Clippers close in on roster choices

Nanaimo’s BCHL team was preparing to make roster decisions following Wednesday’s 3-1 loss to the Cowichan Valley Capitals.

Nanaimo Clippers captain Trevor Fitzgerald

Nanaimo Clippers captain Trevor Fitzgerald

The Nanaimo Clippers’ goal scoring dried up a little bit after a fast start in the pre-season, but players will be judged on all aspects of their play.

The city’s B.C. Hockey League team was preparing to make roster decisions following Wednesday’s 3-1 loss to the Cowichan Valley Capitals at Frank Crane Arena. The Clips won their first pre-season game Sunday against the Alberni Valley Bulldogs, 8-2, then lost 4-1 on the road to the Victoria Grizzlies on Tuesday.

“It was a lot better effort than last night’s game,” said Trevor Fitzgerald, Clippers captain, on Wednesday. “It’s never fun coming out there and working hard and not getting some of the bounces you’re looking for…

“We need to be a little stronger defensively, our power play needs to step it up a bit, and our systems, but that will all come with time.”

Mike Vandekamp, Clippers coach and general manager, said he was trying to get every player some ice time over the first three games, which partly explains the up-and-down results.

He liked his team’s effort against the Capitals – his team outshot the visitors 31-18 – and suggested the Clips ran into a hot goalie. Jesse Neher scored Nanaimo’s goal.

Now the Clippers need to make cuts, but no player is going to get cut simply because of a pre-season loss in August.

“You don’t want to get too caught up in being results-based with your thoughts and feelings,” Vandekamp said. “We haven’t given the guys a tremendous amount of team structure.”

So the decision-making process will be a difficult one.

“As the week progresses, the players make the decisions for you a little bit with their play, but … there really isn’t a lot of separation sometimes,” Vandekamp said. “You’ve got to try to project where players are going to be down the road and that’s a difficult challenge.”

There are other factors, as well. Nanaimo is still awaiting word on two of its players at Western Hockey League camps – Luke Gordon and Jackson Playfair – and the team also brought in another rookie forward on Thursday, Nick Joseph, who they had tried to recruit during the off-season.

“We’re happy with the group that’s here, but yes, we’re always looking for other upgrades,” said the GM.

The Clippers play the Alberni Valley Bulldogs on Friday, then close out the pre-season Saturday (Sept. 1) with a home game against the Powell River Kings.

The Clippers plan to approach the final pre-season games with more systems play.

“As much as you can get it to,” Vandekamp said. “Guys aren’t going to learn the systems overnight but we’ll try to add to it a little bit.”

GAME ON … The Clippers and Kings play Saturday at 2 p.m. at Frank Crane Arena. The regular season starts on the road in Chilliwack on Sept. 8.