Clippers’ best not enough to beat league’s best

The Nanaimo Clippers lost both their weekend home games by 4-1 counts, falling to Langley on Friday, then to Penticton on Sunday.

Penticton Vees goaltender Michael Garteig holds down the fort as Nanaimo Clippers forward Luke Gordon

The score rarely tells the whole story.

The Nanaimo Clippers lost both their weekend games by 4-1 counts at Frank Crane Arena, falling to the Langley Rivermen on Friday, then to the Penticton Vees on Sunday.

The games could hardly have been more different.

Clippers coach Mike Vandekamp said his team was “50 times better” against the B.C. Hockey League’s first-placed Vees than against the more middling Rivermen.

“We were pretty focused and we played hard,” said Vandekamp after Sunday’s tilt. “The loss is harder to take because of the fact that we actually put everything into a game for once.”

In Sunday’s affair, the Clippers’ Kyle Kramer scored the big Teddy Bear Toss goal early in the third period to make it 2-1, and the Clips pulled the goalie with a minute left and produced a dangerous shot on goal. But the Vees potted one empty-net goal, then another, and it was game over.

“It was as close as it gets,” said Vandekamp. “Shots were dead even, faceoffs were even in each end; probably as dead even a game as you can get, really… It’s just a game of inches. We had lots of really close calls at their end of the rink that didn’t quite go in.”

He said Vees goalie Michael Garteig probably merited a game star for his efforts. Clips goalie Billy Faust also made some big saves against his former team as shots ended up 37-36 in favour of Penticton.

It took a focused effort to hold the league’s highest-scoring squad to just two goals over the first 59 minutes.

“We asked our guys to do what we’ve been asking them to do all year, just do it better,” Vandekamp said.

Kramer said his team was looking to play a puck-possession game against the Vees.

“Realistically that’s the best defence, is just to keep it out of your zone and work and chip away in the offensive zone,” Kramer said. “I think we did a pretty good job tonight with that.”

He said going into the game, there “wasn’t a question” in the room of being able to compete with the BCHL’s best.

“We stuck right with them. So we kind of proved, maybe, to the doubters, that we’re right there. But we didn’t get the two points and that’s what we came out to get, so it’s definitely disappointing…” Kramer said.

“We learned tonight how disappointing it is to lose when you pour everything on the line.”

ICE CHIPS … Brendan Taylor scored in Friday’s game and Chris Eiserman suffered the loss in goal … The Clippers play the Coquitlam Express on Wednesday (Dec. 14) on the road in a 7 p.m. start. Nanaimo’s next home game isn’t until Jan. 6.

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