The Nanaimo Clippers proved again they can skate with the best, defeating the Penticton Vees on Saturday in the best game of the season so far.
The Clips won 3-2 in overtime, scoring twice in the third period to come back from a 2-0 deficit, force OT and win.
“It was a true team victory,” said Mike Vandekamp, Clippers coach. “We had contributions from a lot of different people so I’m pretty proud of my team.”
Nick Gushue was the hero, scoring two goals including the overtime winner and assisting on the other. On the winning goal, he stickhandled his way across the Vees zone and while fans implored him to shoot, he waited until he was in position in the slot and then fired the puck into the back of the net. The entire team mobbed him in celebration, he got to skate out as first star and then his teammates serenaded him with “Happy Birthday” in the locker room on what will be a memorable 19th for Gushue.
“It was awesome,” he said.
He recalled that the Clippers won a home game on his birthday last year, too, but this one, against the powerhouse Vees, was definitely a bigger win.
“I think we just stuck with it,” Gushue said. “The first period we were a little tight on our sticks but we just battled through it and as Mike said in the intermissions, we’ve just got to keep going and goals will come.”
Vandekamp said he actually outlined the whole comeback in the second intermission.
“We said, when we do get a power play, we have to score on it and then we’ll get one late. We can give those guys a point, they’re not in our division,” the coach said. “It was really quite funny because we actually told the story in the intermission and it played out.”
Gushue scored his first on a five-on-three power play early in the third period, then Austin Dick scored on a point shot with two and a half minutes left in regulation. Gushue’s winner came halfway through the first OT frame. Jayson Argue was the winning goalie, making 22 saves.
The night before, the Clips defeated the Alberni Valley Bulldogs 2-1, also at Frank Crane Arena. Mason Mitchell scored the game-winning goal in that one seven minutes into the third period and Sheldon Rempal had Nanaimo’s other goal. Argue made 33 saves for the ‘W’ that night.
GAME ON … The Clippers head off on the road this week to play Friday, Saturday and Sunday against the Trail Smoke Eaters, Penticton Vees and Merritt Centennials, respectively.