Capitals slow up Victoria Grizzlies' plans for a division title

A consolation prize is still a prize. The Victoria Grizzlies and Alberni Valley Bulldogs are hot after it in the Island pod of the B.C. Hockey League. With the BCHL title a victim of the pandemic and not on offer this season, teams have refocused their ambitions on winning their pod championships, of which there are five.

But something funny happened on the way to the Island pod coronation as the Cowichan Valley Capitals upended the Grizzlies 3-2 on Tuesday night at Weyerhaeuser Arena in Port Alberni.

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The Grizzlies (12-5) remained two points ahead of the Bulldogs (9-3-4) in the race for the Island crown. Victoria has three games remaining and Alberni Valley four.

Cowichan Valley (6-9-2) has played Victoria tough this season and is 3-3-1 against the Grizzlies. The victory moved the Caps out of the Island basement, two points ahead of Nanaimo, although the Clippers have a game in hand.

Cowichan Valley goaltender Jayden Shull held the Grizzlies at bay with a 43-save performance to be named first star. Outshot 21-9 in the first period, the Shull and the Capitals finally gave up a goal by NCAA Div. 1 Northern Michigan-bound Grizzlies defenceman Isack Bandu on the power play at 2:16 of the second period. Tyler Leibel levelled for Cowichan Valley at 7:22. Tanner Komzak put the upset-minded Caps ahead at 12:29 of the third period on the power play and Sean Ramsay struck at 14:51 for what turned out to be the winner. Bandu scored his second power play goal of the night at 19:35.

Victoria goaltender Carter Woodside, who went into the game with a league third-best 2.18 goals-against average, made 25 saves.

The Grizzlies meet the Nanaimo Clippers (6-10) today in a matinee. Cowichan Valley meets Alberni Valley tonight. The Grizzlies and Bulldogs meet in two crucial matinee contests Friday and Sunday that could decide the division championship. Nanaimo and Cowichan Valley play on Friday and Saturday nights. The 20-game-per-team Island Division pandemic season concludes with Nanaimo playing Alberni Valley next Tuesday.

The annual powerhouse Penticton Vees (16-1-1), with 14 NCAA Div. 1 committed players, will win the Penticton pod. The Surrey Eagles (14-2-1) have clinched the Coquitlam pod. The Vernon pod will come down to the Vipers and Salmon Arm Silverbacks and the Chilliwack pod to the Chiefs and Prince George Spruce Kings.

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