Clippers glad to get fresh sheet of ice

Nanaimo Clippers defenceman Scott Prier competes for a puck against an Alberni Valley Bulldogs opponent in the last home game at Frank Crane Arena before the holiday break. - GREG SAKAKI/The News Bulletin
Nanaimo Clippers defenceman Scott Prier competes for a puck against an Alberni Valley Bulldogs opponent in the last home game at Frank Crane Arena before the holiday break.
— image credit: GREG SAKAKI/The News Bulletin

A new year brings possibilities, and the Nanaimo Clippers know that.

The city’s B.C. Hockey League team gets ready to take to the ice again in 2014 in decent position in the standings. The Clips (19-18-0-1) are above .500 and there’s plenty of hockey still to play.

“The new year’s going to bring good things,” said Scott Prier, team captain.

After going all in with a veteran core at the Western Canada Cup last spring, the Clippers took the ice in 2013-14 with a young team. Now the guys have had all of fall to get a feel for the BCHL.

“We are where we somewhat expected to be, I suppose,” said Mike Vandekamp, the team’s coach. “But it still doesn’t make it any better. It’s very average. I don’t know anybody whose goals are to be average. We need to expect more of ourselves.”

The league’s holiday break happens well after the halfway mark, so the Clips have played 38 games out of a 58-game schedule. First-year guys can’t continue to be rookies by this point, because the playoff race doesn’t wait for guys to play catch-up.

“We still have a tendency to wait for somebody else to do it,” said Mike Vandekamp. “It’s a sign of a younger club, maybe. But there is no one else, that’s the problem.”

The team captain said the team’s record is “just mediocrity” and he’d like to see the Shipmen higher in the standings. He lamented that on a lot of nights, if felt as though the Clippers gave other teams points they shouldn’t have.

“There’s nothing you can do about the past, you can’t change it,” Scott Prier said. “You’ve just got to move forward.”

He said all the Clippers are comfortable with the league by now. Being away from home for the first time would have been an adjustment for a lot of guys, he said, but now they’ve had a chance to reconnect with their families over the holidays and will return refreshed and re-energized.

“After Christmas break I think we’re all going to be excited to be back in Nanaimo,” Prier said. “We know what we have to do. We’re all about playoffs.”

The BCHL’s trade deadline comes quick, Jan. 10, so middling clubs like the Clippers sometimes need to decide if they’re going to be buyers or sellers.

Vandekamp, the team’s general manager, doesn’t plan any major shakeup.

“We’re totally engaged in this year. We’ve got a young team, next year we have the eligibility to bring back a large number of players,” he said. “So I can already say we would be more inclined to be looking to add, get better, take the best run we can at it this year.”

He said the Clippers will be responsible with any roster decisions that will impact the future, but will be primarily interested in trying to be a good team in the present.

Both the captain and the coach said it’s up to the guys in the locker room to make that happen.

“We need that extra push here,” Vandekamp said. “We need to find it.”

GAME ON … The Clippers play road games Friday (Jan. 3), Saturday and Sunday in Salmon Arm, Vernon and West Kelowna, respectively.

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