The Nanaimo Clippers were able to accomplish a lot in just one game this weekend. They bumped a slump, built some momentum, scored goals, entertained the fans and won the game.
The city’s B.C. Hockey League team defeated the Surrey Eagles 5-2 on Sunday afternoon at Frank Crane Arena.
Nanaimo (15-11-0-2) had lost three straight going into the weekend, and found themselves up against a Surrey team (17-9-0-2) that has been on a roll. The Clippers don’t generally like to trade chances up and down the ice with opponents, but on Sunday, they were able to win that way.
“It was sloppier than we wanted it to be, that’s for sure,” said Mike Vandekamp, Clippers coach. “But it was entertaining … We needed a win, and scoring some goals was nice.”
The Eagles scored on their first shot of the game, but midway through the first period, Clippers call-up Michael Fretz fulfilled his coach’s pre-game premonition that an affiliate player would score a key goal.
Trevor Fitzgerald and Brenden Forbes scored second-period goals for Nanaimo.
The start of the third saw Surrey spring three breakaways, and though goalie Jayson Argue stopped those chances, the Eagles did capitalize on another defensive breakdown to make it 3-2. The Clippers’ Kyle Kramer tipped home a power-play marker midway through the third, though, and then Michael McNicholas wristed home a rolling puck on a partial breakaway 30 seconds later to ice the win.
Vandekamp said the team was focusing on trying to get a lot of shots on goal by driving the net and simplifying the offence.
“And we did that, I thought. A lot of our attack was that way…” he said. “The puck on the net with a lot of traffic going to the net. I thought the guys did a nice job of buying into that approach.”
Fitzgerald said he liked his team’s effort and energy.
“It was a little bit of an up-and-down game. It wasn’t a perfect game,” said the team captain. “Too many turnovers, too many odd-man rushes. But I think our biggest successes came when we did things simple, stuck to the systems and worked them down low and created chances off the forecheck.”
McNicholas said simple hard work was one of the keys.
“I think we came out stronger this game and that’s how we should play for the rest of the season, really,” he said.
The win gives the Clippers momentum, McNicholas said, as they prepare to play road games Friday (Dec. 14), Saturday and Sunday in Chilliwack, Penticton and Trail, respectively.
“Hockey’s a game of momentum and we needed a win tonight to turn things around,” said Fitzgerald. “We were in a bit of slump and climbing out of that slump is never an easy thing. But we can only go up from here.”
ICE CHIPS … Shots in Sunday’s game finished 45-34 in favour of Nanaimo … Next home game for the Clippers isn’t until Jan. 5, when it takes on the Powell River Kings … For ticket information, please call 250-751-0593 or visit www.nanaimoclippers.com.