Sunday, January 6, 2013

Game Preview: at Nanaimo Clippers

After celebrating a win last night, the Spruce Kings head
into Nanaimo for their first meeting with the Clippers

Two thirds of the season in and the Spruce Kings will finally see all of the teams in the BCHL. The final team on that list is the Nanaimo Clippers and that game comes up today at 3pm from the Frank Crane Arena in Nanaimo.

There is some familiarity with the Clippers organization that is coached by Mike Vandekamp who has coached against the Spruce Kings with the Merritt Centennials and the Vernon Vipers. Vandekamp also spent a tour of duty in Grande Prairie with the Alberta Junior Hockey League's Storm before returning to the BCHL and the Clippers.

The Nanaimo Clippers are the host team for the inaugural Western Canadian Championship, a tournament featuring the four champions from Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and BC with a fifth spot reserved for the Clippers. During the broadcast I will be talking to organizers about the tournament and the exact configuration of the WCC when it comes to setting up the RBC Royal Bank Cup National Championship.

The Nanaimo Clippers playing out of the Island Division sit in third place with 38 points in 34 games after defeating the Powell River Kings last night. With a record of 18-14-0-2, the Clippers have identical home and road records of 9-7-0-1. They have played in just four overtime games splitting that record evenly as well.

Perhaps the most interesting stat for the Nanaimo Clippers, as teams stare directly into the hockey trade deadline of January 10th, is that Mike Vandekamp is carrying a roster of twenty players including three goaltenders. Derek Dunn was added to the roster following the Christmas break joining Jarrod Schamerhorn and Jason Argue between the pipes, at least on the roster (Schamerhorn hasn't dressed since the Dunn has arrived).

The Clippers have an offensive punch to their game with six players boasting more than twenty points each. Leading the pack is a pair of twenty year-olds that have a combined total of 69 points. Greg Fraser is averaging over a point a game with 13 goals and 23 assists in 33 games. Committed to Brown University for next season, Kyle Kramer also averages a point a game with 17 goals and 16 assists in 34 games.

The other four snipers up front include Michael McNicholas (10G, 22A), Matthew Grant (6G, 22A), Reid Sturos (11G, 16A) and one-time Prince George Spruce Kings product Trevor Fitzgerald (10G, 13A). From the blue line, the Clippers also get good point production from Josh Bryan (5G, 10A) and Colton Dahlen (3G, 10A) as well as Christopher Rygus (4G, 6A). All three are 19 year-olds this year and expected to make up the core for the Clippers next season.

Both teams today are playing their third games of the weekend with similar results after losing Friday night and winning close ones last night. The Spruce Kings will have to defensively aware given the depth of the Clippers shown on the stats sheet. Prince George still has to find their offensive touch around the net having created many opportunities over the weekend but only finding the net twice.

The momentum gained from last night might just be the ticket the team is looking for this afternoon after getting a good night's rest at the Inn on Long Lake. Game time is 3pm with the game broadcast starting up at 2:35. The game will not be heard on 93.1 CFIS-FM but the free online audio broadcast will be available on the Spruce Kings channel and the pay-per-view feed on Following the game the Spruce Kings will catch the first available ferry and head for home expected to arrive in Prince George early Monday morning.

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