Sports

Nanaimo Clippers sharpen special teams ahead of playoffs

With the playoffs approaching, the Nanaimo Clippers will be fine tuning their game in the final three regular season contests.

The Clippers hit the ice twice this week, with a road game against the Cowichan Valley Capitals Friday (Feb. 21) and a game at Frank Crane Arena the following night (Feb. 22) versus the Surrey Eagles.

There is a premium on special teams in the postseason and according to head coach and general manager Mike Vandekamp, the power play and penalty killing will be things the coaching staff will be looking to hone. The Clippers currently own the fourth-best power play (19.15 per cent) and the sixth-best penalty killing (83.46 per cent) units in the B.C. Hockey League.

“Special teams, they're going to be so important in the playoffs. Continuing to have a good penalty kill, our penalty kill has been pretty darn strong the second half of the season, and just continuing that process,” Vandekamp said. “Confidence is such a strong factor in [the power play] and if we can end with a couple of games that our power play does a good job, then I think that builds a little bit of confidence going into the playoffs.”

The Capitals will be fighting for their playoff lives, currently tied with Alberni Valley for the final postseason spot in the Island Division, and the Eagles, like the Clips, have already punched a ticket to the playoffs. Vandekamp said staff will ensure that players don't take their opponents lightly and become complacent.

He said they will not allow for any bad habits to form. The Clippers have had a season of learning and can't afford to take any steps back.

“Our game against Cowichan is a game where they're a pretty strong rival of ours. It's an absolutely massive game for them ... we obviously look forward to that challenge,” Vandekamp said. “The game against Surrey, they are only one of two teams in our league that we did not beat this season and we have a chance to beat them here in the final game against them and if that's the case we will have beaten every team in the league except for one, so I guess there's a little motivation there.”

Following the game against Surrey, the Clippers don't play again until Feb. 28 when they host the Powell River Kings in their regular season finale.

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