The Nanaimo Clippers’ home opener went kind of how they had expected, and it finished the way they’d hoped for.
The city’s B.C. Hockey League team played with nervous energy and physicality, and came up with a big third period to win 3-1 against the Powell River Kings on Saturday at Frank Crane Arena.
“I was just telling the boys in there, 18 years coaching, 18 home openers, 18 nervous teams, every time,” said Mike Vandekamp, Clippers coach, after Saturday’s game. “It’s so predictable as a coach. We were lucky that we were able to get through the nerves.”
The Clippers are celebrating their 40th anniversary season, so the game started with a ceremony honouring the original 1972 team. Pre-game pyrotechnics also left a haze for the first period.
Neither team tallied in the opening frame, but the Kings scored a power-play goal six minutes into the second and took that lead into the second intermission even though the Clippers were beginning to come on strong.
“Winners see what they want to happen, losers see what they want to avoid,” said Vandekamp. “And I think for long periods of time in the gmae we were trying to avoid making a mistake … We loosened up and just went and played hard and played with some confidence and it turned the game around.”
Brendan Taylor scored the first goal at Frank Crane in 2012-13 on a strange sequence that saw Reid Sturos fan on a shot before Taylor followed up on the play.
Just 21 seconds later, the Clippers struck again as defenceman Colton Dahlen snuck in toward the top of the circle, got a pass and shot it past the Kings’ goalie Jonah Imoo.
Three minutes after that Brenden Forbes rounded out the scoring, coralling a rebound of a Greg Fraser shot and depositing it into the back of the net.
Nanaimo wasn’t content to sit on the lead, continuing to press for the rest of the game. The Clippers finished with a 45-34 edge in shots after getting outshot 21-14 in the first half of the game.
Dahlen said his team played with energy, played physical and kept focus.
“Everybody tried to stay as positive as we could with all the penalties,” he said. “As a team, we pulled through and in the third period got some momentum and kept going with it. [It’s] definitely a good feeling to win our home opener and get some momentum for the year and try and carry it on forward.”
ICE CHIPS … Clippers goaltender Jayson Argue was chosen as the game’s first star … Next action for the Clippers is Friday (Sept. 21) on the road against the Cowichan Valley Capitals. That one is Nanaimo’s only game of next weekend.