The Nanaimo Clippers are on a win streak at the right time as they’re jostling for top spot on the Island.
The Clips won both their home games this weekend, defeating the Wenatchee Wild 4-1 on Friday and then the Merritt Centennials 3-1 on Saturday at Frank Crane Arena. Nanaimo has won six in a row and briefly took over first place in the Island Division on Saturday night.
Tristan Crozier, the first star of the win against the Cents, said his team stuck with its game.
“I think we were pretty solid in our defensive zone and we were coming back hard on the backcheck and they had limited opportunities off the rush and in zone and that was key for us…” he said. “We were just playing our game the whole time and the goals came.”
He noted that the penalty kill was also a factor, as both teams had a lot of power plays – six chances for the Cents and 10 for the Clippers.
Darren Naylor, Clippers coach, said his team got caught up in some of the chippy play in the early part of the game, but was more disciplined as the game progressed. He said his team scored timely goals and played the right way in the third.
“I just wanted them to keep doing what we were doing, but be really responsible in our own end and chip away offensively, get pucks deep and try to forecheck their D and keep pucks deep on their D,” the coach said.
Josh Bourne, Crozier and Preston Brodziak scored for Nanaimo and Noah Featherstonhaugh Gowe made 21 saves for the win. For Merritt, former Clippers goalie Austin Roden made 36 saves in defeat.
The night before, the Clippers were outshot 33-13 by the Wild but that didn’t necessarily reflect the run of play. Bourne, David Silye, Brady Lynn and Crozier scored and Taz Burman made 32 saves for the win.
Naylor said the wins at this time of year are big ones for his club.
“Yeah, we want to take the division, right? We had a little hiccup there, but we’re back on track, so we want to make up for lost ground and we’re healthy again and we’re playing pretty good,” he said.
Crozier agreed that the Clippers have raised their level back they way they wanted and said the wins seem to matter more as the chase for first place intensifies.
“The three-horse race that we have right now in the Island, it’s really fun to be a part of,” he said. “Every point matters. Every point has mattered since September, but right now, it’s crunch time and we need to get as many as we can.”
GAME ON … The Clippers visit the Cowichan Valley Capitals on Wednesday, Feb. 14 in Duncan. The teams then play a rematch Friday, Feb. 16 at 7 p.m. at Frank Crane Arena. For ticket information, visit www.nanaimoclippers.com.