The Nanaimo Clippers know what it will take to win and they’re ready to give it another try.
The city’s junior A hockey club returns much of its core from last year to take the ice for the start of a new B.C. Hockey League season.
The Clippers have a dozen returnees, including six of their top 10 scorers from last year, and hope that will help give them a head start in 2019-20.
“We have a good culture with all the guys,” said Devon Mussio, Clippers alternate captain. “We only have five or six rookies so it’s easy to show them the ropes … Everybody’s pushing in the right direction.”
Darren Naylor, Clippers coach and general manager, said the team was able to add a few different elements, including size, grit and depth.
“Last year, the injuries really knocked us down and this year, I think if that type of stuff happens, we’re well-insulated,” Naylor said.
He said the last couple of training camp cuts were hard to make and said guys battling for spots might have been squeezing their sticks a bit, but he hopes the players can loosen up and expend their energy on working hard.
“We’re looking forward to seeing it all come together,” Naylor said.
Scott Mahovlich, a newcomer to the forward lines, said he thinks the Clippers will be an exciting team this season.
“We’re going to be a fast, physical team, we’re going to be a hard-nosed team in front of the net and we’ve also got some skill,” he said. “We’re kind of a well rounded team, a 200-foot team.”
Up front, the Clippers return their top two scorers from last year in Ethan Scardina and Tyler Williams, and Josh Bourne and Thomas Samuelsen are other veteran scorers. Mahovlich, Travis Walton and Liam Ryan are all big and tough and the coach said fans will appreciate Mahovlich’s physical style of play right away.
Aiden Hansen-Bukata, Mussio and Robby Drazner are returnees to the defence corps and the newcomers include steady Trevor LeDonne and smooth-skating, play-making blueliner Mike Kennedy.
Last year’s No. 1 goalie Jordan Naylor is back but is injured to start the season, so Zachary Bennett and Nanaimo’s Blake Wood are the goaltending tandem for the time being.
The first game of the 2019-20 campaign is against the rival Cowichan Valley Capitals, who proved a feisty opponent all season long last year, including in last September’s home opener at Frank Crane Arena.
“Last year that first game was a pretty high-intensity game for the first game of the year,” Naylor said. “They all know about the rivalry and the two teams play pretty similar and I’m sure it’ll be a physical, pounding game that both coaches seem to like.”
Mahovlich, new to the rivalry, said there’s already “tension in the air” this week and said he’s expecting a grinding game.
“You want to start the season above .500, get that first win under your belt, and there’s no better place to do that than at home in our home opener,” he said.
GAME ON … The Clippers and Capitals play Friday, Sept. 6, at 7 p.m. at Frank Crane Arena. For ticket information, visit www.nanaimoclippers.com or call 250-722-5477.
Covered Nanaimo Clippers practice today at Frank Crane Arena. The Clippers play their home opener this Friday against the Cowichan Valley Capitals. Look for a season preview later this week on our website… pic.twitter.com/fpFIrnX95H
— Greg Sakaki (@BulletinSports) September 4, 2019