The Nanaimo Clippers will enjoy happy holidays after lighting up the scoreboard before Christmas and earning back-to-back wins.
The city’s B.C. Hockey League team won two out of three games on its road trip last week, scoring 15 goals along the way. Nanaimo started with a 6-4 loss to the Coquitlam Express on Wednesday, turned that around with a 6-4 victory over the Westside Warriors on Thursday, then finished with a 5-0 shutout of the Trail Smoke Eaters on Saturday.
“Anytime you can get a shutout you’re pleased with that,” said Mike Vandekamp, Clippers coach. “That was a big one because we’ve been focusing so much on trying to clean things up defensively and get the goals against back down a little bit.”
He said his team came out focused, forcing the play against the Smoke Eaters in a game where focus could have been an issue, being the last action before the break.
“That’s something that we’ll actually always try to do is be on the road right before Christmas because I think it is a tough time to focus and yet we had no problem with it at all,” Vandekamp said.
Newcomer Dan Correale’s first goal as Clipper, a short-handed marker early in the second period, stood up as the game winner. Ryan Wells and Mike Sones added to the lead, then Andrew Gladiuk scored a pair of power-play goals late in the third period. Billy Faust stopped the 23 shots he faced for the shutout.
The road trip got off to a shaky start on Wednesday as the Clips fell behind 3-1 in the first period at Coquitlam, then got down 5-1 before managing to get back in the game. Graeme McCormack had two goals for the Clippers and Josh Bryan and Luke Gordon had the other tallies. Josh Phillips had three assists. Faust was pulled in the loss after allowing four goals.
Vandekamp said starting the trip with a setback against a Coastal Conference team made the remaining available points on the road swing more critical.
“It was really important for us to bounce back and play well, obviously, on the last two games of the trip and I felt like we did,” he said.
The next day the Clippers got a goal late in the second period to tie the game 2-2, and outscored the Warriors in a wild third period. Gladiuk had a hat trick and Josh Bryan, David Iacono and Kyle Kramer were the other goal scorers. Faust made 30 saves for the win.
Nanaimo’s offensive firepower on the road trip, said the coach, was largely due to better success on the power play. The Shipmen tallied six times with the man advantage over the three games.
“We scored different types of goals,” Vandekamp said. “We scored off the rush, we scored a couple of greasy goals – shots, rebounds, tips, that kind of thing.”
They’ll take the 15 goals, but the coach said he’s probably more concerned about the 10 goals his team surrendered on the trip.
“Our inconsistencies defensively are something that we’re focusing on more than anything right now…” Vandekamp said. “We haven’t been a consistent enough team. We have lots of work to do in the seond half in getting our consistency in order if we’re going to make the playoffs.”
GAME ON … The next action for the Clippers is a road game Dec. 28 against the Coquitlam Express. The next home game for the Clippers is Jan. 6 against Langley, a 7 p.m. faceoff at Frank Crane Arena.