The Nanaimo Clippers have had to wait too long for playoff hockey, but the wait is just about over.
The city’s B.C. Hockey League club returns to the post-season this Friday (March 15) for the start of a best-of-five series against the Alberni Valley Bulldogs.
It’s the first BCHL playoff action in Nanaimo in more than two years, and the Clippers are suitably excited.
“It’s the best time of the year for hockey. You play for this all year,” said Trevor Fitzgerald, team captain. “The regular season obviously means something, but the playoffs really mean everything.”
So the Clippers won’t put too much stock in the season series with the Bulldogs, in which Alberni won five of eight meetings.
“Really, anything that’s happened behind us doesn’t mean anything. It means absolutely zilch,” said Mike Vandekamp, Clippers coach.
Most of the games with the Bulldogs were high-scoring affairs, a trend that might not continue in the post-season.
“They like to wheel and deal and we know that,” said Greg Fraser, Clippers centre. “We’ve got to cut the ice in half and play one section of the ice. We’ll be able to outman them and take the body and we’ll be fine.”
Fitzgerald said his team needs to concentrate on trying to play in the trenches rather than getting into north-south hockey.
“We’ve got to get the puck deep and grind shifts out,” he said. “They don’t like to play down low, they don’t like to play in the corners and that’s our type of game.”
It might take more than just a sound game plan to win in the playoffs. Fraser said guys need to be a bit grittier at this time of year and willing to play through pain. Fitzgerald said the teams that are successful are the ones that are mentally strong and understand the ups and downs of a playoff run.
That can be a challenge, because at this time of year, every moment is magnified.
“Every play has an exclamation point on it, I think is the big difference,” said Vandekamp. “You never know when the TSN turning point’s going to come so you’ve got to be really focused on every single play, all the time.”
Fitzgerald called it “do-or-die” time.
“You’ve got to bear down. You’ve got to be tough. You’ve got to play gritty,” he said. “You’ve got to battle through stuff. And you’ve got to be fully committed.”
GAME ON … The Nanaimo Clippers meet the Alberni Valley Bulldogs in a best-of-five playoff series. Game 1 is Friday (March 15) at 7 p.m. at Frank Crane Arena. Game 2 is Saturday at 7 p.m. at Frank Crane … For ticket information, please visit www.nanaimoclippers.com or call 250-751-0593 … Game 3 will be Monday at Port Alberni’s Weyerhaeuser Arena.