The Nanaimo Clippers’ effort never waned all series. But hockey games are decided by goals, and the Clippers didn’t score enough or prevent enough to win.
The Clippers were defeated 3-2 by the Victoria Grizzlies in Game 5 on Thursday in Victoria and are eliminated from the B.C. Hockey League playoffs.
The series clincher was the closest one of the five, as Nanaimo closed to within a goal with more than 10 minutes left and spent the rest of the period in the Grizzlies’ end of the ice.
“In that last 10 minutes there we were scratching and clawing and giving everything we had,” said Kyle Kramer, Clippers alternate captain. “We just couldn’t find a bounce.”
Victoria stormed to a 2-0 first-period lead as Dustin Johnson continued to haunt his old team with his fourth and fifth goals of the series.
“Starts are huge,” said Colton Cyr, Clippers captain. “We were playing well and we were working hard at the start, we just couldn’t get a bounce and they got two goals.”
Nanaimo got one back just 19 seconds into the second period as defenceman Sam Labrecque scored from in close. But a minute later, the Grizzlies’ David Morley was tripped up on a breakaway and easily deked out Nanaimo goalie Charles-Andre Pelletier on a penalty shot to restore Victoria’s two-goal lead.
Midway through the third period Cyr hustled around a Grizzlies defenceman and centred the puck to Kramer, who hammered it home to lead to the exciting finish.
“Our kids competed really hard right till the last whistle,” said Bill Bestwick, Clippers coach. “With any luck at all we could have won this game or certainly pushed it to overtime.”
But the Grizz held the fort as the Clips pulled their goalie and generated more pressure, sending several pucks toward goalie Matt Ginn and swatting one off the side of his net.
“We battled hard all the way to the end, kept it close and left everything we had out there,” said Andrew Gladiuk, alternate captain.
It was the kind of game the Grizzlies said they were anticipating.
“We had 20 players who played their hearts out, but it could have gone either way,” said Vic Gervais, Grizzlies coach. “You knew they’d come in here and give us a good hockey game. And the fourth game’s the hardest to win, when you’re up 3-1 against a team playing do-or-die hockey.”
There wasn’t any one reason why the Clippers lost the series, they said.
“Every game had a different component to it, a different reason why we had a good period or a tough period,” said Cyr.
Special teams were a factor, Bestwick said. Neither the Clippers’ power play nor their penalty killing were very effective as Victoria scored 10 power-play goals during the series to Nanaimo’s two.
The Clippers also credited the Grizzlies’ skill players for doing a better job of scoring key goals and making key saves.
But looking back at the four games, the Clippers can’t help but feel things could have turned out differently.
“It’s a little bit frustrating knowing that we probably outworked them and outplayed them for more periods than they did…” Cyr said.
“All we really needed was a bounce, some spark that we could really take off from. We never really seemed to get that.”
GAME ON … Final shots in Thursday’s game were 25-17 in favour of Nanaimo … The Clippers’ leading scorers in the playoffs were Mike Domsodi and Labrecque, who each finished with three goals and four points, and Gladiuk, who had two goals and two assists … The team’s 20-year-olds who now graduate from junior hockey are Domsodi, Zach Martin, Ryan Stanimir, Todd Gebert, Danick Malouin and Mike Dopko … Look for a season-in-review article next week in the Bulletin.
– with files from Travis Paterson