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Nanaimo Clippers starting to work on game plan for the coming season

BCHL team has cut down its roster, started pre-season play
Nanaimo Clippers player Jake Hewitt races for the puck during a BCHL pre-season game against the Victoria Grizzlies on Saturday, Sept. 10, at Frank Crane Arena. (Greg Sakaki/News Bulletin)

The Nanaimo Clippers have a pretty good idea of what the lineup is going to look like, now it’s a matter of working on the game plan.

The city’s B.C. Hockey League team played its first pre-season home game Saturday, Sept. 10, defeating the Victoria Grizzlies by a 4-2 score.

“Definitely some good things,” said Colin Birkas, coach and general manager of the Clippers. “The guys are getting used to each other a little bit.”

The Clippers opened training camp at the start of the month with a bigger group than usual.

“We wanted to identify not only kids for this year, but kids that potentially would affiliate with us this year and kids that would be part of the program moving forward,” Birkas said. “We just wanted to have a bigger evaluation platform.”

A couple of guys made the team based on what they showed at camp, and the Clippers have now cut down their roster to the point where they have room to add to the team.

“It would be nice to bring in experienced talent, because we are a little bit younger than we’ve been in the past,” the GM said. “But at this point, we’re just prepared to add a good hockey player and work with the group that we have.”

Nanaimo has 10 returnees from the roster that went all the way to the BCHL’s Fred Page Cup finals in 2021-22. Some of those veterans can expect “promotion from within,” the coach said, as far as roles and ice time, and he said the vets are showing leadership.

“They’re working with the guys, letting them know what a grind it is and [that] you’ve got to listen to the coaching staff, you’ve got to be a good teammate. It’s just team building at this point.”

Birkas said winning can start to become a habit, even in pre-season, but there’s a lot to learn from losses, too, and so he said what’s most important at this time of year is that the team is playing the right way and getting on the same page.

“That’s where you’ve got to shift from camp to the season, where you go from going to the rink and showing what you’ve got to coming to the rink and showing how you can help,” he said.

GAME ON … The Clippers play another exhibition game Tuesday, Sept. 13, on the road against the Alberni Valley Bulldogs, then close out the pre-season at home Wednesday, Sept. 14, versus the Cowichan Valley Capitals at 7 p.m. at Frank Crane Arena. The regular season starts Sept. 23.

READ ALSO: New Nanaimo Clippers owner has ideas to improve the hockey team and the league

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