Last year’s 40th-anniversary season was about nostalgia for the Nanaimo Clippers. As they celebrated their history, they seemed to play old-time hockey, too, banging and crashing their way through the B.C. Hockey League season.
It got them back in the playoffs, but there, they weren’t able to achieve all their goals.
An off-season later, much of the core is off to college and a more youthful lineup is taking its place.
“The game’s changing,” said Mike Vandekamp, Clippers coach. “It’s a game, in our league, that’s built around speed and skill and we wanted to make sure that we had enough of that in our lineup.”
It might mean that the Shipmen can attack off the rush a little bit more, and the coach also hopes to have a more consistently dangerous power play.
The trick is to be able to add the speed and skill components while remaining a difficult team to play against.
“I still think at the end of the day we’re going to be focused on being a good defensive team,” Vandekamp said. “That’s still going to be our No. 1 goal.”
The Clippers begin chasing their goals this weekend at the BCHL Showcase in Chilliwack. Nanaimo will face the West Kelowna Warriors on Saturday (Sept. 7) and the Prince George Spruce Kings on Sunday.
Here’s a look at the 2013-14 Clippers:
The team only returns four forwards from last season – Mason Mitchell, Brendan Taylor, Taylor Grobowski and Corey Renwick. Vandekamp said he expects all the returnees to play expanded roles.
Taylor said in addition to team goals, he’s set an individual goal to be a huge offensive contributor. Mitchell said he’s tried to learn from former teammates as he now becomes one of the leaders this season.
There are plenty of newcomers who will be expected to contribute offensively right away, said the coach. Korey Morgan, Devin Brosseau, Zach Sabatini and Sheldon Rempal are four guys who were able to get on the scoresheet in the pre-season.
“I think [offence] is going to come a bit by committee,” Vandekamp said. “But we scored goals in exhibition and hopefully that will carry through to the start of the regular season.”
Nanaimo’s defensive corps is more of a veteran group with four returnees including Colton Dahlen, Nick Gushue, Austin Dick and Chris Newton.
“We’re a little bit older there than we are up front,” Mike Vandekamp said. “I do think that’s going to be the backbone of the team.”
Scott Prier, a 20-year-old offensive blueliner, and Josh McArdle are two newcomers to the unit.
Gushue said the Clippers’ defence includes guys who finish their checks, move the puck and contribute offensively.
“Guys are taking different roles and realizing that it’s up to them to do the things that they’re around here for,” he said.
The Clippers have Jayson Argue, their No. 1 guy from last year, back in the crease. They traded for Connor LaCouvee in the off-season and brought in a third netminder, Liam McLeod, partway through camp.
Vandekamp said he may keep the three goalies at least through the showcase.
“I’m not feeling too rushed about this whole first weekend,” he said. “We’ve got a younger club and these are long-term decisions … I think taking time and garnering as much information as we can before we make decisions is probably prudent.”
GAME ON … The Nanaimo Clippers start the season Saturday (Sept. 7) in Chilliwack against the West Kelowna Warriors in a 3 p.m. game, then face the Prince George Spruce Kings on Sunday at 2 p.m. The team’s home opener isn’t until Sept. 20, when it hosts the Victoria Grizzlies at Frank Crane Arena. For season ticket information, please click here.