The Nanaimo Clippers clinched home ice in the playoffs, frustrated divisional rivals, and won, won and won again.
The city’s B.C. Hockey League team swept its weekend games, thwarting the Victoria Grizzlies twice in overtime by scores of 3-2 and 2-1, then doubling the Alberni Valley Bulldogs 6-3.
“With very few regular-season games left, the last opportunities to play against divisional rivals before the playoffs, it’s obviously been a nice confidence booster to be able to win those games,” said Mike Vandekamp, Clippers coach. “But just playing well was important to us.”
Friday’s game at Frank Crane Arena was a bit of a goaltender’s duel, as both the Clips and Grizz fired almost 40 shots on goal. Nanaimo’s Jayson Argue made 35 saves in a first-star performance and Reid Sturos scored the winner in double overtime with 11 seconds left. Kyle Kramer had a goal and an assist and Mason Mitchell also scored.
Saturday’s rematch in Victoria was a little tighter checking but the finish was similar, with Sturos scoring the winner on a breakaway in the final minute of the first overtime period. Brenden Forbes scored in regulation for Nanaimo and goalie Derek Dun was first star with 30 saves.
In Sunday’s matinee at Port Alberni, the home team scored the first two goals of the game but the Clippers scored most of the goals the rest of the way. Taylor Grobowski, Mitchell, Kramer, Chris Rygus, Matt Grant and Greg Fraser tallied for the visitors, with Nanaimo’s last three goals all power-play markers. Argue tended goal for the win, stopping 33 pucks as his team was outshot 36-28.
Vandekamp pointed out that his team trailed in all three weekend games, but got stronger as the games went along.
“We showed a strong level of resiliency to stick with it and get better as the games progressed,” he said. “The lesson, I guess, is that the game is 60 minutes and in some cases, 60-plus minutes, and if you stick with it long enough, you give yourself a chance.”
GAME ON … The Clippers (32-19-0-3) have two games left in the regular season. They host Alberni on Friday (March 8) at 7 p.m. at Frank Crane Arena, then host the West Kelowna Warriors on Sunday at 3 p.m. at Frank Crane. For ticket information, including playoff ticket info, please call 250-751-0593.