The Nanaimo Clippers reponded the right way to a coaching change.
The city’s B.C. Hockey League team stepped back on the ice after Christmas and won its first two games under new coach Darren Naylor.
Naylor – who replaced Mike Vandekamp on Dec. 21 – earned his first win behind the Clippers bench on Friday in a 2-1 road win versus the Powell River Kings, and Nanaimo followed up the next night with a 4-3 win against the Cowichan Valley Capitals, also on the road.
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Naylor said it was a good start and a good first impression from ice level.
“I’ve watched a lot of games from the crowd and you don’t get the same feel for it, so it was important for me to get on the bench and get in there and see the emotions and how each player prepares,” Naylor said.
He said he didn’t ask anything different from the guys as far as systems.
“They’re having success, so the last thing I wanted to do was come in and mix it all up. So we kept the way it was and it worked out,” Naylor said.
Nanaimo Clippers won their first game with new coach Darren Naylor behind the bench last night. Clippers 2, Powell River Kings 1. Clippers visit Cowichan tonight. (📷 Gary Dorland) pic.twitter.com/YEMCXntimJ
— Greg Sakaki (@BulletinSports) December 31, 2017
David Melaragni and Hunor Torzsok scored in Friday’s win, with Taz Burman making 30 saves for the win. On Saturday, Nanaimo came back from 3-1 down, with Tristan Crozier scoring the game-winning goal with two and a half minutes left in the third period. Crozier and Cal Babych each had a goal and two assists, Sam MacBean and Jordan Wharrie also scored and Jake Harris had three assists. Burman made 26 saves.
The Clippers will continue a busy stretch of games leading up to the Jan. 10 transaction deadline. Naylor, also the general manager of the Clippers, said he doesn’t have a lot of player cards left, but even if he did, he wouldn’t want to disrupt the locker room too much.
“If there’s anything I can do to make it better, I’ll do it, but for the most part, it’s a pretty solid roster…” he said. “Players have worked hard and the last thing you want to do is come in and start putting new players into [a] dressing room with pretty good chemistry.”
Forward Josh Bourne, who was a Clippers affiliate player, has been signed for the remainder of 2017-18.
Behind the bench, the Clippers have added Bob Foglietta as an assistant coach. Foglietta, who is from Nanaimo, is expected to help particularly with coaching the offence and power play. Dustin Donaghy, who was the Clippers’ assistant coach under Vandekamp, is no longer with the organization; Naylor said it was a mutual decision.
GAME ON … The Clippers visit the Alberni Valley Bulldogs on Wednesday, Jan. 3, then host the Bulldogs on Friday at 7 p.m. at Frank Crane Arena. The Clippers are also at home Saturday for a 6 p.m. tilt with the West Kelowna Warriors.