League’s best team will pose challenge

Nanaimo Clippers to host first-placed Penticton Vees on Sunday (Dec. 11) at Frank Crane Arena.

The Nanaimo Clippers and Penticton Vees play last season at Frank Crane Arena. The teams meet again in a Sunday (Dec. 11) matinee at Frank Crane.

The Nanaimo Clippers and Penticton Vees play last season at Frank Crane Arena. The teams meet again in a Sunday (Dec. 11) matinee at Frank Crane.

The Nanaimo Clippers are feeling better about their game after their most recent win, but tomorrow (Dec. 11) comes a reality check.

Only after playing the league-leading Penticton Vees (24-3-0-2) will the Clippers (14-9-0-5) really know where they stand.

At press time, the Vees had set off on a road trip having won 10 games in a row.

“Every year there’s always a team like that that you’ve got to contend with,” said Colton Cyr, Clippers alternate captain. “Guys are going to start to get up and excited for those guys.”

The Vees feature five of the B.C. Hockey League’s top 10 scorers and as a team, they’ve lit the lamp 40 more times than any other club. At the other end of the ice, Penticton has allowed the second-fewest goals against.

Still, the Clippers said they were looking forward to facing the Vees.

“It should be a challenge, but we’re going to take them like any other team,” said Jesse Neher. “We think we can beat them.”

Even though the Shipmen may be aware that a game against the league’s first-place team is a big one, Neher said it isn’t necessarily a different approach than a more typical contest.

“Every game we want to get that focus, we want to get that mentality that this is a big game,” he said.

To compete with a high-flying opponent, the Clippers will try to play structured hockey and avoid trying to trade chances at either end of the ice.

“Teams like us, as long as we’re playing our game and we’re working hard and we’re hitting and stuff like that, hopefully we can give ourselves a chance to win that game,” said Cyr.

The Clippers consider it to be a high-stakes affair because it is the last home game before they close out the pre-holiday schedule with a road swing to the mainland and Interior.

“It would be good for everybody to see how we stack up against that and hopefully come out on top…” the alternate captain said. “I know that would feel huge going into our road trip.”

GAME ON … Sunday’s game at Frank Crane Arena is slated to face off at 3 p.m. … Tickets, $8-13, will be available at the door.

sports@nanaimobulletin.com