Powell River Kings added four points to their BC Hockey League-leading total with two wins, 5-4 and 3-2, over Cowichan Valley Capitals last weekend.
There was good news to start things off on Friday with the long awaited return of defencemen Luke Ripley and Jordan Burns along with high-scoring forward Ryan Scarfo.
Luke Nogard came through on the powerplay at 17:14 of the first period to get the Kings started on the right foot.
In fact, special teams were key for the Kings, and the second goal came when Scarfo forced a turnover by the Caps at their own blue line and Drew Dorantes rushed down the right wing to score shorthanded at 14:39.
Less than 30 seconds later Cowichan was back to within a goal on a tricky backhand to the top corner.
One of the Kings’ shortcomings in this game was their tendency to take their foot off the gas pedal just enough to allow the Caps to recover.
Kings’ Kurt Keats replied on the powerplay at 17:19 but once again Caps were back to within one in under a minute.
Queue the penalty killers and with just nine seconds to go in the middle frame Scarfo took a pass from Dorantes and slid the puck under Caps’ goalie Robin Gusse to go up 4-2 after two.
“Nice ice-burner right on the ice and I’ll take it,” Scarfo said of the shot and result that surprised everyone.
Dorantes got the Kings off to a great start with his second of the game at 1:17 of the third but the pesky Capitals just wouldn’t go away with a couple of goals in the middle of the period.
Kings settled down to successfully hold off the Capitals but ultimately coaches and players were left wanting more.
“I think they took it to us for the first 10,” admitted Scarfo. “It’s a good hockey club over there tonight and we can definitely improve in a lot of areas. We were up by two or three goals and we should be able to protect that lead. I think for us to be successful we just have to be harder to play against.”
Teams aren’t likely to slack off against the league leaders so Kings need to be sharp every night.
“We’re going to play some great teams down the stretch,” Scarfo said, “so we’ve got to figure some stuff out.”
Kings took some of his advice in the rematch on Saturday and played much better as a unit.
This game had a quicker pace to it than the previous one and the Kings, after surrendering a goal in the first period, bounced back in the second to lead 2-1 after two periods.
JJ Coleshaw was a player possessed on a couple of shifts that saw him score on a hard 30-foot slapshot from the left wing at 13:27 and then rush down the right wing at 14:24 to put the Kings up 2-1 after two.
Powell River looked extremely comfortable with the lead throughout most of the third but Cowichan, with the goalie out, got the equalizer on a scramble in front of the Kings’ net at 19:40.
The first overtime was largely uneventful but in the second three-on-three period, Nogard scored a highlight reel goal in any league to beat Gusse and secure a 3-2 win for his team.
There were a couple of great individual performances in the game and one of the stars, Coleshaw, was smiling later when he said that Kent Lewis, general manager and coach, “always tells us to take slapshots coming down the wings so I decided to try it out.”
That was his first goal and of the second he said, “I realized that they had their big, slow D-man there so I knew I could beat him because I did in Cowichan a couple of weeks ago. I decided to try to take it to the net and see if I could catch [Gusse] cheating off the post and I got it in there.”
Of the result he said, “We’re happy with the four points but not really satisfied with our effort. We expect the world out of this group and we’re first in the league now and we want nothing less than the RBC Cup.”
A perplexed Lewis said of the team’s performance, “We score goals but we just haven’t been playing to our expectations. You had a desperate hockey club this weekend and you had a very complacent hockey club this weekend, but we only gave up three shots in the first and in the third and we really didn’t give them anything. It’s got to be better overall, but it was better tonight than last night.”
There are 10 games left in the schedule to fine tune and the Kings host Coquitlam Express on Friday, February 7, before heading to Vancouver Island to play Cowichan on Saturday, February 8, and then Victoria Grizzlies on Sunday, February 9.