BCHL season about to intensify

It may be a new year, but it isn’t a fresh start for the Nanaimo Clippers.

Instead, it’s back to the grind, as the B.C. Hockey League schedule enters the stretch run and games start to matter even more.

“Things do intensify,” said Michael Olson, an assistant coach of the Clippers. “Things are more under the microscope right now and every game’s crucial.”

Fresh off a special-event exhibition game against a club team from Sweden, the Clippers will now get back to a more regular routine.

The schedule resumes this Friday (Jan. 7) when the Cowichan Valley Capitals visit Frank Crane Arena. Nanaimo then travels to play the Victoria Grizzlies on Saturday before coming back home to face the Coquitlam Express on Sunday. All the games matter, as only 10 points separate the fourth-place Grizz from the eighth-place Express, with the Clips and the Caps in fifth and seventh, respectively.

“We’re chasing Victoria and the two other teams are chasing us,” Olson said. “They’re right on our heels. From us to the bottom it’s pretty tight.”

Friday’s matchup with Cowichan shapes up as the best one of the bunch, especially since the Capitals have been able to string together a few victories lately.

“We’ve got to keep them below us,” said Andrew Gladiuk, an alternate captain on the Shipmen.

He said his team needs to come out prepared to work hard and prepared to battle. An early lead would help the cause, said Gladiuk.

“We let them hang around in a couple games this season. We’ve got to put them away when we have the chance early.”

Jesse Ursic, Clippers defenceman, said his team is preparing for a hard-hitting affair.

“Our players build off it,” he said. “We get good momentum when we have a physical game.”

The Clips also hope crowd support will buoy them down the stretch. The team loved having a full building for the New Year’s Day exhibition and saw what it can do for game-day atmosphere.

“I hope people that came out to the Sweden game, I hope that we do see some of them back,” said Bill Bestwick, Clippers coach and general manager. “It’s entertaining and it’s good value for your entertainment dollar.”

GAME ON … The Clippers face Cowichan this Friday (Jan. 7) at 7:10 p.m. at Frank Crane Arena. Tickets will be available at the door.