The Nanaimo Clippers do not feel particularly blessed to be playing on Sunday afternoons. The local B.C. Hockey League club had perhaps their worst outing of the young 2013-14 season on Sunday, falling 4-2 to the road-weary Langley Rivermen (4-3-0-1).
Bo Brauer and Colton Dahlen scored for Nanaimo (4-3-0-0), while Jayson Argue stopped 24 of 26 shots in relief. Liam McLeod was pulled after letting in two goals on five shots in the first 14 minutes. Austin Azurdia, Kevan Kilisoff, Will Cook and Matt Ustaski all scored for Langley and Steve Myland stopped 15-of-17 shots for the win.
The Rivermen were playing their third game in three nights with an extra-long Saturday after inclimate weather forced the cancellation of their Powell River-to-Comox ferry en route to Port Alberni. They lost 4-3 to the Alberni Valley Bulldogs (1-7-1-0) with the start delayed to 9:30 p.m. and did not arrive in Parksville for the night until 1:30 a.m. The Clippers, meanwhile, had been off since beating the Salmon Arm Silverbacks (4-4-0-1) 4-1 on Friday at Frank Crane.
But it looked like the situations were reversed through the opening 40 minutes.
The loss leaves the Clippers in third place in the Island Division after the opening month.
"We ended the month 4-3, but we could have been 5-2," said Clippers head coach and general manager Mike Vandekamp. "4-3 puts you as an above average club. 5-2 puts you as an elite club. Clearly we weren't ready to be an elite club yet. But that's the first month of the season, we'll see how the next month goes, starting next week."
The Clippers were outshot 13-2 in the second period alone - 22-8 through two periods - and appeared a step behind the Rivermen at every turn. There was no jump to their game.
The Clippers did appear to get some momentum going early in the third period, but handed it back to Langley with two penalties. Cook then put the game out of reach at 8:33 of the frame, four seconds after a kneeing minor to Nanaimo's Brendan Taylor expired. Dahlen did get one back for the home team on a point shot at 13:58, but that's as close as they got.
The Clippers have had problems with the early Sunday games since Vandekamp's arrival just over two years ago.
It hints at issues of coming to the rink prepared and ready to play these games. He said one of the problems is they are not able to get ice on Saturday's and so they are out of synch heading into these games.
But Vandekamp also said they just need to be ready to play.
"Both teams had to play at two O'clock today, It's the same for both teams I would say the guys on the road probably got up and started their day better than our guys did," he said. "Our guys are young. .. and I would suggest this is the last time we show up on a Sunday not ready to play."
The Clippers had trouble shaking the cobwebs through the first two periods, even giving starting goalie Liam McLeod the hook in an effort to spark the rest of the players after they fell down 2-1 in the first period.
One bright spot is the continued strong play of import forward Brauer.
The Edina, Minn., rookie now has points in four straight games for the Clippers, vaulting him to fourth in team scoring with six points (four goals, two assists) in six games.
"He's playing good, he's a good kid too," said Vandekamp, adding he was one of the few players ready to go on Sunday. "He's working hard, he's got a good level of enthusiasm, he's grabbing confidence and playing well."
The six-foot-three, 210-pound winger helped lead Edina High to a Minnesota state championship last year. He was originally recruited by the Penticton Vees, but was cut after three exhibition games; Vandekamp did not waste any time in opening up a spot for the power forward.
"Getting cut just makes you want it that much more and makes you work harder," said Brauer. "It's nice playing with guys who can get you the puck and put it on your tape and the shots from point by the defencemen, those really help, because I've banging in a lot of rebounds lately."
Vandekamp must now open up another spot for Brauer. He is still listed as an affiliated player and is at the seven-game mark - APs are allotted 10 games before their eligibility is used up for the season.
The Clippers have two home games this weekend, hosting the Cowichan Valley Capitals (4-4-0-1) on Friday and the West Kelowna Warriors (6-2-0-0) on Saturday, both games at 7 p.m.
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