Around and around they go. The first circuit of the BCHL’s round robin is complete, with nothing much settled.
The Nanaimo Clippers fell 4-1 to the Chilliwack Chiefs on Saturday night at Frank Crane Arena, meaning all three teams are 1-1 so far in Round 3 of the B.C. Hockey League playoffs.
Mike Vandekamp, Clippers coach, didn’t think his team was sharp enough on Saturday.
“We’ve been playing a pretty strong game when it comes to having heavy sticks and battling and we didn’t win enough battles – small stuff, faceoffs, puck possession…” he said. “And mentally and emotionally we didn’t have as much focus and as much discipline as we’ve had in the games up to this point.”
After a scoreless first period, the Chiefs’ Jake Smith opened the scoring after a giveaway led to a two-on-none opportunity right in front. Kale Kane added a power-play marker to make it 2-0, but Sheldon Rempal closed the gap to 2-1 after deking out the Chiefs’ goalie.
In the third period, Jordan Kawaguchi was allowed to come out from behind the net and fire a wrister home. The Clippers hit a post and a crossbar in the period, but came no closer and Darien Craighead closed out the scoring with an empty-netter.
Aidan Pelino was the winning goalie with 34 saves and Evan Johnson suffered the loss, making 28 stops.
“They came hard at us and for a lot of it, we handled them pretty well, but we just had a couple bad shifts and they’re good at capitalizing on their opportunities,” said Edwin Hookenson, Clippers alternate captain.
Ryan Forbes, Chiefs centreman and a former Clipper, said there was “real animosity” out there considering the teams don’t play each other often. He said the two teams played hard and with good pace.
“We knew they’re a good, hard-working team, we knew they’d come out strong and we just did our best to work hard,” Forbes said.
The Chiefs knew they needed to get back on even terms in Round 3 after losing their opener to the West Kelowna Warriors.
“We knew coming into this there’s three pretty optimistic teams; they’re all good teams,” Forbes said. “So you lose a game, you want to have a bounce-back game and that’s what we accomplished tonight.”
The Clippers, meanwhile, feel they let an opportunity slip away after starting with a win against the Warriors.
“We got ourselves in a good position winning in West Kelowna and we kind of threw that away tonight,” Hookenson said. “We need that win in Chilliwack on Monday … We need to get ourselves back in this series.”
He said the Clippers will be mentally prepared for the rematch. Vandekamp expects the intensity to rise as the three teams enter the next round of the round robin.
“It just puts a little more of an exclamation point on the next game, and it looks like it’s going to be a long week,” he said.
GAME ON … The Clippers and Chiefs play in Chilliwack on Monday (April 4) at 7 p.m. Chilliwack then visits West Kelowna on Wednesday. Next home action for the Clippers is Friday, when they host the Warriors at 7 p.m. at Frank Crane Arena.