Nanaimo bantams will host hockey provincials

Tier 1 Clippers will entertain seven other teams this week at the Nanaimo Ice Centre

The biggest-ever Tier 1 bantam B.C. Hockey championships face off this week in Nanaimo.

The Clippers T1 bantams host provincials Monday to Thursday, March 19-22, at the Nanaimo Ice Centre.

Brian Van Herk, team manager and co-chairperson of the tourney, said not every region chooses to participate each year, but this year, seven zones were on board and so eight teams – including two from the Island – are in the mix.

“It’s going to be a great tournament. I’m excited, because I get to watch every game,” Van Herk said.

Nanaimo’s T1 bantams are in the midst of a fine 2017-18 campaign, as they went undefeated in the regular season before losing a best-of-three Island final against the Victoria Racquet Club Kings.

“We’ve got two great goaltenders, we’ve got really strong D and we’ve got some guys that can put the puck in the net. So we’re pretty balanced right across,” the team manager said.

Bantam is a big year for the players, he said, because that’s when many of them are eligible for the WHL bantam draft and so there will be scouts in the stands amid the hometown fans, family and friends.

“We really hope that Nanaimo can support this and come out and watch some games and fill the stands…” Van Herk said. “For the athletes that come, if we can pack the stands, it makes it that much better. The ooh and the aah as you get the big save and all that just gets that much better.”

The whole tournament will be played at the NIC. Opening ceremonies are Monday, March 19 at 6:15 p.m., followed by that night’s feature game between the Clippers and the Ridge Meadows Rustlers. Nanaimo also plays Tuesday and Wednesday at 5 p.m. both nights. The semifinals are March 22 at 8 a.m. and 11 a.m. with the provincial final that night at 8 p.m.

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