Clips close out regular season, look ahead

The Nanaimo Clippers ended off their regular season with a 3-2 loss to the West Kelowna Warriors on Sunday at Frank Crane Arena.

West Kelowna Warriors player Brett Zarazun

West Kelowna Warriors player Brett Zarazun

The Nanaimo Clippers had the edge in most facets of the game, just not on special teams.

The city’s B.C. Hockey League club (32-20-0-4) ended off its regular season with a 3-2 loss to the West Kelowna Warriors on Sunday at Frank Crane Arena.

The Clippers claimed a 2-0 first-period lead on goals from Matt Grant and Mason Mitchell and held the margin until the third period, when the Warriors got one back.

At that point the power plays and penalty killing determined the outcome. The Clips failed to cash in on a five-on-three, and quickly found themselves having to kill off a five-on-three. The visitors fired in two PP markers and held on to the victory.

Mike Vandekamp, Clippers coach, said the late power plays were the obvious turning point.

“I didn’t think we played badly,” he said. “It was just a game that we could have won if we would have buried a couple of chances but we didn’t bury them. We have to move on, now we have to go get ready for playoffs, that’s what our focus is now.”

That might have been the team’s focus even before the game, as Sunday’s finale didn’t have any impact on the BCHL standings. Still, centre Greg Fraser said he and the other 20-year-olds were well aware it was their last-ever regular-season game in junior hockey.

“It’s hard to play a game that doesn’t really mean anything, but at the same time it does mean something for a lot of the guys in the room,” he said.

The game also cleared up some other statistical bookkeeping – Fraser is the Clippers’ leading scorer for 2012-13. His assist on Mitchell’s goal was his 59th point of the season; Reid Sturos and Kyle Kramer both end up with 57 points.

“It’s a nice little feather in the hat for me to get the scoring title but it’s not that big of a thing,” Fraser said.

ICE CHIPS … Jayson Argue suffered the loss in goal on Sunday, finishing with 29 saves … Mitchell received a blow-to-the-head penalty late in Sunday’s game and could face disciplinary action from the league that might cause him to miss some playoff action … On Friday the Clippers fell 5-4 to the Alberni Valley Bulldogs at Frank Crane Arena. Derek Dun was the goalie of record in that one with 40 saves. Sturos scored twice that night and Kramer and Trevor Fitzgerald had Nanaimo’s other goals … The playoffs start Friday (March 15) with the Clippers hosting the Bulldogs at Frank Crane Arena for Game 1 of a best-of-five series. Look for a playoff preview in Thursday’s issue of the News Bulletin.

sports@nanaimobulletin.com