Since the National Hockey League has locked out its players so far this season, some fans have lamented their lack of hockey. However, there is no need for that as Nanaimo has excellent hockey here at our local arenas. The Junior A and B teams in this city are doing just fine in their respective leagues and present truly entertaining hockey to watch.
In Junior A, the Nanaimo Clippers had a rather physical, high shot count game in Duncan on Sept. 21 against the Cowichan Valley Capitals. Despite Ryan Hanes having his first hat trick of the season for Cowichan, the Clippers won 4–3, thanks to a game-winning goal by Trevor Fitzgerald in the last 30 seconds.
The Clippers had a similar exciting and fast-paced match in their home-opener, which the Clippers won over the visiting Powell River Kings. The evening began after a short but exciting pyrotechnic display and a walk down memory lane, complete with seven of the team’s 1972–73 alumni on hand to celebrate the Clippers’ 40th season.
The season-opener began with penalties right from the start—it was a decidedly aggressive and physical game. The team is rebuilding, as only a few of last year’s players are returning this year, but it was clear the Clippers wanted the win.
After a few game misconducts, the roughness became as apparent as the high number of shots on net, tallying at 28–26 on the night. There was even a penalty for playing while ineligible due to an equipment malfunction, followed by a player touching the puck after his helmet had come off—safety first! The game ended in a 3–1 Clippers victory, on the strength of a Brenden Ford’s goal.
It was an exciting start to the season and well worth the price of admission to Frank Crane Arena. The Clippers next game is on Oct. 7, when they host Salmon Arm.
In Junior B action, the Nanaimo Buccaneers play on Thursday nights at the Nanaimo Ice Centre (NIC), playing 24 home games this year. They are currently the division leaders, which is a big accomplishment for the expansion team.
In a hotly contested game on Sept. 13, the Buccaneers lost 3–2 to last year’s league champions, the Victoria Cougars. But look at the big picture: this start-up team did much better than the Cougars’ two previous opponents this season. Buccaneers’ goalie, Cameron Large, stopped all but three of the 32 shots, so it could be considered a moral victory at least. In their next game, the Buccaneers beat the Campbell River Storm 5–4 with both clubs amassing 15 penalties.
During an interview session with several Buccaneers’ players who attend VIU, including Johnathan Speer, Blanaru, and assistant captain Quentin McShane, they all stated they are pleased with the success of their new team. They have a great deal of team spirit, and are just three of the several VIU students on the team. They are all learning to manage their time as well as the puck.
The Buccaneers remind the students in residence that the area is just a short walk from the dorms—and yes they do have beer gardens at the games. Phil Levesque, one of the team owners, says students can find a two-for-one ticket coupon in the blue bags handed out on the campus during Frosh Week.
So remember, your fellow students are out there training hard and looking forward to your support as they try to improve their record, so come out to NIC on Oct. 4 as the Buccaneers host the Comox Valley Glacier Kings. It should be a great game, and maybe the Buccaneers will have sorted out their penalty woes by then.