The Nanaimo Clippers are halfway there.
The city’s junior A hockey club won the first two games of the BCHL’s Fred Page Cup finals on the road, defeating the Penticton Vees 5-2 on Friday and then 2-1 in overtime the next night.
“It’s something special going on right now,” said Mike Vandekamp, Clippers coach.
The Shipmen are returning to Nanaimo now with an unpredicted two-games-to-none series lead. The Clips won Saturday’s Game 2 when Brett Roulston fired a wrist shot high over Vees goaltender Hunter Miska just 20 seconds into OT.
“Brett’s been a heart-and-soul player for us all year…” Vandekamp said. “He’s worked real hard for us in a lot of other areas, and so it was nice to see him score that goal.”
At this stage of the post-season, there are heroes every night, but the Clippers coaches don’t talk about that sort of thing to motivate guys during games, Vandekamp said.
“It’s important for the players just to continue to play really well as a team,” he said. “Sometimes guys can stretch beyond that trying to be the hero.”
Goalie Guillaume Decelles was another game star Saturday, making 37 saves as his team was outshot 38-23. Vees captain Cody DePourcq opened the scoring 13 minutes into the first period, Clips forward Sheldon Rempal tied it five and a half minutes later and the score held until OT.
The day before, the Shipmen broke open a 1-1 game with four straight second-period goals. Anthony Rinaldi had a two-goal game in the series opener, Yanni Kaldis, Rempal and Ryan Forbes were the other scorers and Decelles made 36 saves as shots ended up 38-24. Demico Hannoun and Jack Ramsey scored Penticton’s goals.
Vandekamp said overall, his team spent more time in its own end than it wanted to, but defended well, competing with composure and keeping the opponent to the outside.
“We persevered, stuck with it well throughout the weekend,” the coach said. “I just really like our battle level. We were competing every shift and that’s what the finals are going to be about. Every shift’s going to be a real battle.”
That will be the case as the series moves to Nanaimo for Game 3 and Game 4. Penticton is an “extremely formidable foe,” said Vandekamp, and will be hungry to win after the results of Game 1 and Game 2.
“It was definitely the start we were looking for. But it is just that, it’s just the start,” the coach said. “This is a series. Every game is going to continue to be more and more difficult as we go and bigger and bigger each game.”
GAME ON … The Clippers and Vees play Monday (April 13) at 7 p.m. at Frank Crane Arena, then play Tuesday, also at 7 p.m. at Frank Crane. For ticket information, please visit www.nanaimoclippers.com or call 250-751-0593. The arena box office will open at 10 a.m. on game days.