The Nanaimo Clippers, in the fall portion of the season, were able to put themselves in position to be where they want to be in the winter and spring.
The city’s B.C. Hockey League team reached the holiday break last week with a 17-10 record, good for second place in the Coastal Conference and just three points out of first.
“We’ve worked pretty hard, we’ve won the games we’re supposed to win,” said Darren Naylor, Clippers coach. “The second half of the season, the schedule gets a little tougher so we’ll make sure that we’re ready for that.”
The Clippers have been led so far this season by the play of star forward Sean Donaldson, who is first in the BCHL in goals (23) and tied for second in points (37). Donaldson re-joined the team the second week of the season after playing in the U.S. last spring, and Naylor said initially, some of his Clippers teammates were “in awe of him” and seemed overly dependent on him. By this stage of the season, players have a better understanding of roles and identity.
Donaldson’s scoring pace could continue to be a storyline in the second half of the season, especially if the Clippers can make things harder on opponents by improving their secondary scoring.
“Unfortunately for [our top line], we haven’t had our second line healthy all year … so they’re always seeing the other teams’ better players, especially when we go on the road,” Naylor said.
Forward Keighan Gerrie is expected to return from injury in the new year, which the coach said will “pick us up.” Naylor, who is also the Clippers’ general manager, also anticipates trying to add pieces by the trade deadline. He’s hoping to add a top-six forward with size, physicality and skating ability, and would also like to add a shutdown defenceman with experience and smarts.
The league’s alignment this year, with two conferences, no divisions and only intra-conference games means that every game down the stretch will have implications in the standings. The season started a little later this past fall and will extend a little later than usual, which Naylor said will be fun for players and fans.
“We’ll get healthy and prepare and try to fine tune it and make sure that we’re continuing on the path that we are,” he said.
GAME ON … The Clippers start the second part of the season Jan. 2 with a road game against the Coquitlam Express. Their first home game of 2022 will be Jan. 7, when the first-place Langley Rivermen visit Frank Crane Arena for a 7 p.m. faceoff.