The Nanaimo Clippers celebrate Brendan Taylor’s overtime winner against Powell River. Photo by Ben Chessor

Ben Chessor
The Navigator

With just eight games left in the British Columbia Hockey League season, the Nanaimo Clippers are playing their best hockey of the season at the right time. The Clippers picked up some big wins over the past couple of weeks, giving the team confidence heading into the final month of the season.

On Friday, January 17, the Clippers played one of their strongest games of the season against the visiting Powell River Kings. Newly acquired Clipper Luke Sandler got the team on the board with his third goal as a Clipper at 4:27 of the second period. But with just six minutes left in the third period and the score still 1-0, Powell River mounted their comeback. Kurt Keats tied the game for the Kings on the powerplay at 14:09. Two minutes later, Matt Scarth found a loose puck at the side of the net and banked his shot off a Clippers’ skate and behind Jayson Argue to give Powell River the 2-1 victory.

Clearly frustrated from their late game loss to Powell River two days earlier, the Clippers were back on home ice on Sunday, January 19, against the Prince George Spruce Kings. Nanaimo came out firing in the first period and put the game out of reach before the second. First, Corey Morgan got Nanaimo on the board, converting on a shorthanded breakaway to put the Clippers up 1-0. Bo Brauer, Luke Sandler, and Anthony Sabitsky scored in a six minute span at the end of the first period to put Nanaimo up 4-0 heading into the intermission.

Prince George outshot Nanaimo 32-24 in the second and third periods but could only manage to beat Jayson Argue once, on a shot by Braiden Epp in the final minutes of the second period. The Clippers couldn’t find the back of the net in the game’s final 40 minutes, but they wouldn’t need to as the team cruised to a 4-1 victory. The final shot total favoured Prince George 47-42, but Argue made 46 saves for the victory.

The Clippers traveled to Port Alberni on Wednesday, January 22, for a game against the Bulldogs. After two hard-fought emotional games over the weekend for the Clippers, it was the Bulldogs who controlled the play in this game. Kurt Gosselin scored the only goal of the first period at 13:56 to put the Bulldogs up 1-0. In the second period, Port Alberni extended their lead.

First, a powerplay goal by Trig Strand at 13:22 put the Bulldogs up 2-0. Goals by Scott Clark and Mitch Makin 36 seconds apart late in the second period gave Port Alberni a comfortable 4-0 lead heading into the third period. Corey Renwick got the Clippers on the board in the third period. But that was all the offensive Nanaimo could muster, losing by a final score of 4-1. Final shots favoured the Bulldogs 42-28. Tanner Kovacs picked up the loss in net for the Clippers, allowing four goals on 42 shots.

The Clippers didn’t need to wait long for another chance to play Port Alberni. The two teams faced off in a rematch on Friday, January 24. The Clippers got on the board on a powerplay goal in the first period by Austin Dick. Trig Strand tied the game for the Bulldogs late in the first period to tie the game 1-1 heading into the first intermission. Early in the second period, Anthony Sabitsky restored the Clippers’ lead.

But with just seven seconds left in the second period, Justin Georgeson beat Jayson Argue to tie the game 2-2. The two teams traded goals in the third period. First, Mason Mitchell gave the Clippers the lead at 10:50 of the third. But with less than three minutes remaining. Garrett Halls jammed a loose puck by Argue to tie the game at three and send the game into overtime. In the first overtime period, Brendan Taylor took a pass from Luke Sandler and fired the puck over Bulldogs goalie Connor Lacouvee to give Nanaimo the 4-3 overtime victory.

The next night, the Clippers were back in action for a rematch with the Powell River Kings. The Clippers opened up a 2-0 lead before the end of the first period. First, a goal by Mason Mitchell got Nanaimo on the board at 3:08, then Austin Dick scored his second powerplay goal in two nights at 13:17 to give the Clippers a two goal lead. Powell River mounted a comeback early in the second period. Kurt Keats got the Kings on the board at 1:28 of the second period, then Jarid Lukosevicius tied the game on a shorthanded breakaway at 9:30. The Clippers scored a shorthanded goal of their own from Jacob Hanlon at 18:57 to put Nanaimo back in front 3-2 heading into the third period.

In the third, Keats scored his second goal of the game at 14:53 to force Nanaimo into overtime for the second consecutive night. With just 23 seconds left in the second and final overtime period, Brendan Taylor scored the overtime winner for the second straight night. The goal gave Nanaimo their second win against Powell River this season, moving the Clippers’ record against the Kings to 2-5 on the season. Jayson Argue picked up the winning goal for the Clippers, who won despite being outshot 42-27.

The Clippers’ next home games are Friday, February 7, and Wednesday, February 12. Both games are against the Cowichan Valley Capitals, both games start at 7pm. Nanaimo only has four more home games left before the end of the regular season, which concludes on February 28.

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