Vernon Vipers player Michael Zalewski

Vernon Vipers player Michael Zalewski

Clippers’ playoff hopes fade on road trip

Nanaimo Clippers win one out of three games on road trip in BCHL action in Coquitlam, Vernon and Prince George.

The Nanaimo Clippers had a disheartening start to a crucial road  trip, but showed signs they aren’t about to give up on the season.

The Clips, who sit fifth in the B.C. Hockey League’s Coastal Conference, finished a three-game road swing with a come-from-behind 3-2 win against the Prince George Spruce Kings.

The Sprucies had won six games in a row before entertaining the Shipmen in front of a sold-out Prince George Coliseum, and the home team held a 2-1 edge going into the third period.

“We dug deep and won a game,” said Mike Vandekamp, Clippers coach. “It was fantastic to see how clearly we showed that we weren’t giving up. I think a lot of teams would have given up in that situation.”

Brenden Forbes had a goal and an assist and was chosen first star and Graeme McCormack and Mason Blacklock scored the third-period markers. Billy Faust made 35 saves for the win in goal.

Vandekamp praised his goaltender and said his players also blocked shots and killed penalties well.

“More than anything we worked a lot harder and had a much better battle level,” he said.

The two points still leave the Clippers 11 points out of the fourth and final playoff berth with only eight games remaining, but the team hasn’t given up hope.

“It was obvious in the results on Saturday that we haven’t,” said Vandekamp.

The trip started with a 6-3 loss Wednesday to the Coquitlam Express, the team the Clippers are trying to track down in the standings, and Nanaimo wasn’t good in a 5-1 loss to the Vernon Vipers the next night.

“It seemed like we really struggled rebounding from that [Coquitlam loss]. Going into Vernon we just didn’t play well,” said the coach. “We had lost a lot of confidence from the night before. That mental weakness that we’ve struggled with a little bit at times this year, I think, was a factor.”

GAME ON … The Clippers’ next game is against the Surrey Eagles on the road Friday (Feb. 24).