There would have been playoff excitement no matter what on Friday at Frank Crane Arena, but the Nanaimo Clippers sure added to it with a comeback win. The Clips defeated the Alberni Valley Bulldogs 4-3 to take Game 1 of the first-round B.C. Hockey League series.
Nanaimo found itself down 2-0 early in the second period before Greg Fraser batted home his own rebound to halve the lead. Alberni went back up by two goals, but Kyle Kramer replied soon after when he crashed the crease and got rewarded.
Down 3-2 going into the third, the Clippers carried their momentum from the second period. Five minutes into the third period Brenden Forbes got open in the slot after some good forechecking and deked around Alberni goalie Jay Deo to tie the game. Five minutes after that, the Clippers created more pressure and Austin Dick’s point shot bulged the twine.
Alberni pressed for the equalizer but Clippers goalie Jayson Argue couldn’t be beaten in the third period and Nanaimo held on. Shots ended up 40-36 in favour of the home team.
“We just stuck with it,” said Argue. “We knew that the goals were going to come; we were outshooting them.”
Mike Vandekamp, Clippers coach, said his team looked a bit nervous to start the game, making uncharacteristic giveaways.
“Going down 3-1 was a pretty big hole to dig in a playoff game, but the resiliency, drawing from our past experiences – we’ve been behind quite a bit lately – we drew from that and had enough confidence to stick with it.”
The clash of styles between the two teams was evident in Game 1, as the Clippers found success when they forechecked while the Bulldogs created scoring chances with their skating.
“They’re always thinking offence, you can tell, in the D zone they’re even thinking offence,” said Argue. “I just have to be ready for shots from any angle … I always have to know that they have another guy coming because they always pinch their D. I always have to have my head on a swivel and know that they could make another pass at any moment.”
Vandekamp said there are a lot of facets his team needs to improve on. It needs a better start, he said, and more effective special teams play. He also wants his guys to limit Alberni’s scoring chances.
“It was nice that our goalie was the first star tonight but it’s not something that we want to have happen every day,” he said.
As the Clippers look to Game 2 and try to build on their series lead, they can do so with a little bit more playoff experience under their belt.
“Playoff hockey’s always different,” said Argue. “There’s a different atmosphere in the rink, more fans, there’s a different atmosphere in the room. We all know what’s up for grabs.”
GAME ON … The Clippers and Bulldogs play Game 2 on Saturday (March 16) at 7 p.m. at Frank Crane Arena.