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The Nanaimo Clippers tried their hardest to extend their playoff run, but hockey season is over.
The Clips were eliminated from the B.C. Hockey League playoffs on Monday following a 5-3 road loss to the Powell River Kings. The Kings won the series four games to one.
“As much as it was a 4-1 exit for us, it could have easily been a 4-1 series win for us; that’s how tight the series was,” said Dave Johnston, Clippers assistant coach. “We’re obviously devastated by the first-round exit but we’re also very happy with the way our players battled. There was absolutely no quit in our guys.”
Devin Brosseau and Sheldon Rempal scored power-play goals late in the first period Monday to stake the visitors to a lead, but the Kings scored three in the second. The Clippers’ Edwin Hookenson tallied on the PP late in that frame to make the score 3-3 going into the third.
With the game in the balance, the Kings got two pucks past Clippers goalie Jayson Argue.
Johnston thought one of the Kings’ goals should have been disallowed and pointed out that the Clips had one waved off.
“Sometimes the hockey gods are in your favour and sometimes they’re not,” he said. “We played with great passion. We played hard. We just didn’t get key breaks at key moments.”
He called it a great series with five great games, and said he thinks even the Kings know that the outcome could have gone the other way.
“Considering this was, in quotations, a ‘rebuilding’ year, we were a very good hockey team that could have quite easily won that series,” Johnston said.
Instead, the brief post-season run gives the team’s first-year juniors some experience with the pace of playoff hockey. The games also brought the Clippers closer together.
“Our group cared very deeply about each other, but I think when you go to battle it brings the group tighter,” Johnston said.
Powell River advances to play either the Victoria Grizzlies or the Alberni Valley Bulldogs in the Island Division final. Those teams met in a Game 7 on Wednesday after press time.
The Clippers, meanwhile, are transitioning to off-season mode with player exit meetings. The club will hold its year-end awards banquet tonight (March 13) at the Nanaimo Golf Club.
Five 20-year-old Clippers now graduate from junior hockey – team captain Scott Prier, No. 1 goalie Argue, forward Luke Sandler and defencemen Colton Dahlen and Shay Laurent.
ICE CHIPS … Look for a season-in-review article in an upcoming issue of the News Bulletin.