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Nanaimo Clippers forward Luke Gordon gets a pass in front of the Alberni Valley Bulldogs crease during Tuesday's B.C. Hockey League game at Port Alberni.
GREG SAKAKI/The News Bulletin

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Youngsters getting an opportunity

Wins and losses still matter to the Nanaimo Clippers.

The city’s B.C. Hockey League team will miss the playoffs, but when it take the ice Friday (March 9) and Sunday to host games against the Powell River Kings at Frank Crane Arena, it will be with the goal of finishing up the 2011-12 season with two more wins.

“We’re going to attack them as if we needed [the] points to make the playoffs. That’s how we’re going to play…” said Mike Vandekamp, coach of the Clippers. “We’re playing to win here. We’re not fooling around.”

So they’re playing to win, but they also recognize that in some ways, they’re playing for next season.

The team reassessed its goals after officially dropping out of playoff contention last Friday.

“As soon as we were eliminated from the playoffs we had five games to play, so with those five games we want to leave the season feeling comfortable that the core group is the core group we want to build around,” said Vandekamp, also the team’s general manager. “So they’ve got an important week right now, to show that.”

The Clippers’ younger players received a larger share of playing time Sunday in a 3-2 loss to Coquitlam and Tuesday in a 4-0 loss at Port Alberni.

Vandekamp said the coaching staff is interested to see the effort, focus and determination of the younger players.

“They’ll probably get a little bit more ice time and opportunities to go out and play within the structure of the team, play hard and have as much success as they can have out there,” he said.

For example, Vandekamp kept the youthful line of Jesse Neher, Jared Chinn and Mason Blacklock together for long stretches.

“I’m getting a bit more ice so I’m just trying to show that I can be one of their go-to guys next year,” said Blacklock.

He said he’s trying to “show that I’m confident at this level, I’m confident with getting more ice and I’m creating chances, playing well in the D zone, stuff like that.”

Chinn is getting his chance after serving as a junior B affiliate the last two months.

“I just need to get out there and play and really show the coaching staff that I want to be here,” he said. “I just need to take control of my game, be more confident, make more plays on the puck and get to the net and try to shoot the puck a little bit more.”

Another younger player, Luke Gordon, commented that he’s trying to show a willingness to work hard on the ice and an attention to doing the little things right.

“I’m just trying to play my game and prove that I deserve to be here and do my part to help this team do what we want to do, which is win,” said Gordon.

GAME ON … The Clippers play the Powell River Kings on Friday (March 9) at 7 p.m. at Frank Crane Arena and then again Sunday at 3 p.m., also at Frank Crane.

sports@nanaimobulletin.com

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