The first weekend of pre-season hockey went pretty much how the coach might have expected – scrambly to start, but more structured as the games went on.
The Nanaimo Clippers split their first two exhibitions on Saturday and Sunday against the Alberni Valley Bulldogs, losing 5-4 the first night at Port Alberni before posting an 8-1 win the following afternoon at Frank Crane Arena.
“We got better from one game to the next one, which was one of our goals,” said Mike Vandekamp, Clippers coach. “Not just on the scoreboard, but we played better, too.”
On Saturday on the road there was ugly hockey from both sides, Vandekamp said.
“But our compete level was better here in the second game. We looked a little bit more structured and obviously the result was better.”
Following Friday’s intrasquad game at Frank Crane, the Clippers reduced their roster from 40 to 27.
On Saturday Kyle Kramer, Jesse Neher, Ryan Wells and Ryan Hunter scored goals for the Clippers. The next day eight different players tallied, with Brayden Jaw, Colton Cyr, Josh Phillips, Trevor Fitzgerald, Brett Hartskamp, Brendan Taylor, Andrew Gladiuk and Neher lighting the lamp. Billy Faust went the distance in goal in Sunday’s win.
Vandekamp said he’s still very much assessing players right now and suggested there will be further roster subtractions before the next pre-season game.
“We learned lots more about our players that we have here and we’re going to be able to make some decisions,” he said.
The Shipmen will host the Cowichan Valley Capitals on Wednesday (Sept. 14) at Frank Crane Arena.
“We’re going to be, I would think, a smarter team,” said the coach. “We should look like a more organized and structured team every game we play now moving forward.”
The Clippers should also be a little bit fresher, as they were scheduled to have a day off Monday after six straight days of skating. Vandekamp said team concepts and systems will be introduced bit by bit, with more of that work beginning next week.
GAME ON … Wednesday’s contest will start at 7 p.m. and tickets will be available at the door.