It’s a question every Nanaimo Clipper, rookie or veteran, knows how to answer.
What colour do we bleed?
Orange, of course – that’s the simplest question. At this time of year, at the outset of another B.C. Hockey League season, there are dozens more questions surrounding every team.
The Nanaimo Clippers junior A hockey club will seek to answer any questions in the affirmative when they step on the ice this Saturday (Sept. 11) on the road at Powell River.
“I like the group we’ve got,” said Bill Bestwick, Clippers coach and general manager. “We have a nice balance of size and speed and skill and good goaltending and we’re pretty mobile in the back end. We like what we see but we’ll only really know at game time.”
If the Shipmen are to become more competitive in 2010-11, they need to heed the lessons of last season when they suffered through a woeful mid-season slump but recovered in time to turn some heads in the playoffs.
“We’ve just got to … get good habits going early on and make sure we carry that through the whole season and play consistently,” said Mike Domsodi, veteran forward. “We have a good group of guys who will battle hard and win a lot of games.”
Here’s a look at the Clippers who will take the ice this weekend:
One of two top lines this fall consists of Zach Martin, Andrew Gladiuk and Dominic Savoie. Martin, who played only four games in orange and black in 2009-10, worked as hard as anyone in the off-season to get to the point where he is likely to line up as the No. 1 centre on opening night.
Savoie, a versatile veteran from major junior, adds poise and a quick shot to the line and hard-shooting Gladiuk can score from anywhere in the attacking zone.
The other top unit sees Brayden Jaw playing with wingers Mike Domsodi and Kyle Kramer. Jaw has all the tools to be an impact player and the tenacious Kramer has made noticeable strides already this pre-season. Domsodi has shown he can be hard to stop when he uses his power-forward frame to his advantage.
The third line, at least for the start of the year, is likely to see centre Yannick LaFlamme playing with Leo Fitzgerald and Marc Guertin. LaFlamme, coming from midget, is starting to adjust to the pace of junior and Fitzgerald possesses playmaking ability. Guertin, another big-bodied crease crasher, didn’t get into any pre-season games but the Clippers liked what they saw from him in Quebec junior AAA last spring.
Other forwards slated to suit up Saturday are Gerry Fitzgerald, Myles Fitzgerald and Brett Hartskamp.
Team captain Colton Cyr, out with a broken jaw, may miss all of September. Another veteran, Tristan Lowenberger, will resume skating Tuesday.
The Clippers have decided to start the season with just six defencemen on the active roster.
Nick Bell and Mike Puddifant will make up a shut-down pairing. Bell has shown much improvement since his rookie season last year and Puddifant, a three-year BCHL vet, has great instincts in his own zone.
Making up another pairing will be rookies Jeffrey Coffin and Sam Labrecque. Coffin earned his spot with a strong camp while Labrecque showed in the pre-season why he was so aggressively recruited – the prep school grad has a cannon from the point and is quick to get back defensively.
The most veteran D unit sees Tyler Mah alongside Victor Newell. As a 20-year-old, Mah’s job was on the line but he beat out giant Chris Johnson in camp to retain his roster spot. Newell, the Clippers’ top defenceman last year as a 16-year-old, will now need to live up to heightened expectations in 2010-11.
Todd Gebert will become one of the leaders on D when he finally returns from injury in early October and young Kiefer McNaughton should be back in the mix at about the same time.
The goaltending picture was shaken up dramatically on the weekend when the Clippers decided that Charles-Andre Pelletier earned the No. 1 spot (see related story) over now-departed Loic Boivin. Charles-Alexy Premont steps into the backup role.
The Clippers face the Powell River Kings on Saturday (Sept. 11) at 7:30 p.m. on the road, then hold their home opener Sept. 17 at Frank Crane Arena against the Surrey Eagles. Season ticket information is available at www.nanaimoclippers.com. At the door this season, tickets will cost $14.50 for adults; $13 for seniors and students;
$9 for children 6-12 and free for kids five and under.