The Nanaimo Clippers raised their game to match the competition, and got rewarded.
The city’s junior A hockey team defeated the Alberni Valley Bulldogs 3-1 Saturday on the road after a lacklustre 3-0 home loss to the Merritt Centennials the night before.
The Clippers and Bulldogs have played a series of evenly matched contests this season, and Nanaimo was ready for the latest chapter of the rivalry.
“The kids’ effort was one of the best efforts of the season,” said Bill Bestwick, coach of the Clippers.
Goaltender Charles-Andre Pelletier, after getting pulled on Friday, helped his team survive a barrage of shots early at Port Alberni and go into the first intermission down 1-0.
“Everything starts on the goal line, and our defencemen played stronger in front of him,” Bestwick said.
Nanaimo then dominated the second period, said the coach, which gave his team the momentum heading into the third.
Kyle Kramer scored the tying goal four minutes into the final frame and Ryan Stanimir added the eventual game-winning goal four minutes after that. Defenceman Kiefer McNaughton was able to find some room on the point to get a shot through that Stanimir tipped past Alberni’s goalie.
“It was one of those goals that you score when you’re going to the net,” Bestwick said. “It wasn’t a pretty play but it was a big goal.”
Kramer rounded out the scoring with an empty-netter. Final shots were 29-25 in favour of the Bulldogs.
The Clippers have now won four out of their last five games but they’re in for a test this week with a home-and-home series against the Coastal Conference’s first-placed Powell River Kings. The Kings have surrendered only 50 goals over their first 29 games this season.
“Their team defence is good. They play a real solid game in their own end, make it difficult to get in front of the net…” Bestwick said. “[We need to] keep the game simple, don’t try to do too much and play for one shot at a time.
GAME ON … The Clippers and Kings play Wednesday (Nov. 24) at 7 p.m. at Powell River’s Hap Parker Arena. The rematch takes place Friday at 7:10 p.m. at Frank Crane Arena. The Clippers are also at home on Saturday to host the Cowichan Valley Capitals.