The debut of a new coach helped the Cowichan Valley Capitals find some life and energy in a 4-2 victory over the Trail Smoke Eaters tonight. It was actually a very tight, physical battle that didn't remotely feel like a game between two teams at the bottom of the standings. The Capitals played like a team that was trying to impress their new coach while the Smoke Eaters really seem to be making strides with their defensive zone coverage and overall team game on the road. It was a game that really could have gone either way.
Trail certainly put the pressure on with 17 shots in the third period, but Alexandre Peck was very strong in the Capitals goal. The Smoke Eaters had their chances but couldn't convert. Scott Jacklin alone was all over his former team, and was denied a handful of times by Peck in the third period. There was a lot to like from the Smokies tonight. That's two consecutive games where they really cut down on the big mistakes in their own zone. Their coverage has been a lot better and the decision making a lot quicker. Perhaps the light is starting to go on for the inexperienced blue line? I also think the forwards in these two games have really made that extra effort to be better in their own end. That being said, you're not going to win too many games while only scoring two goals. Kiefer Smiley would likely like to have the winner back, but he was otherwise terrific in the two games on the island. It's too bad the team couldn't bail him out on that last one.
You're going to get road games like that sometimes. The Smokies battled hard and just didn't get the bounces... they came up a little short. I bet fans back home can accept games like that. It was the lopsided defeats that had some people pulling their hair out. As long as the team can keep building on the kinds of efforts we've seen here in the last two games there could be positive things coming for this group. We'll see how it goes against one of the top teams in the Coastal Conference when Trail visits Surrey on Sunday afternoon at 4pm. You can hear that one as always with Nelson Ford Trail Smoke Eaters play by play on Mountain FM. It'll be a chance for Trail to battle former Smokies Paul Barclay, Paul Levarsky and Chris Santiago. All three are key 20 year olds for the Eagles.
As for the Capitals, their victory means new coach Dale Purinton is 1-0 behind their bench. There has been a lot of criticism of the move to fire Scott Robison and positive comments about how great a coach he is. From everything I hear Robinson is certainly one of the most respected coaches in the province. As Smokies Coach Jim Ingram told me today, Robinson will only be unemployed as long as he wants to be. That being said, Purinton didn't fire anybody and should certainly only be judged for what he's responsible for. The former New York Rangers tough guy had an extended chat with me before tonight's game in one of his first interviews as the coach of the Caps...
Cowichan Valley Coach Dale Purinton
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He's certainly well spoken and seems to have a passion for the game. While he is obviously untested as a coach, it's Purinton's job now and we'll see if he sinks or swims. His team got off to a good start with a hard working and simple game against Trail tonight. Now it's up to him and the players to try and build on that. Just as it's now up to the Smoke Eaters to try and build on the positive steps they've taken over their last two games. Maybe later in the season fans can look back at what was considered a battle of two "lesser" teams as a turning point for both of them.
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