And now for something completely different.
The Nanaimo Clippers, after winning two best-of-seven series to become Island Division champions, enter the B.C. Hockey League’s third round. Round 3 is unlike the others – it’s a double-round-robin format also involving the other division champs, the Chilliwack Chiefs and the West Kelowna Warriors.
“They’re both really tough teams, they both bring a lot to the table, like us, and they’re going to be competitive games, that’s for sure,” said Corey Renwick, Clippers alternate captain. “You’ve just got to go out there and play your game and just work as hard as you can because each game is do-or-die for you, almost.”
The first team to three wins gets home-ice advantage in the BCHL finals; the others then race to three wins to determine who else gets to go.
“You’ve got to win every game, pretty much. You want to get those three wins early and hopefully before everyone else,” said Yanni Kaldis, Clippers defenceman.
A best-of-seven series is comparatively straightforward, but in a round robin, it’s harder to measure, immediately, the impacts of wins and losses because there’s an out-of-town scoreboard that factors into the equation.
“If you lose a game, you don’t know if that’s going to be the game that’s going to set you back,” Renwick said.
Those factors add stress, but also excitement, to the round, said Devin Brosseau, Clippers captain.
“We could have home ice in the finals by Monday [or] we could be battling it out till next weekend,” he said. “So the unknown there, that’s a little bit stressful, but if we head in there with a do-or-die mentality … we’ll have some success.”
The matchups matter, but only so much, as any club making it this far will boast a complete team.
“There’s only good teams left now,” Brosseau said.
A good team is gone, too, as the defending-champion Penticton Vees were eliminated by the Warriors in the Interior Division final. Brosseau said some guys in the Clippers’ room would have liked another crack at the Vees after losing to them in the final last year, but players will worry about what’s in front of them.
“We don’t think about it,” he said. “They’re off for the summer, we’re still here, so we’re happy with that.”
It’s the Chiefs and Warriors that are the obstacles now, and the Clippers sees some similarities in the opponents’ styles of play.
“Both of them are pretty physical and I think we like to grind in the playoffs, especially now, so I think they’re good matchups,” said Kaldis.
Chilliwack’s coach Jason Tatarnic caught Nanaimo’s notice when he told Black Press this week that the Clippers “like to pretend they’re tough,” but Brosseau said opponents can think what they want.
“I think we are a humble and grounded team and we’ll just work hard and hard work’s going to pay off,” he said.
It will take a higher level of hockey to win, the captain said, but he feels like Nanaimo has been able to raise its game as the playoffs have gone along.
“Every round you’re going to go and play better teams and we truly believe that we are a better team than nine games ago,” Brosseau said.
GAME ON … The Clippers visit the Warriors on Thursday (March 31) at 7 p.m. and host the Chiefs on Saturday at 7 p.m. at Frank Crane Arena … In the first game of the round Tuesday night, the Warriors defeated the Chiefs 5-1 in the Fraser Valley.