Clippers play gutsy hockey on road trip

The Nanaimo Clippers defeated the Prince George Spruce Kings 2-1 on Friday and beat the Merritt Centennials 5-3 on Saturday.

It was gut-check time for the Nanaimo Clippers, and they earned a couple of check marks.

The city’s B.C. Hockey League team won both its road games on the weekend, defeating the Prince George Spruce Kings 2-1 on Friday and beating the Merritt Centennials 5-3 on Saturday.

The Clippers, dealing with injuries, brought only 16 skaters on the trip and were down to 15 for most of the second game.

“With all the miles we put in on that trip, and being short-staffed and being behind in both games, it’s showing a lot of resiliency and some guts and determination,” said Mike Vandekamp, Clippers coach.

The first night the Clips got third-period goals from Josh Bryan and Mason Mitchell and a 30-save effort from Jayson Argue to pull out the 2-1 win.

The next night the Shipmen got down early 2-0 to the Cents and Vandekamp said fights from Reid Sturos and Kyle Kramer in the first period sparked Nanaimo.

Kramer, Trevor Fitzgerald and Greg Fraser scored to put Nanaimo up, and then when Merritt briefly tied it midway through the third, Brendan Taylor and Matt Grant scored to secure the win. Derek Dun made 36 saves that night.

Vandekamp said Clippers players were taking hits to make plays, blocking shots, and battling to get pucks out of their own end in tight space.

He said since his players knew all week that they would be short-handed on the road trip, they were ready for the challenge.

“With a little bit of time to prepare, guys were able to wrap their heads around that and did a good job with it,” said the coach.

GAME ON … The Clippers play the Cowichan Valley Capitals on Friday (Feb. 8) and Saturday. Friday’s game is a 7 p.m. faceoff at Frank Crane Arena. Tickets for the Clippers’ five remaining regular-season home games have been reduced to $10 for adults and seniors … Saturday’s rematch will be played at Duncan’s Island Savings Centre.