The Nanaimo Clippers go into the new year where they want to be – in first place.
The junior a club sits atop the B.C. Hockey League’s Island Division and will now set about trying to stay there as regular-season play resumes.
The Clips spent the first two months of 2014-15 seeking consistency, then they found it, reeling off 10 straight wins at one point. Going into a road game tonight (Dec. 30) against the Cowichan Valley Capitals, played after press time, Nanaimo has won 12 out of 14.
“We had a pretty good run before the holidays. I think our team learned a lot about being a first-place team,” said Devin Brosseau, team captain.
Continuing to win after the holidays will be challenging. Brosseau said the old hockey cliché, it’s harder to win after Christmas, is “completely true.
“The more you get closer to playoffs, the harder games get,” he said. “Teams shut down defensively and it’s harder to find that open ice offensively.”
The thing is, as the teams around them are getting better, so too are the Clippers. Though the team’s offence was carried at times by the first line during the fall, there were signs that other players were ready and able to contribute.
“They’re playing their role and they’re getting better at what they do and it’s key for the team…” Brosseau said. “There’s lots of learning yet. Even for us veterans that went to [the final] last year, we’ve still got a lot to learn.”
Matt Creamer, a rookie forward who scored a hat trick in the last home game before the break, said guys are getting more comfortable, and it’s making a difference.
“If we’ve got four lines going, I think we’re a hard team to beat,” he said.
The Clippers have a busy week, with road games coming up at Powell River on Saturday (Jan. 2) and Sunday, but they’ll find their skating legs soon enough.
“It’s a bit of a challenge, but you’re obviously excited when you come back, so I think the excitement will just take over and we’ll be fine out there,” Brosseau said.
GAME ON … Next home game for the Clippers is Jan. 6, when they host the Alberni Valley Bulldogs in a 7 p.m. faceoff at Frank Crane Arena.