Two games, two wins. It is tough to make a better first impression for a hockey team.
While the Nanaimo Clippers are now in their 41st season, so much of their roster is new this year that no one really knew what to expect form the club at the second annual B.C. Hockey League Showcase in Chilliwack.
On the Saturday, they opened their campaign with a 6-5 win over the West Kelowna Warriors, and on Sunday they beat the Prince George Spruce Kings 3-1. Two big things stood out in the two wins: The play of starting goalie Jayson Argue, and their top line of Brendan Taylor, Sheldon Rempal and Devin Brosseau.
However, with so much new, there is still a lot of work to be done.
"The first game we played pretty sloppy, nervous, obviously we had to get some roles straight," said Clippers head coach and general manager Mike Vandekamp. "But I thought we showed a good improvement in the second game. We kept those mistakes down. At the end of the day, four points come in handy early in the season."
Taylor, Rempal and Brosseau were all excellent through training camp, and continued their solid play at the showcase. The three players combined for 12 points (five goals, seven assists) in the two games. All three are high-skill players but are forming some early chemistry, which is big for the club, especially early.
"They're three offensive players, three guys who can skate, have good offence and creativity," said Vandekamp. "I think it's just three like-minded players and like minded players play well together."
Argue, meanwhile, was named the Fortis Energy Player of the Game, despite giving up five goals on 48 shots. He played particularly well, especially in the third period where he only gave up one goal as the Clippers were outshot 16-4 and 48-16 for the game.
In the 3-1 win over Prince George, he was named the game's first star, stopping all but one of the 31 shots he faced.
"We had a lot of players playing their first games in this league, you need a good goaltender so that every mistake you make doesn't end up in the back of your net," said Vandekamp.
The Clippers are only returning nine players off of last year's roster, and none of them finished in the top 10 in team scoring.
There is still a lot of room for the Clippers to grow and even still a few spots up for grabs with 22 players on the roster and two affiliated carded players in camp.
"It's just learning to play better from a structure standpoint," said Vandekamp. "I think that's totally expected when we're a new team in so many ways. It's going to take players time to pick up on the language and what we're trying to do and the details we're looking for."
Nanaimo is in Port Alberni to play the Bulldogs on Friday at 7 p.m. and then host the Victoria Grizzlies in their home opener on Sept. 20 at 7 p.m.
ICE CHIPS -The Clippers got single goals from forwards Ryan Forbes and Korey Morgan on Saturday, and defenceman Colton Dahlen on Sunday.
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