The Nanaimo Clippers, in one weekend, went from a .500 team to one that was closing in on first place.
The junior A hockey team feels it’s come a long way – but not just in the standings. The Clippers – who have won four in a row and have points in five in a row – are a more confident group of guys and are playing better hockey in all areas of the ice.
“These past couple weeks have been really good for us,” said Will LeNeave, Clippers forward. “Guys are really starting to embrace our systems and we’re able to have success when everybody’s competing down low and working together.”
The Clips swept a road trip through the Interior last weekend, including a 3-0 shutout of the league-best Penticton Vees.
“That just kind of shows us that we can compete with any team,” said LeNeave. “We’ve got the weapons and the systems and everything.”
He added that team brought a consistent compete level on the trip and an even higher level in the Vees game, which reinforces the intensity the Clippers are capable of bringing to the ice on any given night.
Lucas Finner, Clippers forward, said the team knows sweeping an Interior road trip like that doesn’t happen often and so players feel good about getting it done.
“I think we just kept the games simple…” he said. “We mainly just worked hard all weekend. That’s the best thing we could have done.”
The reward for the wins was enough points to put the Clips on the cusp of first place in the Island Division. Nanaimo hosts the Cowichan Valley Capitals on Wednesday (Oct. 19); the winner will take a share of the division lead.
“We never really pay much attention to the standings, but inter-division games are always the big games for us, lots of rivalries,” said Finner. “So it should get pretty heated.”
The Shipmen will then have just one game on the weekend, a home tilt Saturday (Oct. 22) against the Salmon Arm Silverbacks. The Gorillas are below .500 but defeated the Clips 4-2 at the BCHL Showcase last month in Chilliwack.
“We’re a lot different team than we were back then,” Finner said. “We just have to stick to what we’ve been doing, working hard, getting pucks deep, getting shots on net and battling for rebounds.”
GAME ON … The Clippers and Capitals face off Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Frank Crane Arena. The Clips and Silverbacks face off Saturday at 6 p.m. at Frank Crane Arena.
— Greg Sakaki (@BulletinSports) October 18, 2016