Clippers aren’t done yet at Westerns

The Nanaimo Clippers stayed alive in the WCC tournament with a 4-1 win over the Steinbach Pistons on Thursday at Frank Crane Arena.

Nanaimo Clippers forward Michael McNicholas

Nanaimo Clippers forward Michael McNicholas

The Clippers aren’t about to quit on this Cup run.

The Nanaimo Clippers stayed alive in the Western Canada Cup tournament with a 4-1 win over the Steinbach Pistons on Thursday at Frank Crane Arena. The result means that Nanaimo (2-2) finishes fourth in the round robin and gets to play the Yorkton Terriers in the 3-4 game Saturday (May 4).

The Clippers came out Thursday and played an energetic style from the opening faceoff.

“At some point in a tournament like this, you’re going to have to play for your life, that’s just the way the tournament’s designed…” said Mike Vandekamp, Clippers coach. “Getting up for this game probably wouldn’t be difficult for any athlete with what’s on the line.”

Nanaimo got the start it wanted when a Mason Mitchell shot hit Kyle Kramer in front of the Steinbach crease and bounced up in the air overtop of Pistons goalie Corey Koop and over the goal line. Reid Sturos made it 2-0 with 11 seconds left in the period as a he got wide open in the slot and one-timed a rolling puck into the back of the net.

In the second period, the Pistons played like a team facing elimination and sent a barrage of pucks at Clippers goalie Jayson Argue, who stopped 20 of 21 shots he faced in the frame.

“He was a real battler for us,” said Vandekamp.

Just a minute and a half after the Pistons’ Taylor Friesen made it 2-1, the Clippers’ Garrett Brandsma restored his team’s two-goal margin.

The Clips kept things cool in the third and coasted to victory, with Trevor Fitzgerald rounding out the scoring with five minutes left on a rebound goal.

Argue finished with 40 saves as the Pistons outshot the Shipmen 41-38.

“We didn’t want to be the one team that gets eliminated before playoffs…” said Argue. “We knew this game was going to be big and we knew we could win this game; we just had to play our game.”

Clippers defenceman Josh Bryan, named player of the game, said his team would have been devastated with anything other than a berth in the WCC’s playoff round.

“We were hoping for a higher result, maybe playing in the first-second game, but obviously that’s not going to happen so we’ve just got to bear down and we’ve got to win out the rest of the tournament if we want to go to [Royal Bank Cup nationals].”

The Clippers can’t win the WCC, but they’d sure like that second RBC berth that’s this weekend’s consolation prize.

“It’s huge getting into that playoff round but we’re not done here; we’re going to keep going,” said Argue.

GAME ON … The Clippers and the Terriers play Saturday (May 4) at 2 p.m. at Frank Crane Arena. Tickets will be available at the door, or they can be purchased online at www.nanaimoclippers.com … The Brooks Bandits and Surrey Eagles play in Saturday’s WCC championship game at 7 p.m. … The second RBC qualifier game is Sunday at 4 p.m.

sports@nanaimobulletin.com