Depending how you look at it, the playoff race might be starting right now.
The Nanaimo Clippers and the rest of the teams around the B.C. Hockey League are all vying for far fewer playoff berths this season, so piling up wins in September and October is more important than ever.
“If we can make progress, that’s probably more important than anything,” said Mike Vandekamp, Clippers coach. “But the wins still have to come because you need points and you need to be in the battle.”
The Clips start the schedule tonight (Sept. 23) with a road game against the Powell River Kings, and the teams play a rematch Saturday, also at Powell River. The Kings are three-time defending Coastal Conference champions.
“You want to jump in and it doesn’t really matter who you play,” said Graeme McCormack, Clippers alternate captain. “Defending champs or not, it’s a new season. We’re confident and ready and we’ll have things figured out on our end and we’ll see what they’ve got.”
Colton Cyr, another alternate captain, said the Kings have played a tight defensive system in past years.
“If you don’t work hard they’ll eat you up,” he said. “It’ll be good for guys to play a team like that right off the beginning.”
Cyr said the toughest part of the season opener is keeping emotions in check and Kyle Kramer, also an alternate captain, has noticed that too.
“Definitely at the start of the season you’re going to feel some more intensity and the blood’s going to be boiling a little bit more,” Kramer said.
Last year Nanaimo also opened the season at Powell River and Kramer scored the game-winning goal in a Nanaimo victory, but the Kings would go on to have a better season and greater playoff success.
“I would expect that they would be going in as the favourites – why wouldn’t they be – to be at the top of the heap again in our conference,” Vandekamp said. “So we may as well start at the top and see how we do.”
GAME ON … Tonight’s game is a 7:30 p.m. opening faceoff at Powell River’s Hap Parker Arena and tomorrow’s matchup will be same place, same time … To read a new article on the Nanaimo Clippers’ leadership group, please check back at Clippers Central today (Sept. 23) at noon.