Clippers skate into playoff hockey

The Nanaimo Clippers and Powell River Kings play a best-of-seven series starting Tuesday (March 4) at Powell River.

Powell River Kings player Jarryd Leung

Powell River Kings player Jarryd Leung

The Nanaimo Clippers made one mistake at the wrong time and lost to the Powell River Kings.

Now the two B.C. Hockey League opponents are switching to playoff mode, and although mistakes will be magnified, the Clippers are confident they can clean up their game at the right time.

The best-of-seven series between the Clips and Kings begins Tuesday (March 4) in Powell River.

The combatants will be quite familiar with one another after playing a close-checking contest Friday at Frank Crane Arena, a 3-2 Kings victory. The game looked to be heading for overtime until Powell River pounced on a giveaway and scored in the last minute of the third period.

“It was kind of a look ahead at what playoff games are going to be like,” said Mike Vandekamp, Clippers coach. “Tight, hard-fought, close battles throughout the game.”

Sheldon Rempal scored both goals for Nanaimo and the Clips used both their goalies, Tanner Kovacs and then Jayson Argue, as they tried to set up their roster the way they wanted for playoffs. The Kings, on the other hand, needed every point as they tried for an Island Division title that they ended up just missing.

So the No. 2-seeded Kings (36-16-2-4) draw the No. 3-seeded Clippers (27-28-1-2) in Round 1.

“We’ve been with them all year, really,” said Rempal. “I think we play kind of a similar game to them and it’s kind of a hard-working [style] that’s going to win you the games. I think we can definitely compete with them.”

Powell River won six of the eight meetings with Nanaimo in the regular season, but five of the games were decided by one goal.

“I think we’ll relish the role of being an underdog in the first round and play with a lot of spirit and passion,” Vandekamp said. “[We’ll] just go do the best that we can and we believe that we can make some noise in the playoffs this year.”

The Kings are led offensively by Jarid Lukosevicius, who scored 59 points, and Drew Dorantes, who scored 29 goals. The Clips’ leading scorer in 2013-14 was Brendan Taylor, who scored 23 goals and 55 points.

“You need your top players to be top players. That’s a lot of pressure but that’s something that comes with being a first- or second-line guy,” Vandekamp said. “But the playoffs bring strange and unpredictable heroes sometimes and I’ve seen that with my own eyes many, many times.”

GAME ON … The series starts Tuesday (March 4) at Powell River’s Hap Parker Arena at 7 p.m. with Game 2 on Wednesday at Powell River at 6:30 p.m. The series moves to Nanaimo’s Frank Crane Arena for Game 3 and Game 4 on Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. If necessary, Game 5 would be March 10 at Powell River, Game 6 would be March 11 at 7 p.m. at Frank Crane and Game 7 would be March 12 at Powell River … For playoff ticket information, please call 250-751-0593 or visit www.nanaimoclippers.com.

sports@nanaimobulletin.com