Ben Chessor
The Navigator

The Nanaimo Clippers fought valiantly, but it wasn’t enough to pull off the upset. Instead, Nanaimo lost their first round series against the Powell River Kings, four games to one. The series came to an end on Monday, March 10, with the Kings picking up a 5-3 game five win on home ice. 

Game one of the series was on Tuesday, March 4, and the Clippers got off to the best start imaginable. First, Mason Mitchell got the Clippers on the board four minutes into the game. Then Devin Brosseau gave the Clippers a 2-0 lead with a powerplay goal just past the midway point of the first period. But Powell River got back on even terms before the end of the period with goals by Cole Arcuri and Matt Scarth to tie the game at two after the first period. The score stayed tied until midway through the second period, when Kings tough guy Lucas Grayson fired a shot past Jayson Argue to give the Kings a 3-2 lead. The Clippers had multiple chances to tie the game in the second half of the game, but couldn’t put a puck past Kings starter Jeff Smith. Grayson’s goal wound up being the game’s final goal, with the Kings picking up the 3-2 victory.

Game two was the next night, and this time it was the Kings who got off to the hot start, with Ryan Scarfo opening the scoring just 1:14 into the game. The game stayed 1-0 until the midway point of the second period when goals by Kurt Keats and Jarryd Leung 1:19 apart gave Powell River a 3-0 lead. Luke Sandler got the Clippers on the board with less than five minutes left in the game, but Powell River skated away with the 3-1 victory and a 2-0 lead in the series.

Back on home ice for game three, the Clippers got back on track. Sheldon Rhemple gave the Clippers the 1-0 lead on a 5-on-3 powerplay. The Clippers extended their lead early in the second period on a deflection by Korey Morgan to take a 2-0 lead into the second intermission. Three Clipper goals in eight minutes midway through the third period gave Nanaimo a commanding 5-0 lead. JJ Coleshaw did break Jayson Argue’s shutout bid with less than four minutes to play, but the Clippers skated away with the biggest blowout of the series, a 5-1 victory.

Game four took place on Saturday, March 8, and was the most closely contested game of the series. The Kings put two quick goals on the board in the first period. First, it was Lucas Grayson, then Ryan Scrafo just 75 seconds later, giving the Kings a 2-0 lead. A powerplay goal by Sheldon Rhemple at 15:57 cut Powell River’s lead in half and gave the Clippers some life heading into the first intermission. Midway through the second period, Devin Brosseau tied the game at two heading into the third period. But at 10:25 of the third period JJ Coleshaw scored the most important goal of the series, giving Powell River a 3-2 victory and a 3-1 series lead.

Similar to game one of the series, Nanaimo got off to a great start on the road in game five. Powerplay goals by Rhemple and Brosseau a minute apart gave the Clippers a 2-0 lead after the first period, but the Kings got back-to-back powerplay goals of their own to tie the game early in the second and then took the lead on a goal by Jarryd Leung late in the period. After the Clippers had a goal waved off on a late period powerplay, Edwin Hookenson tied the game with just 17 seconds left in the period. In the third period, Leung broke the tie with his second goal of the game, giving the Kings a 4-3 lead. Three minutes later, Nanaimo native Curtis McCarrick put the series out of reach for his hometown team, giving Powell River the 5-3 lead, and the fifth game victory.

The first round playoff exit marks a disappointing end to the season for the Clippers, who amassed a record of 27-28-1-2 during the regular season, good enough for third place in the five team Island division, 21 points back of Powell River, who finished second on the Island. Rookie defenseman Edwin Hookinson was the team’s leading scorer during the team’s brief playoff run with five points. Rhemple and Brosseau each had three goals in their five playoff games.

For Clipper fans, there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about next season. The Clippers were one of the youngest teams in the British Columbia Hockey League this season. Nanaimo didn’t even have a 20-year-old forward on their roster until the team acquired Luke Sandler at the trade deadline from the Surrey Eagles. The Clippers have 16 players who are eligible to return to the team next season, including 11 forwards. The team’s top line of Sheldon Rhemple, Brendan Taylor and Devin Brosseau are all commented to return to the team next season. With such a strong foundation in place,s the Clippers will certainly be competitors for the BCHL championship next season.