The Nanaimo Clippers are still perfect in the playoffs and it’s led them all the way to the B.C. Hockey League finals.
The Clippers defeated the Langley Rivermen in a 6-1 blowout in Game 4 on Wednesday, May 4, on the road, to win the Coastal Conference banner and advance to face the Penticton Vees in the BCHL finals.
“Really proud of the attitude and effort of the guys,” said Colin Birkas, Clippers coach.
The Rivermen scored first in Game 4, but that was it, as Kai Daniells and Brody Waters each scored twice and Keighan Gerrie and Charles Tardif also tallied. Cooper Black made 31 saves as Nanaimo outshot Langley 34-32.
Birkas said his team respected that it would be facing a desperate opponent and was ready for that, but “we really focused more on what it meant for us and what it would mean if we could get the series over with.”
The Clippers outscored the Rivermen 18-5 in the series. Birkas said all post-season, his team has tried to put opposing goaltenders in uncomfortable situations.
“We have enough offence – we were one of the higher-scoring teams in the league this year, so we’ve just talked about not having to cheat our structure and play outside of our agenda,” he said.
Nanaimo has won all 12 of its playoff games, sweeping the Surrey Eagles, Chilliwack Chiefs and now the Rivermen, and Birkas said three series wins is hard to do when the opponents are trying so hard to win, too.
“The fact that we were able to pull that off and be victorious, we owe it to ourselves to take a few minutes and enjoy it,” he said. “For a lot of guys, it’s one of their bigger accomplishments in hockey.”
Birkas said the team is taking some time off and will keep its schedule light over the coming weekend, but will be ready for a “full ramp up” on Monday, May 9, when “the stress and pressure of the next battle will be in front of us.”
The Vees were the BCHL’s best team in the regular season and have been nearly as efficient as the Clippers in the post-season, going 12-1 to get to the finals.
“They’re a storied franchise, they get every player they recruit, play in a great town at a great facility,” Birkas said. “We’re doing a good job building this program back up here and when you want to claim to be the best, you’ve got to beat the best along the way.”
It’s the first time that the Clippers have reached the BCHL finals since 2015, when they lost to the Vees in six games. The teams also met in the finals in 2008, when the Vees won in four straight. Between 1976 and 1980, Nanaimo and Penticton met four times in five seasons in the finals, with Nanaimo winning three out of four.
The Vees’ most recent appearance in the finals was 2017, when they beat the Chiefs in seven games.
GAME ON … Games 1 and 2 of the Fred Page Cup BCHL finals will be May 13-14 in Penticton. Games 3 and 4 will be at Nanaimo’s Frank Crane Arena on May 17-18. For ticket information, visit www.nanaimoclippers.com.