Ben Chessor
The Navigator

Photo by Ben Chessor

It has been a busy couple weeks for the Nanaimo Clippers. The Clippers have continued to search for consistency early in the season. But with wins in their last two games, things could be looking up for the Clippers, who now have a 7-7 record through their first 14 games of the British Columbia Hockey League season.

On Friday, October 11, the Clippers faced the Victoria Grizzlies for the second time in the season. The Clippers were looking to avenge a 3-2 loss at the hands of the Grizzlies during their home opener on September 20. Victoria opened the scoring in this one. Brandon Egli pushed a rebound past Liam Mcleod exactly five minutes into the game. The game stayed 1-0 until over halfway through the second period. Mitch Crisanti doubled the Grizzly lead to 2-0, beating Mcleod at 12:23 of the period.

Nanaimo got on the board late in the period as Bo Brauer deflected a puck past Nic Renyard to cut the Victoria lead to 2-1. Early in the third period the Clippers completed the comeback at 2:23. Shelton Rhemple one-timed a shot past Renyard on the power play to tie the game. Victoria took the lead back for good before the halfway point of the third period. While on a five-on-three power play, Gerry Fitzgerald one-timed a pass from his brother, Myles, past Mcleod to give Victoria a 3-2 lead. Gerry Fitzgerald closed out the scoring with another goal only 45 seconds later to give Victoria a 4-2 lead and the win. Nanaimo ended up outshooting Victoria 31-30, but Renyard made 29 saves for the victory.

The Clippers returned home the next night to play the Cowichan Valley Capitals. Nanaimo opened the scoring in the first period as Colton Dahlen fired a wrist shot off the post, off the back of Capital goaltender Robin Gusse, and into the net. The goal came at 11:17 and was the only goal scored in the period. The Clippers outshot the Capitals 16-9 in the period. Dahlen scored his second goal of the game with another wrist shot from the blue line to stretch Nanaimo’s lead to 2-0 at 9:17 of the second period. Mason Mitchell added to the Clipper lead, scoring at 4:42 of the third period as he slipped a rebound past Gusse to stretch the lead to 3-0. That is the way the game finished. Jayson Argue picked up his first shutout of the season, stopping all 24 shots he faced. Final shots on goal favoured the Clippers 35-24.

The Clippers’ next action was Wednesday, October 16, as they played a rematch against the Grizzlies, this time at home. The Grizzlies took a 1-0 lead early in the game as Storm Walhrab managed to slide a puck past Jayson Argue at only 3:23. Victoria striked again at 12:04 of the first period when Myles Fitzgerald wired a shot past Argue to extend the lead to 2-0. Fitzgerald wasn’t finished yet. He added a power play goal at 19:01 of the first period. The Grizzlies took a 3-0 lead into the first intermission, outshooting Nanaimo 12-9 in the period.

Victoria scored the only goal of the second period with only 28 seconds left. This time it was Gerry Fitzgerald who beat Argue to extend the lead to 4-0. Nanaimo tried desperately to mount a comeback, finally beating Alex Dillon at 10:59 of the third period. Brendan Taylor and Devin Brousseau added late goals for the Clippers, but it proved to be too little too late as Nanaimo fell to Victoria for the third time in three meetings this season, with a score of 5-3. The Clippers outshot the Grizzlies by a final count of 42-27, but their struggles against Victoria continued.

The Clipper’s next game on Friday, October 18, against the Port Alberni Bulldogs was a crazy one. Port Alberni currently sits in last place in the BCHL’s Island Division. But despite their poor record, it was the Bulldogs who controlled the play early on in the hockey game. The Bulldogs were rewarded for their effort at 3:14 on a power play as Darian Henry fired a wrist shot from the blue line past a screened Liam Mcleod to give Port Alberni an early 1-0 lead. The Bulldogs built on that lead less than three minutes later as Jackson Elynuik also managed to fool Mcleod to increase the lead to 2-0.

At 10:25, Brendan Taylor got Nanaimo on the board as he beat Bulldog goalie Tyger Howat to cut the Bulldog lead to 2-1. Harlan Orr got that goal right back, though as he beat Mcleod to give Port back their two goal lead at 3-1, Shelton Rhemple scored the fifth and final goal of first period at 15:33 to send Nanaimo to the dressing room only trailing 3-2 after the first period. Rhemple scored again at 7:35 of the second period to tie the game.

Just over six minutes later, Taylor Grabowski netted his first goal of the season on a breakaway to give Nanaimo their first lead of the game 4-3. But Port Alberni tied the game before the end of the second period as Brett Stewart beat Jayson Argue (who came in to replace Mcleod in net after the 3-1 goal at 16:34). With the game tied early in the third period, Port Alberni captain Trig Strand fired a wrist shot past Argue to give the Bulldogs the lead again at 5-4. With Port Alberni still holding onto the lead, the Bulldogs began to run into penalty trouble.

Craig Martin was given a five minute major penalty for hitting Clipper defenseman Colton Dahlin into the boards from behind. This gave the Clippers a five minute power play, and they made the Bulldogs pay. Nanaimo scored three goals during the five minute power play. First, Devon Brosseau scored at 7:02 to tie the game. Austin Dick scored at 8:31, and Edwin Hookenson picked up Nanaimo’s third goal on the main advantage at 10:03 to make the score 7-5 for Nanaimo. The last ten minutes of the game produced no scoring, and Nanaimo was able to come away with the 7-5 win in a crazy game. The loss sent the 1126 Bulldog fans home from Weyerhaeuser Arena disappointed.

After a crazy game the night before in Port Alberni, Nanaimo returned home on October 19 to play the Vernon Vipers. The two teams traded glorious scoring opportunities throughout the first two periods, but neither team was able to find the back of the net. The third period began with the game still tied 0-0. 3:03 into the third period the Clippers got on the board as Bo Brauer slid a rebound past Viper goalie Danny Todosychuk to give the Clippers a 1-0 lead. Nanaimo extended that lead quickly.

In the face off following the goal, Anthony Sabitsky found himself in on a two on one. Sabitsky calmly passed the puck across the net to Eric Margo, who one timed his first BCHL goal to make it 2-0 only nine seconds after Brauer scored to make it 1-0. That was all the offense Nanaimo would need, as Vernon couldn’t solve Jayson Argue, who stopped all 25 shots he faced. Brendan Taylor added an empty netter with 22 seconds left as Nanaimo defeated Vernon with a score of 3-0.

The Clippers currently sit in fourth place in the five team Island Division, three points behind third place Victoria, but Nanaimo has played one less game. The Clippers’ upcoming home games are Friday, November 8, against Port Alberni, and Saturday, November 9, against Penticton. Puck drop for both games is 7pm at the Frank Crane Arena.