Hockey comes first, then holidays
The Nanaimo Clippers are going to finish the fall schedule better than .500 no matter what. So they might as well try to make their record as bright and shiny as they can heading into the holidays.
The city's B.C. Hockey League team (15-11-0-2) plays three games in three nights Friday (Dec. 14), Saturday and Sunday in Chilliwack, Penticton and Trail, respectively.
"The opponents won't be giving up two points easy, we'll have to definitely work for those," said Brenden Forbes, Clippers alternate captain. "But if we work hard and play our game we can keep the streak up and end the [fall] on the right note."
Nanaimo goes into the road trip feeling good about its game after a 5-2 win over the Surrey Eagles on Sunday at Frank Crane Arena. The Clips have had inconsistent results in recent weeks, so that win was an important one, they said.
"We're going on a tough road trip coming up so to get on the bus without a lot of confidence or a lot of momentum on our side would have been tough," said Mike Vandekamp, Clippers coach.
Especially with the calibre of opposition they'll be facing the next few days. The Chilliwack Chiefs (19-8-1-1) and the Penticton Vees (20-7-0-3) are leading the Mainland Division and Interior Division, respectively, and the Trail Smoke Eaters (14-18-0-1) have won three straight.
Nanaimo feels it matches up with any opponent.
"We've shown we can beat Penticton already and with Chilliwack, we've had close games with them, we've had a couple games where I think we should have won," said Josh Bryan, Clippers alternate captain.
But as usual, the Shipmen will concern themselves with being prepared, working hard and sticking to their systems, and won't worry too much about what the opponents will bring.
"We'll have to be a little bit more dialled in. We can't really affort to make simple mistakes and give up odd-man rushes because they're good teams, they'll capitalize on that…" said Forbes. "We've got to respect that they're good in their divisions. Maybe it's a chance for us to show ourselves and their divisions that we're a contender for later."
A road trip at this time of year is a holiday tradition for the Clippers, and it always brings the additional challenge of Christmas distractions.
"You've got to put that aside and I think the road trip's good for that," said Bryan. "Because if you're at home you've got distractions with your family, Christmas lights are going up, that kind of thing."
Instead the Clippers face bus rides, hotels and hockey.
"Christmas break's going to come no matter what," said Trevor Fitzgerald, team captain. "So we might as well get a couple wins. We want a perfect road trip before the break and we need it."
GAME ON … After the holidays, the Clippers return to the ice for a game Dec. 29 on the road against the Victoria Grizzlies. Next home action at Frank Crane Arena isn't until Jan. 5, when the Clips take on the Powell River Kings.