The trade deadline has passed, and the Nanaimo Clippers served notice that they’re one of the teams that’s been built to contend.
The city’s B.C. Hockey League team dominated the Cowichan Valley Capitals in a 7-2 win Friday night at Frank Crane Arena.
Leading the charge was the Clippers’ Kyle Kramer, who scored a natural hat trick in the second period and added a fourth goal in the third. The score was actually 1-1 early in the second period before Kramer’s heroics secured the outcome.
“It’s funny because you can play so many games and not get the bounces, pucks don’t land on your stick,” said Kramer. “And then it seemed tonight I was getting opportunities to score. Pucks were bouncing and I was just in the right spot at the right time.”
He found a loose puck in the slot for his first goal, put a long-range wrister five-hole for his second, then tipped one in to complete the natural hat trick over a 12-minute span. He banged home a rebound for his fourth goal.
Interestingly, Kramer’s game didn’t start off well. Earlier in the day Clippers coach Mike Vandekamp phoned the vet and asked if he would be willing to play left wing instead of his usual right wing.
Kramer said he felt “kind of lost out there” in the first period and the coach recognized it and re-shuffled the lines.
“I guess in his 203rd game, don’t start messing around and put him on the wrong side … I guess it worked out,” Vandekamp said. “He’s a real special player in our league and I thought he played hard right till the last shift which is typical Kramer.”
New acquisition Garrett Brandsma scored in the first period in his first game with the Clippers, with another newcomer, Corey Renwick, picking up an assist.
“It was a nice little pass by Renwick and it was good to get the first one out of the way early,” Brandsma said.
In the third period Taylor Grobowski scored on a spin-o-rama backhander and Trevor Fitzgerald scored in tight after a pass from Kramer.
Goalie Derek Dun, a former Capitals player, earned the win against his old team as the Clips outshot the Caps 41-36.
Three of the four new Clippers were in the lineup, with Aaron Hadley also making his debut. Coming up with such a convincing win the day after trade deadline day is a boost for the Clippers, said Kramer.
“I think we gained some confidence,” he said. “As a player sitting in that room and looking around at the faces, right now this is the team that we have to win a championship with. To have a performance like that, it’s a nice feeling, knowing that we can do that on any given night.”
Friday’s result gives the Clippers five wins in their last six games. The coach agreed that this latest win was a meaningful one.
“We’ve got a real chance here and I want the guys to build that type of confidence,” Vandekamp said. “If they get too far ahead of themselves I’ll be the first guy there to bring them down, but we’ve got to get that feeling because if we’re going to be there in the end we’ve got to start living that way.”
GAME ON … The Nanaimo Clippers play a rematch with the Capitals on Saturday (Jan. 12) at the Island Savings Centre in Duncan. Puck drop is 7 p.m.