The Nanaimo Clippers were motivated to win on a special night, and managed to come through in the end.
The Clippers edged the Alberni Valley Bulldogs in a 5-4 shootout win in BCHL action Wednesday at Frank Crane Arena.
Before the game, the team unveiled its new Nanaimo Clippers Wall of Honour and added its inaugural honouree, Matt Irwin. The Nashville Predators defenceman is in his eighth NHL season after playing for the Clippers for three seasons, helping the team to a BCHL championship in 2006-07, and serving as captain in 2007-08.
Irwin, who is from Brentwood Bay, thanked fans for the “unwavering support” they showed throughout his time in Nanaimo.
“Your continued support and support throughout the years has simply been amazing and is why Nanaimo is such a special place to play junior hockey,” he said.
He thanked former Clippers teammates, naming Brandon Laidlaw, Tyler Mazzei and Mike Garman, and said former coach Bill Bestwick was the coach who influenced him the most in his hockey career.
“To all the hockey players playing and in attendance tonight, if I’ve got one thing to say, believe in yourself, chase your dream, work hard, have fun and don’t take a single thing for granted,” Irwin said. “You’re doing what you love and you will cherish these memories and friendships for the rest of your life.”
Clippers owner Wes Mussio said after he purchased the hockey team he saw an opportunity to try to better recognize some of the alumni, hence the wall of honour.
“Matt Irwin is obviously the best choice for the inaugural position … he’s a great guy, local talent, we love him, so that’s why we chose him…” Mussio said. “We plan to do this for other players that have moved on and have shown an outstanding commitment to the community.”
story continues below
Nanaimo Clippers player Travis Walton gives Alberni Valley Bulldogs opponent Tim Gould a rough ride into the boards during Wednesday's game. Clippers won 5-4 in a shootout… https://t.co/pSMEFavXM6 #Nanaimo #Clippers pic.twitter.com/oi5Yg5GyBh
— Greg Sakaki (@BulletinSports) November 15, 2019
On the ice, the Clippers made it exciting Wednesday night, building a 4-1 lead through two periods and then needing not only overtime, but a lengthy shootout to determine the outcome.
MacKenzie Merriman, Tim Washe, Tyler Williams and Sean Donaldson scored in regulation and Kyler Kovich had the shootout winner. Goalie Jordan Naylor made 28 saves in regulation and eight more in the shootout.
GAME ON … The Clippers visit the Victoria Grizzlies tonight, Nov. 15, then host the Trail Smoke Eaters on Saturday, Nov. 16, at 7 p.m. at Frank Crane Arena.