The Nanaimo Clippers won’t even try to contain their excitement this week – they’re going to let it overflow onto the ice.
The biggest game of the B.C. Hockey League season so far takes place Friday (Feb. 5) as the Clippers face off against the Penticton Vees.
The two teams lead their respective divisions and boast the BCHL’s best records and leading scorers. What’s more, this Friday will mark the first time the Vees have been to Frank Crane Arena since they hoisted the Fred Page Cup there last spring.
“Really, for a regular-season game, there’s not much more you could ask for from a standpoint of a buildup and some storylines,” said Mike Vandekamp, Clippers coach.
He said his players recognize that, and the Clippers agreed that’s the case. Kale Bennett, one of Nanaimo’s alternate captains, said there’s a different feel in the lead-in to Friday’s game.
“We know it’s going to be more of a playoff-style game, for sure,” he said. “They’re obviously a good team, their record shows it and they’ve got really good players. We’re excited.”
The game is a who’s who of the BCHL’s leading scorers, as the top five point-getters will all be on the ice Friday night – Nanaimo’s Sheldon Rempal (103 points), Penticton’s Scott Conway (98) and Tyson Jost (78), and Nanaimo’s Matt Hoover (77) and Devin Brosseau (72).
“There’s always that competitive edge,” Hoover said. “[We] know how well they’re doing and for us, we’re doing pretty well, too, so when this game rolls around, obviously we’re going to be thinking, hey, we want to do better than that line, for sure.
“But more importantly, we’ve just got to win. That’s what gives us the pride at the end of the day.”
The Clippers always try to be aware of who’s on the ice, no matter the opponent, but they won’t overthink things. Vandekamp said he wants his guys to stick to team concepts, be smart with the puck and keep the game simple.
“There’s not really one line that you can just focus on and shut down, they can all do it,” Bennett said. “So we’ve all got to be sharp and be on our game and really think defence first, otherwise they’re going to hurt us.”
For the Clippers, Friday’s game is their only action of the weekend, so they’ll bring everything they have and even a little extra.
“[Playing the] No. 1 team in the country right now, it’s a game we’re looking forward to, to try to take them down,” Hoover said.
In the biggest game of the season so far, the Clippers feel they have every chance to win.
“I would hope that we would be coming into the game confident and composed and believing in ourselves,” Vandekamp said. “It’s as much our game to win as it is theirs.”
GAME ON … The Clippers and the Vees face off Friday at 7 p.m. at Frank Crane Arena. For tickets, please visit www.nanaimoclippers.com or call 250-751-0593.