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Nanaimo Clippers win three games in three nights

BCHL team climbs to one point out of first in conference standings
Nanaimo Clippers player Jérémie Payant, left, tries to get the puck away from Alberni Valley Bulldogs opponent Nicholas Beneteau during Sunday’s BCHL game at Frank Crane Arena. (Greg Sakaki/News Bulletin)

The Nanaimo Clippers rose to the challenge of three games in three nights by winning all three.

The Clips defeated the Coquitlam Express 3-2 on Friday at Frank Crane Arena, edged the Powell River Kings 5-4 on the road Saturday and then finished the weekend sweep with a 5-2 decision against the Alberni Valley Bulldogs on Sunday night at Frank Crane.

“It’s always hard to play three in three, but you just grind through it, make simple plays, keep shifts short and keep going,” said Max Itagaki, who had a goal and an assist in Sunday’s win.

He said the Clippers focused on trying to shut down the Bulldogs’ best players and take advantage of power play chances.

“It was a long day, but we just stuck to the game plan, played hard, stayed on them the whole night and we put the puck in the net,” Itagaki said.

Colin Birkas, assistant coach, said the Clippers really wanted to accomplish a six-point weekend, and so when they found themselves in a tie game Sunday after two tiring travel days, they tried to avoid any excuses and dig deep.

“Nothing the coaching staff came up with, there were no tweaks to the game plan or anything,” he said. “It was just old-fashioned desire.”

Sean Donaldson scored two goals in Sunday’s win and Itagaki, Charles Tardif, Kai Daniells and Tristan Fraser each scored two points. Jed Baliotti earned the win in the crease, making 24 saves.

On Saturday, Donaldson and Tardif each had a goal and an assist and Cooper Black made 31 saves for the win.

Friday’s game required a shootout to decide the winner. Jake Hewitt scored the winning goal and Itagaki also scored in the shootout to go with an earlier goal and assist. Black made 28 saves for the win.

The Clippers (16-8) are now one point back of the first-place Langley Rivermen (15-5-1-2) in the BCHL’s Coastal Conference standings.

GAME ON … The Clippers have three more games in 2021. They visit the Cowichan Valley Capitals on Wednesday, Dec. 15, host the Caps on Friday, Dec. 17 at 7 p.m. at Frank Crane Arena, then visit the Victoria Grizzlies on Saturday, Dec. 18.

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About the Author: Greg Sakaki

I have been in the community newspaper business for two decades, all of those years with Black Press Media.
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