Sheldon Rempal says the Nanaimo Clippers are winning hockey games because they’re “fired up,” but that’s only part of the story. They’re also winning because their star forward is on fire.
Rempal is the B.C. Hockey League’s Player of the Week after scoring seven goals in his last three games including a hat trick and a game-winning goal in double overtime Saturday against the Cowichan Valley Capitals.
“He’s been on fire,” said Devin Brosseau, Clippers captain. “When you have a guy like that on your line – speed, skill, a natural scorer, if he’s available, you’ve got to get the puck to him.”
Rempal said it’s the whole line that’s been clicking, as he, Brosseau and centre Matt Hoover have been able to find routes to the opposing goal. The line can look dominant at times, as if it expects its shift to end in a goal.
“You don’t think that when you come on for a shift,” Rempal said. “It’s not always about scoring, it’s mostly about keeping the puck out of your end, getting in the offensive end and getting some good pressure going and then good things tend to happen.”
Defence leads to offence, he said, and it’s an important balance with coach Mike Vandekamp continually stressing the team’s systems and structure.
“If we’re playing the system in our own end, then I think we’ve got a little leeway with Mike in the offensive zone,” Rempal said. “He’s given us the opportunity to be a little more creative and I think we’ve taken that opportunity and done well with it.”
The numbers prove it. Rempal is second in the BCHL in scoring, one point back of Tyson Jost of the Penticton Vees. The season isn’t yet at the halfway mark, and already Rempal has matched his career best for points, 53. As a comparison, no Clippers player has scored 60 points in a full season since 2010-11.
Fans are fortunate to be seeing Rempal scoring his goals at Frank Crane Arena this fall. He and Brosseau were supposed to be playing NCAA hockey at Clarkson University, but “some stuff happened behind the scenes,” Rempal said, so the 20-year-olds instead returned to junior for one final season. It provided Rempal with a something-to-prove mentality.
“I definitely wanted to come in and prove that I could have been at that level this year. [I’ll] just keep a steady head and keep going the way I’m going and hopefully bring it into next year.”
First, though, there’s this season to enjoy, and a lot more goals to score and a lot more team goals to attain. The Clippers aren’t at the level right now that they need to reach to be championship calibre, said Rempal, but that’s all part of a team’s progression.
“There’s definitely a lot of stuff we still need to work on,” he said. “But I see a lot of good things every day.”
GAME ON … The Clippers visit the Victoria Grizzlies on Friday (Nov. 27).
Hat trick last night for @rempal_11 including GWG. 7 G in last 3 GP. 4 straight 1st stars. Guy is on fire.