This was not quite what the Nanaimo Clippers had in mind for a home opener.
The Clippers entered their first game of the B.C. Hockey League season at Frank Crane Arena with a perfect record on Friday, but ended the night with their first defeat, losing 3-2 to the rival Victoria Grizzlies.
Jesse Schwartz, Shawn McBride, Gerry Fitzgerald all scored for the Grizzlies and Nic Renyard made 26 saves in the win.
Jacob Hanlon and Scott Prier scored for Nanaimo and Jayson Argue made 25 saves in the loss.
It was a frustrating defeat for Clippers head coach and general manager Mike Vandekamp who got an uneven performance from his players.
"There was lots of ebbs and flows in our intensity and emotion. .. and there was a large section in the middle where we were just sleepy," said Vandekamp. "It was disappointing it wasn't more consistent for the full 60 minutes."
For Grizzlies head coach and general manager Bill Bestwick, it's always a good feeling to come back into his old stomping grounds and getting two points.
"I'd be lying if I said it was like winning in Prince George," said the former Clippers bench boss. "This is a team that's always a premier team, it's the best team in the Island Division, so if you can beat the best team in the Island Division, you've got to feel good about it."
The night started out well enough for Nanaimo, as fourth line forward Hanlon scored 9:15 into the first period.
But the Grizzlies responded at 15:31, sending the game tied into the first intermission.
The game really turned in Victoria's favour midway through the second period as Renyard made two terrific saves on a power play and McBride scored moments later to give the Grizzlies the lead and all of the momentum.
Fitzgerald scored the winner at 4:19 of the third.
"We knew what we were going to face and I don't think we saw any surprises," said Bestwick. "Our team is learning. .. but I liked the way we stepped our game up when we really needed to."
Still the Clippers fought back, and Prier got the home side back within one goal on the power play at 14:11, but that's as close as they got.
Vandekamp was happy with the fight he saw in his players to get back in the game.
"I thought we had some pretty good presence at the end of the game. .. which is just an example of needing to that all game long," he said. "There were too many guys just standing around, playing not to make a mistake, and you just can't play that way."
Nanaimo will not have to wait long for a chance to put this loss behind them, they are in Powell River to play the Kings tonight at 7:30 p.m. "It's going to be a process we go through at the beginning of the season, it's just three games and it's going to be first month. .. learning how to play in this league, learning how to be consistent," said Vandekamp.
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