The Nanaimo Clippers aren’t the favourites going into the Western Canada Cup tournament. But they have one thing going for them – no team wants it more than they do.
Of course, the other four participants, all provincial champions, want to win their way to nationals. The Clippers want that, too – but they also want to win because they’ve got something to prove.
“That’s how I feel about it. I hope that’s how some of our players feel, too,” said Mike Vandekamp, Clippers coach. “It’s pretty obvious we didn’t win our way to the tournament, so that in itself creates a sense of needing to prove that we belonged here all along.”
Going into this spring’s post-season, the Clippers made it clear they wanted to win a championship and earn their host berth in the WCC. They ended up being upset in the first round by the Alberni Valley Bulldogs.
Meanwhile, the Surrey Eagles, Brooks Bandits, Yorkton Terriers and Steinbach Pistons played on, and won their respective provincial championships.
Clippers players pointed out that they split their season series with the Eagles this year.
“And B.C.’s usually one of the strongest leagues in the whole nation,” said Josh Bryan, Clippers alternate captain. “So I think we all believe that we’re right there. We’re a strong enough team. If we work hard enough, we’ve got the systems and the mindset and I think we’ve got the skill and the talent.”
Jayson Argue, Clippers goalie, went home to Manitoba during the team’s playoff hiatus and had a chance to catch some of the action at both the Saskatchewan and Manitoba finals.
“I think we can easily compete with those teams, and I think that we have a stronger work ethic in here,” he said.
Team captain Trevor Fitzgerald said the Clippers have a roster of guys who can play in any situation.
“We want to get out there and prove that we deserve to host this, we deserve to be there. We’ve worked hard all year for this,” he said. “So I guess there is something to prove in that sense. But it’s kind of nice at the same time because we have no pressure on our backs.”
No pressure on their backs, maybe – but there is that desire pressing against the inside of their chests.
“We’re really hungry,” said Chris Rygus, Clippers defenceman. “We felt we should have definitely went deeper in the playoffs. We’re going to be filled with emotions when it comes to playing our first game.”
GAME ON … The Western Canada Cup opening ceremonies are Friday (April 26) at 6:30 p.m. at Frank Crane Arena, followed by a Chad Brownlee country music concert at 7:30 p.m. at the Beban Park Social Centre … The tournament faces off Saturday with a 2 p.m. matinee between the Surrey Eagles and Brooks Bandits. The Nanaimo Clippers take to the ice at 7 p.m. Saturday to face the Yorkton Terriers.