The Nanaimo Clippers came out and set a standard in the Island Division this season, but opponents are always trying to catch up.
The Clippers, who beat the Alberni Valley Bulldogs 5-2 on the road last night, continue a key stretch of the schedule this week with a home game versus the Victoria Grizzlies on Friday (Nov. 28) and then a road game against Alberni the next night.
It will be the third meeting against both of those teams over a 15-day stretch. Even though it’s only November, all these divisional games represent an important segment of the B.C. Hockey League schedule, say players.
“Those are definitely huge games,” said Brendan Taylor, Clippers captain. “With us wanting to win our division, we can’t give up points to those divisional teams like we’ve done the last little while.
“These are the biggest stretch of games that we’ve had so far this season, so we’re looking forward to playing those two teams.”
No matter what time of year, the Clippers watch the standings and care about their positioning.
“These teams that are in our division, they’re pretty close [behind] us and they’re always trying to catch up,” said Jacob Hanlon, Clippers forward. “So it’s real important that we try to keep the lead in the division or make it even bigger.”
Friday’s game against the Grizz could be closely contested. Both meetings with Victoria last week were one-goal games that were decided late in the third period, with Vic sweeping the set by 5-4 and 3-2 scores.
“We’ve got to put those two games behind us, but also learn from them, have some fire built up and just come out harder than we did those two games,” Hanlon said.
Taylor scored goals in both losses to the Grizzlies and he thought the 3-2 game, in particular, could have gone the other way.
“We’ve just got to rebound,” he said. “We’ve got to stick with our systems and let fewer goals in [and] the offence will come.”
The game against Alberni will be another addition to a feisty season series. The Bulldogs are second in the Island Division and their games against the Shipmen so far this year have been hard-fought.
“We’re going to have to be ready to play,” Taylor said. “We know it’s a tough barn to go into and we’ve just got to be ready to match their work ethic. They’re a hard-working team.”
In Wednesday’s 5-2 win, Anthony Rinaldi scored two goals and Jake Jackson, Cole Maier and Hanlon were other goal scorers. Guillaume Decelles was the winning goalie as shots ended up 44-27 in favour of the Clips.
GAME ON … Friday’s game against the Grizzlies is a 7 p.m. faceoff at Frank Crane Arena and Saturday’s tilt with the Bulldogs is a 7 p.m. start at Weyerhaeuser Arena. There will be a Clippers fan bus going over the hump that night; for information, please visit www.nanaimoclippers.com or phone 250-751-0593.