Clippers look to rebound against Island rivals

Cowichan first up Friday night in a three-game weekend for Nanaimo. Salmon Arm, Langley to visit Frank Crane Arena.

Cowichan Valley Capitals player Mikael Jung

Cowichan Valley Capitals player Mikael Jung

After enjoying a five-day break this week, the Nanaimo Clippers are rested, focused and ready to take on three opponents in a 48-hour span this weekend in an effort to close in on top spot in the B.C. Hockey League’s Coastal Conference.

But the Clips will have to shake off any accumulated rust quickly — Island rival Cowichan Capitals, who sit on top of the division, will be first up in the weekend’s trifecta beginning Friday night at the Island Saving Centre in Duncan.

“Cowichan is always a big game and we probably played our worst game of the year  in their rink on Wednesday (Nov. 23) so we definitely have got to have a bounce back game there,” said said Mike Vandekamp, coach and GM of Nanaimo. “But (this week) we’ll have some time to practice and work on our game and get healthy and all those things. So it’s nice not to have a game in the middle of the week and we can settle in to a practice routine.”

Cowichan beat Nanaimo 6-1 in their last meeting.

The Caps currently sit second overall in the BCHL with a 15-6-1-3 record (as of Wednesday) with 97 goals for and 73 against. Nanaimo is third in the Coastal Conference with a 13-9-0-3 record and 91 goals for and 81 against.

Game time at The Stick is 7:30 p.m.

Vandekamp said his team needs to play more consistent hockey if it wants to keep pace in the standings, a challenge he said his players are taking on.

“At the beginning of the year we were totally disjointed, really, very inconsistent,” said Vandekamp. “Now we have a game, we have an indentifiable game that works for us and we’ve played it more often that not in the last 10 or 15 games. Hopefully in the next 10 or 15 games, about the 40-game mark, we get settled in and play our game every night. We have to keep ourselves in the mix in the standings and that’s what makes this year so much more challenging, less teams make the playoffs than ever before. “

After facing Cowichan, Nanaimo will enjoy two opportunities Saturday and Sunday at Frank Crane Arena to collect more points.

The Salmon Arm Silverbacks, who sit in seventh place in the Interior Division, visit the Crane Saturday at 7 p.m., followed by a visit from the Langley Rivermen, last in the Coastal Conference, at 3 p.m. Sunday.

Vandekamp said the Clips never take any team lightly.

“It doesn’t matter who we’re playing. We seem to make every game close but six points are up for grabs so it’s going to be a big weekend for sure,” he said.