The Nanaimo Clippers beat Alberni Valley Bulldogs 2-1 Thursday night in Port Alberni to sweep the B.C. Hockey League Island Division semifinals in four straight games.
“(The Bulldogs) played us really hard today,” Clippers’ head coach Darren Naylor said. “The second period, they were all over us. Our goalie (Jordan Naylor) held us in the second period and we were lucky enough to get that late one; I think that one stung the Bulldogs a little bit.”
After a scoreless first period, the Bulldogs opened scoring at 6:01 of the second, Mattias Dal Monte putting a pass from Tommy Bannister away. The Clippers’ Ethan Scardina pulled Nanaimo even with 33 seconds left in the second.
Scardina also collected an assist on Tim Washe’s second of the season, scored at the four-minute mark of the third period to give Nanaimo the lead and the eventual Game 4 sweep.
Jordan Naylor stopped 34 of 25 shots for the Clippers, while Luke Pearson stopped 36 of 38 in net for the Bulldogs.
“It’s always tough when it’s over,” a subdued Bulldogs’ head coach Joe Martin said following the game. This was Martin’s first year in Port Alberni after winning coach of the year in 2019 with the Merritt Centennials.
“We were feeling like in the last two games we were just getting back to who we were; we lost it for a long time for numerous reasons. We got our groove back, got our players healthy just before playoffs.”
“We’re a pretty stingy team,” Darren Naylor said, adding that the Clippers haven’t given up a lot of goals all year. He complimented the Bulldogs after the game. “This is a good hockey team; maybe a little bit young,” he said, adding that they remind him of where Nanaimo was last season.
“They have nothing to hang their heads about. They battled us pretty hard.”
Consistency is what gave Nanaimo the edge in this series, he added – that and the flexibility to play wide-open games such as the first two in the series, as well as tighter games behind the blueline like they had to in Port Alberni.
“People are realizing that we’re pretty deep, and we’re a pretty solid team. We’ve been pretty consistent all year,” he said. “We don’t really have one superstar kind of a guy. We’re four lines, six D and two goalies, and that’s how we play it.”
Winning the Island Division regular season title gives the Clippers home ice advantage in the division finals. Nanaimo has won nine games in a row now, and has only lost a handful of games at home.
GAME ON … The Clippers will play the winner of Cowichan Valley Capitals versus Powell River Kings series. The Caps have a chance to win their series at home on Friday, March 6, in Game 5.