In a way, the early portion of the B.C. Hockey League season comes full circle this weekend.
The Nanaimo Clippers visit the Powell River Kings for games Friday (Nov. 11) and Saturday. It’s the exact same way the season began a month and a half ago – back-to-back road games against the tough Kings – so it’s a chance for the Clips to see what progress they’ve made since then.
“Definitely it will be a measuring stick,” said Josh Phillips, Clippers defenceman. “I think we’re a completely different team than we were at the beginning of the year.”
Nanaimo is “clicking as a team” these days, Phillips said, as it’s won six of seven games. He mentioned offensive production, 60-minute efforts and strong special teams play as reasons for the hot streak.
Graeme McCormack, Clippers alternate captain, said there’s a “huge difference” between the Nanaimo team that opened the season at Powell River and the one that returns there this weekend.
“We’ve come a long way,” he said. “We’ve honed in on a ton of things that we’ve been trying to do and we’ve started to execute more and it’s starting to show.”
The Clippers are the BCHL’s best road team, so it doesn’t matter much that the Kings’ Hap Parker Arena has a reputation as a tough place to play.
“The way we’re playing right now, we don’t really see it that way,” McCormack said. “We’re excited, it’s just a different rink to go play in.”
Nanaimo (9-5-0-3) and Powell River (10-5-2) are starting a stretch of three straight games against each other. The Clippers view it a bit like a three-game series, starting with Game 1 on Friday.
“Really the focus right now is just to play well on Friday night in their building and prepare for that one game at this point,” said Mike Vandekamp, Clippers coach. “And hopefully we’re a little better team than we were the first time we played them and I think we are.”
GAME ON … The Clippers and Kings are slated to face off at 7:30 p.m. both Friday and Saturday at Powell River … The Kings won both meetings so far this season, one of them an overtime victory … Next home action for the Clippers is against the Kings on Nov. 16 at 7 p.m. at Frank Crane Arena.