It took until the third period of Game 7, but the Nanaimo Clippers prevailed and they’re moving on.
The Clips defeated the Alberni Valley Bulldogs 3-1 on Wednesday night at Frank Crane Arena to win the first-round best-of-seven series. Nanaimo won the first three games of the series but Alberni won the next three to force Game 7.
“We just wanted to come in tonight and forget what happened in the last three games and just kind of lay it all on the line,” said Brendan Taylor, Clippers captain. “Everyone performed tonight and we came out with a big win.”
The contest was a close one, tied 0-0 for most of the first period and then tied 1-1 until eight minutes to go, when Nicolas Carrier fired home a rebound to break the tie.
The Bulldogs created some traffic as they tried for a tying goal and even got a late power play, but the Clips got a long-range empty-net goal from Spencer Hewson to ice the win.
Alberni’s Josh Adkins and Nanaimo’s Nick Gushue traded goals two minutes apart in the first period. Guillaume Decelles made 23 saves for the win, while Billy Christopoulos turned aside 37 shots in defeat.
“I thought we played a great game tonight. Their goalie played great, we had some quality chances, it stayed tight,” said Mike Vandekamp, Clippers coach. “Alberni did something pretty special in this series, to be down 3-0 in an underdog position, to fight as hard as they did was really impressive. We really had to dig deep to be able to find a way to win this series.”
The coach said his team played with composure, trusted one another on the ice and battled hard. Learning how to win in the playoffs the way they did will make the Clippers stronger, Vandekamp said.
“It’s probably the best thing that could have happened to us,” added Carrier. “Because we were able to fight through all that stuff, a lot of different types of tough games out there.”
Decelles said the Clippers now move on to the next round as a much more experienced hockey club.
“Most of the team has never passed the first round or they don’t have experience in playoffs, so it means a lot,” he said. “We went through a lot of things in this first series; we faced adversity.”
Now, the handshakes have happened, the defeated Dogs are heading home, and the Clippers will keep playing, facing the Powell River Kings in the Island final. That series is expected to begin Friday (March 13) at Frank Crane Arena.
“Maybe we’re going to be tired, but our heart is really big right now; we just want to win,” said Carrier. “So we’re going to be ready.”
ICE CHIPS … Please look for more on the Clippers-Kings series later this week at www.nanaimobulletin.com/sports.
— Greg Sakaki (@BulletinSports) March 12, 2015