It took eight games, but the Nanaimo Clippers finally defeated the Victoria Grizzlies. The win snapped a four game losing streak for the Clippers after the trade deadline and allowed them a little more breathing room in their race for playoff positioning. Nanaimo sits in third place in the five-team Island Division, ten points ahead of fourth place Cowichan Capitals but 14 points behind second place Powell River Kings.
On January 10, Nanaimo played their first home game of 2014 against the visiting Merritt Centennials. The Clippers, who were returning from a tough interior road trip the past weekend, got off to a hot start. Nanaimo opened the scoring six minutes into the game with a goal by Luke Sandler to take an early lead. The goal was Sandler’s first as a Clipper.
11 seconds later, the Clippers furthered a 2-0 lead on Bo Brauer’s 16th goal of the season. Sam Johnson got Merritt on the board before the end of the first period, but the Clippers took a 2-1 lead going into intermission.
The two teams traded goals in the second period and Nanaimo held a 3-2 lead heading into the final period of play. The Centennials tied the game early in the third with a long wrist shot from Wayland Williams that fooled Nanaimo goaltender Jayson Argue. Three minutes later, Daniel Nachbaur beat Argue to put the Centennials up 4-3. Merritt held on to win the game by the same 4-3 score. Nanaimo outshot Merritt 37-34, but Devin Kero was strong in goal for Merritt, making 34 saves for the victory.
The Clippers were back in action the next night against the Powell River Kings. The Kings dominated from the opening faceoff and took a 1-0 lead at 14:44 with a goal by Brendyn Smith. Despite being outshot 12-4 in the first, the Clippers only trailed by one heading into the second period. That’s when the floodgates opened for Powell River. The Kings scored four goals in a nine minute span in the middle of the second period to jump out to a 5-0 lead.
Brendan Taylor and Luke Sandler scored two quick goals for Nanaimo late in the second period, but a goal by JJ Coleshaw in the last minute of the second period put Powell River up 6-2 and eliminated any hope of a Clipper comeback. Corey Morgan scored for Nanaimo in the third period, but the Clippers fell to Powell River by a final score of 6-3.
On Wednesday, January 15, the Clippers got another chance to do something they had failed to do up to this point in the season: beat the Victoria Grizzlies. The game marked the eighth meeting between the teams this season. The Clippers took a 1-0 lead midway through the first period with a goal by Jacob Hanlon. Victoria tied the game five minutes later with a goal by Brendon Egli. Then a powerplay goal by Gerry Fitzgerald at 18:21 of the first period gave Victoria the 2-1 lead heading into the first intermission.
Just 1:23 into the second period, the Grizzlies extended their lead to 3-1 on a 2-1 that was finished off by Chris Albertini, who fired the puck over Clipper starter Jayson Argue. With Nanaimo on a 5-on-3 powerplay late in the second period, Devin Brosseau found the back of the net to cut the Grizzlies’ lead to 3-2. Nanaimo had some great chances to tie it in the second period, but they couldn’t beat Victoria starter Nic Renyard.
Early in the third period, the Clippers finally tied the game 3-3 with Bo Brauer’s 17th goal of the season. Then, with less than a minute left in the third period, Brendan Taylor got to a loose puck on the boards in the Victoria zone and threw the puck towards the net. The puck deflected off a Victoria defenseman and past Renyard to give the Clippers a 4-3 lead and the victory.
The British Columbia Hockey League trade deadline was January 10 and the Clippers made a couple of big trades. First, Nanaimo acquired 20-year-old forward Luke Sandler for future considerations in a trade with the Surrey Eagles. Sandler has already made an offensive impact for the Clippers, scoring two goals and adding an assist in his first three games as a Clipper. Nanaimo also acquired 20-year-old defenseman Shay Laurent from the Chilliwack Chiefs in exchange for future considerations.
Laurent has no goals and eight assists on the season, but will add strength to the Nanaimo blue line. Laurent has already been paired with Josh McArdle as The team’s top defensive unit. the pairing was instrumental in Nanaimo’s 4-3 victory over Victoria, holding the Fitzgerald brothers off the scoreboard at even strength.
The Nanaimo Clippers’ next home games are Friday, January 24, against Port Alberni, and Saturday, January 25, against the Powell River Kings. Puck drop for both games is at 7pm. Tickets are available at Frank Crane Arena prior to puck drop.