The Nanaimo Clippers have one playoff life left.
The Victoria Grizzlies came back to beat the Shipmen 4-3 on Wednesday night at Frank Crane Arena to take a three-games-to-one lead in the first-round best-of-seven series.
“I think it was just focus,” said Spencer Hewson, Clippers captain. “It wasn’t anything that they did special, it was just we broke down. We got off our system on a few plays there and they capitalized on them.”
Nanaimo had a 3-2 lead going into the third period, but Victoria’s Cole Pickup scored both the game-tying and game-winning goals. His first tally came on a shot from the side of the net that didn’t look dangerous, but his second was a hard shot as he skated right through the slot.
“Guys didn’t get too tight of a grip on their stick or anything,” Pickup said. “We came together. With a couple guys going out with injuries and getting tossed from the game and stuff, we just really wanted to do it for them.”
Mike Vandekamp, Clippers coach, said his team lacked defensive focus at times in Game 4, most noticeably in the third period.
“Our D corps didn’t play well enough tonight, bottom line,” he said. “We got beat one-on-one tonight, which should never happen; we made a couple bad decisions defensively tonight that were costly.”
Nanaimo’s goal scorers were Sean Buchanan, Josh Blanchard and Adam Pilotte. Evan DeBrouwer made 24 saves.
Victoria’s first two goals came from Lucas Clark and Jamie Rome. Matthew Galajda made 22 saves for the victory.
Pickup said the Grizzlies want to be able to win the series next game on home ice, but expect to have their work cut out for them against a desperate Clippers team.
“They have an intense game all the time, so we’ve just to stick to our game and make sure we set the tempo and don’t let them dictate the game,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Clippers, facing potential elimination, need to go into Game 5 with the right mentality, Vandekamp said – they can’t win three games on Friday night; they need to chip away.
“If we’ve learned anything so far in the series, it’s that we’ve got a chance to win hockey games. We just have to play the same way all game long,” the coach said.
Hewson said it’s about staying focused because the key plays could come at any time.
“Some guys I’ve seen in the past will get a little too in their heads about it – it’s do or die – and maybe be afraid to make mistakes or try to do too much on their own,” he said. “Really, if we play the way we can play, if we play to our system, we’ve got a really good shot.”
GAME ON … The Clippers and Grizzlies play Game 5 on Friday (March 10) at 7 p.m. at Victoria’s Q Centre. Game 6, if necessary, would be on Sunday at 7 p.m. at Frank Crane Arena.