A few weeks back I was quite critical of the Nanaimo Clippers and their overly aggressive bullying style tactics. Maybe they listened to me (highly unlikely) or maybe they realized those old-school tactics simply don’t work anymore because at the time the Clippers were stuck in the Island division basement. But this past weekend saw a big turnaround for the two-time defending division champs going a perfect 3-0 on a tough Interior division road trip. And guess what? They only took a combined 2 roughing calls and had one fight the entire weekend.
The Clippers started out the weekend ending the Smoke Eaters’ four game win streak with a 4-3 win Friday night at Cominco Arena. But by far the most impressive win of the weekend for Nanaimo was a 3-0 shutout in Penticton Saturday night. As per Vees’ broadcaster Fraser Rodgers, it was the first regular season home ice loss for Penticton since January 9th and the first shutout loss since last December. Streaks were made to be broken, after all. The night though truly belonged to Nanaimo goaltender Evan DeBrouwer who stopped an incredible 46 shots for the goose egg, his first in the BCHL. The Clippers followed up Saturday’s big win with a 3-2 overtime victory in Merritt Sunday afternoon, one of the toughest buildings to play in, especially at the tail end of a grueling roady. Nanaimo has now won four straight and at 8-5-1 on the season, sits in a tie with the Cowichan Valley Capitals for third place in the division.
After a very strong start to the season, the Capitals have hit the brakes. Cowichan has just three points in their last five games with just one win in that span. The Caps earned a single point in a home-and-home series with the Grizzlies on the weekend, the result of a two-goal third period Saturday night in Duncan which forced overtime but ended in a tie. The Capitals have a big test Wednesday night as they visit the streaking Clippers.
Going back to the Vees, they weren’t exactly well rested for Saturday night’s game against the Clippers needing double overtime to beat the Rivermen in Langley the night before. Owen Sillinger capped off a two goal night with the OT winner. The Vees have already taken four games to overtime this season having won all of them.
While Penticton remains atop the overall BCHL standings at 11-2, the Wenatchee Wild continue to roll and sit just one point back but have two games in hand on the Vees. The Wild also remain the only team in the league yet to lose in regulation. The Wild posted a 3-0 shutout win in Coquitlam Saturday night but Sunday’s game at South Surrey Arena was a totally different story. Once again the Eagles made things interesting and had a 4-3 lead over the Wild midway through the second. The two traded goals and ended up in overtime where AJ Vanderbeck played hero for Wenatchee.
The single point for Surrey moved the Eagles within one of both Prince George and Coquitlam for the final playoff berth in the Mainland division. The Eagles now have points in five of their last six games winning three of them. It’s further evidence that the lowly franchise is starting to slowly turn the corner. The Wild are back in Surrey Thursday night, the results of which could be very telling.
As mentioned earlier the Trail Smoke Eaters saw their win streak come to a halt with Friday night’s loss to Nanaimo, their only game of the weekend. But thanks to a poor week by both West Kelowna and Vernon the Smokies hold onto fourth place in the Interior at 6-7-1, one point ahead of Salmon Arm and one back of the third place Vipers. The Silverbacks had a pair of weekend wins over the Warriors and also appear to be turning a bit of a corner after a terrible start to the season. Last year the Interior playoff race came down to the last day and while we still have plenty of time to go, it’s looking like that could be a distinct possibility once again.
It was a pretty monumental week for the Chilliwack Chiefs in several respects. The Chiefs have now won four in a row including a pair of dominant wins on the weekend, 7-2 over the Vipers on Friday followed up by a 4-1 win over Alberni Saturday. Chilliwack also made a series of transactions, starting with shipping forward Jesse Lansdell to the Vipers in exchange for veteran defenceman Mitch Oliver. The Chiefs then quickly swapped Oliver along with goaltender Robert Jacobson to the AJHL’s Bonnyville Pontiacs in exchange for forward Josh Borynec. The Chiefs also acquired 98-born forward Justin Dixson from the USHL’s Tri City Storm. And finally, if things weren’t busy enough, GM Jason Tatarnic signed 97-born goaltender Brendan Barry. That last move is a rather intriguing one. Barry began his BCHL career two years ago with Penticton and is now with his fourth team in little over a year. After a 10-2 record with a 2.06 GAA and a .912 save percentage with the Vees in 2013-14, Barry began last season with Penticton but was dropped after just one game, later to be picked up by the Vipers. Released in the off-season, Barry played one game with the Clippers to start this season before disappearing off Nanaimo’s roster and now resurfacing with Chilliwack. It’s been a bizarre 12 months for the son of NHL super agent JP Barry. Hopefully for him things can now calm down a little.