The Nanaimo Clippers made some changes, but they also made too many mistakes to earn a win on the weekend.
The Clippers lost 4-3 to the Merritt Centennials on Friday at Frank Crane Arena, then got doubled up 6-3 by the Powell River Kings the following night on the road.
“We still have accountability challenges, we still have guys that are inconsistent,” said Mike Vandekamp, Clippers coach. “And it’s hard as a coach because you don’t know what you’re going to get every day from your players.”
On Friday, the Clippers got a fast start with two goals in an 11-second span early in the first period from Luke Sandler and Bo Brauer. Sandler, playing in his first game since being traded to Nanaimo, was inserted onto a top scoring line with Brendan Taylor and Sheldon Rempal and got on the scoreboard right away.
“That was nice,” Sandler said. “I was just getting a nice shot on net there. It was a great play by Remps to Taylor and we found the back of the net. It sucks we couldn’t get more; we deserved more, I thought.”
Ryan Forbes scored a second-period goal and Nanaimo led 3-2 going into the third, but Merritt tied it on a strange dump-in play that somehow went in, and then won a battle off a faceoff midway through the third for the winning goal.
“We had some tough luck today,” Vandekamp said after the game. “We got scored on on a shot that wasn’t even a scoring chance. That hasn’t happened very often this year but it happened tonight. We hit some posts and crossbars at the other end.”
Jayson Argue suffered the loss in goal, making 30 saves as the Clips outshot the Cents 37-34.
The next night Sandler tallied again and Taylor and Korey Morgan also scored but Nanaimo was never in that one after Powell River surged ahead 4-0 midway through the game. Tanner Kovacs took the loss as shots were 25-24 for Nanaimo.
Sandler, a 6-foot-2, 205-pound 20-year-old from Chicago was traded from the Surrey Eagles in exchange for future considerations. The Clips also acquired 6-foot-1, 205-pound defenceman Shay Laurent, a 21-year-old from Fort McKay, Alta. from the Chilliwack Chiefs, also for futures.
To make room for Sandler and Laurent, the Clippers dealt defenceman/forward Chris Newton to the Drumheller Dragons of the Alberta Junior Hockey League for futures and released Eric Margo to junior B.
So the Clippers, as they had suggested leading up to the B.C. Hockey League’s trade deadline, endeavoured to make their team better without really sacrificing their youthful core. The finalized roster will now win or lose together. Vandekamp likened it to Spanish explorers torching their ships upon arriving to settle in the New World.
“It’s time to burn the boats and recognize there’s nobody else coming in to help here,” said the coach. “What we’re going to do this year we’re going to do together, as a group.”
It might take some time for guys to setting into their roles, he said, but then it will be a matter of being accountable and working hard.
“We have a good template that’s worked well for us,” he said. “We just have to play to it all the time. If we play to our abilities and to our team’s strengths … we’ll be a good team.”
GAME ON … The Clippers begin a three-game homestand on Wednesday (Jan. 15) when they host the Victoria Grizzlies at 7 p.m. at Frank Crane Arena. The Clips then host the Kings on Friday at 7 p.m. and the Prince George Spruce Kings on Sunday at 2 p.m.