The most exciting game of the playoffs so far didn’t go the Nanaimo Clippers’ way.
The Clips fell 5-4 in overtime to the Alberni Valley Bulldogs on Saturday night at Weyerhaeuser Arena in Port Alberni.
Nanaimo was in position for a series sweep, leading Game 4 by a 4-2 score with two minutes left in regulation, but surrendered goals on back-to-back shifts.
Nanaimo totally dominated the overtime frame, but former Clippers player Eric Margo scored on a long shot in the dying seconds of OT.
“It’s disappointing, obviously, but you learn from it…” said Mike Vandekamp, Clippers coach. “We knew it wasn’t all going to be easy. Not everything’s going to always go smoothly.”
The teams traded goals in the first period, with Brendan Taylor deking out Bulldogs goalie Billy Christopoulos to open the scoring and Mitch Makin responding for the Dogs.
Spencer Hewson a pass in the slot and made it 2-1 early in the second, then Nicolas Carrier crashed the net and made it 3-1. Makin scored again to close the gap to 3-2, then Brett Roulston was stymied on a penalty shot in the final seconds of the second period.
Sheldon Rempal deflected in a shot to make it 4-2 and the score held until late, when goalie Guillaume Decelles left his crease to handle the puck and got caught out out of position. Chris Schutz was the beneficiary, and it was Schutz again who tied the game 11 seconds later.
“That was the goal that was a tough one for me to take, because I thought we were ready for that situation,” Vandekamp said. “We had the five guys ready that we wanted to have on the ice in that situation.”
But the Bulldogs went straight ahead and got a shot and a rebound.
“I think we just kind of stuck with it,” Margo said. “We knew we could come back.”
The Clippers responded in overtime, forechecking the entire time, rolling through their lines, generating chance after chance.
“You look at all the opportunities we had – penalty shots, breakaways, power play opportunities, the ones in overtime – we didn’t bury enough of our chances,” Vandekamp said. “I guess that ends up being a bit of the storyline.”
Both teams can take enough positives out of the game to feel like they have momentum heading into Game 5. Margo said the Bulldogs have improved as the series has gone along, caught on to some of the Clippers’ tendencies, and will continue to try for a “reverse sweep.”
“We’ve got to stick to the game plan, stick to doing little things right and keep battling through adversity,” he said.
Vandekamp said his guys are resilient and will be ready to go in Game 5.
“You have to work for things in life and this is no different,” he said. “We’re going to have to dig our heels in and play a good hockey game.”
GAME ON … Game 5 is Monday (March 9) at 7 p.m. at Frank Crane Arena. Game 6, if necessary, would be Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Weyerhaeuser Arena and Game 7, if necessary, would be Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Frank Crane.
Very exciting hockey game last night. The Nanaimo Clippers lost 5-4 to the Alberni Valley Bulldogs in overtime… pic.twitter.com/kNRCXO2t9L
— Greg Sakaki (@BulletinSports) March 8, 2015