and-home with the Trail Smoke Eaters at Cominco Arena. For both of these teams, four of their final five games are against divisional opponents.

The Caps’ most recent game was a 5-4 setback vs. Nanaimo on Feb 7. For the Cents, who entered the weekend having won two straight, they suffered a 4-1 loss in Chilliwack on Friday night and a 5-4 loss in Victoria last night.

In the season series to date, Cowichan has beat Merritt on both occasions, and in both of those games the Capitals scored to take a lead in the final 10 minutes of the game. On Sep 23 in Chilliwack at the BCHL Showcase, with the score tied 2-2 it was John Sladic who scored the eventual game-winner, his first BCHL goal, with 6:56 left to play in the third period. On Oct 1 in Merritt, the Centennials led 3-2 late before Ryan Hogg, now with the Salmon Arm Silverbacks, scored with 8:17 remaining in regulation to tie the game for the Capitals, which set the stage for Max Newton to score the winner with 1:21 left in the third. Capitals goalie Lane Michasiw has started both games, and has stopped a combined 63 of 68 shots in earning two wins against Merritt this season.

Season Series:

09/23/16: (at BCHL Showcase) Merritt 2, Cowichan 4

10/01/16: at Merritt 3, Cowichan 4

02/12/17: at Cowichan, 2:00 pm

The Centennials clinched a playoff spot five nights ago when they earned two points in a 6-2 win at home over West Kelowna on Feb 7. With the new playoff structure this season, Merritt pulled out of reach of the Surrey Eagles, who are fifth in the Mainland but could still clinch if they moved ahead of the sixth-place Interior team (Salmon Arm).

For the Capitals to clinch, they’ll need to finish in the top-four of the Island Division; currently they sit six points ahead of the fifth-place Alberni Valley Bulldogs, as the Bulldogs have five games remaining to the Caps’ six. Cowichan could clinch a playoff spot as early as Tuesday night, should they win in any fashion today and win in regulation in two nights when they play in Alberni Valley.

Puck drop at the Island Savings Centre is at 2:00 pm today.

Who’s Hot:

Capitals: If you read Friday’s preview, you’ll know what to expect here… Mitch Skapski has goals in three straight games… John Sladic has goals in back-to-back contests and has put up three goals and an assist in that span… Leading-scorer Max Newton has points in four straight games… Ayden MacDonald has points in three of his past four games and seven of his past nine… Justin Perron has three goals in the past three games…

Centennials: Tyler Ward has points in five straight games and six of his past seven… Chase Bell has points in three straight… Leading-scorer Zach Risteau has points in four of his past five games… Goalie Jacob Berger has stopped 85 of 91 shots in his past three starts; he’s won two of those games and posted one shutout…

Need to Know: Capitals forward Jared Domin returns after serving a four-game suspension… The Capitals game vs. Salmon Arm Silverbacks on Friday night was cancelled because of the Coquihalla being shut down, which halted the Silverbacks’ team bus; that game has been moved to Wed, Feb 22 at the Island Savings Centre…

Did You Know?: The Capitals have won four straight meetings against the Centennials; Merritt’s last win against Cowichan was Feb 15, 2015 in Duncan… Caps d-man Marshall Skapski today will face his former team for the first time since being traded to Cowichan on Dec 1, 2016…  Capitals forwards Justin Perron (two goals) and Nick Wilson (two assists) each had the first multi-point game of their respective BCHL careers on Tuesday night vs. Nanaimo… The Capitals are 16-2-1-0 when scoring four-or-more goals in a game this season; both of those regulation losses have been 5-4 setbacks against the Nanaimo Clippers… Cents’ rookie goalie Jacob Berger has the fourth-best save-percentage among all BCHL goalies (.920); Berger is second in the league in saves at 1,150, and trails only Caps goalie Lane Michasiw who has 1,151… Cents forward Zach Risteau is tied for second in points among BCHL rookies (47), third in goals (25) and second in powerplay goals (11); his teammate Cade Gleekel is tied for seventh in BCHL rookie scoring (42 points)… Caps d-man Chris Harpur is tied for eighth in points among BCHL defenseman (32), while Josh Owings is tied for 12th (29 points)…

Game notes provided by Colton Davies of 89.7 Juice FM.