Clippers start year with winning ways

The Nanaimo Clippers picked up where they left off. The city’s B.C. Hockey League team won back-to-back games to start 2015.

The Nanaimo Clippers picked up where they left off.

The city’s B.C. Hockey League team won back-to-back games to start 2015, defeating the Chilliwack Chiefs 2-1 on Friday on the mainland and then doubling up the Prince George Spruce Kings 6-3 the next night in the Interior.

“We had a little bit of rust coming out of the break, especially in the intensity and battle side of the game [Friday],” said Mike Vandekamp, Clippers coach. “But we sort of found our legs as the game went on.”

Brendan Taylor scored the first goal of 2015 just a minute into the first period, then Nicolas Carrier scored what held up as the game-winning goal midway through the third. Goaltender Guillaume Decelles was selected first star as shots were 32-22 in favour of the Chiefs.

Immediately after the game the bus headed for the highway and the Clippers finally rolled into Prince George at 6:30 a.m. They tried to get enough rest, said Vandekamp, but they still fell behind 2-0 midway through the first period Saturday. Three straight power-play goals, however, turned the game around.

“I just liked our overall mindset in the game,” said the coach. “We were in some penalty trouble at times … and we did a really good job of sticking with it. Our heads were on very well.”

The Clippers played with confidence, he said, moving the puck well and capitalizing on opportunities.

Taylor scored twice and Sheldon Rempal, Jake Jackson, Spencer Hewson and Anthony Rinaldi were other scorers. Yanni Kaldis had four assists and was chosen first star and Decelles extended his league-best win total.

Rempal and Jackson were making their return to the Clippers lineup. Rempal had been away at the World Junior A Hockey Challenge, while Jackson had been injured. Reinforcing the roster with the two offensive standouts, said Vandekamp, was noticeable.

“It certainly makes us a little harder to play against when you’ve got more added depth,” he said.

The two road victories are important ones for the Clippers, the coach said, as they enter the season’s stretch run.

“We’ve got some tough tests here in the second half with road trips and stuff like that,” Vandekamp said. “We’re running out of games when it comes to preparing for the playoffs, so right now we’re really focusing on trying to raise our expectations for our team here and really focus on a strong finish.”

GAME ON … The Clippers visit the Cowichan Valley Capitals on Friday (Jan. 9) in Duncan and then host the Coquitlam Express on Saturday at 7 p.m. at Frank Crane Arena.