The Alberni Valley Bulldogs have been eliminated from the B.C. Hockey League playoffs after a tough 2–1 loss at home to Nanaimo Clippers at the Alberni Valley Multiplex, Thursday, March 5.
The Clippers swept the seven-game series 4–0, winning the first two at Frank Crane Arena and the last two in Port Alberni.
“It’s always tough when it’s over,” a subdued head coach Joe Martin said following the game. “We were feeling like in the last two games we were just getting back to who we were; we lost it for a long time for numerous reasons. We got our groove back, got our players healthy just before playoffs.”
The Bulldogs were starting to win some games when the ice chiller at the Multiplex malfunctioned, and the facility was closed for almost three weeks while numerous cracks in the new chiller were fixed. The Bulldogs had to play two games in other cities, postpone a few and practice in Parksville.
The team’s final road trip to Trail, Penticton and Merritt was played with AP goalies, as both Luke Pearson and Jackson Glassford were both sick. “The hardest thing is to get anybody to step in and play at the BCHL level,” Martin said. “This league is a lot faster than all Jr. A leagues in Canada. It’s hard for anybody, let alone when it’s January or February, because that’s when teams are really ramping up.”
Injuries also kept other Bulldogs out of the lineup late in their regular season.
Nanaimo Clippers’ head coach Darren Naylor gave the Bulldogs’ credit for playing a tight game on Thursday.
“(The Bulldogs) played us really hard today,” he said. “The second period, they were all over us. Our goalie (Jordan Naylor) held us in the second period and we were lucky enough to get that late one; I think that one stung the Bulldogs a little bit.”
After a scoreless first period, the Bulldogs opened scoring at 6:01 of the second, Mattias Dal Monte putting a pass from Tommy Bannister away. The Clippers’ Ethan Scardina pulled Nanaimo even with 33 seconds left in the second.
Scardina also collected an assist on Tim Washe’s second of the season, scored at the four-minute mark of the third period to give Nanaimo the lead and the eventual Game 4 sweep.
Jordan Naylor stopped 34 of 25 shots for the Clippers, while Luke Pearson stopped 36 of 38 in net for the Bulldogs.
“We’re a pretty stingy team,” Darren Naylor said, adding that the Clippers haven’t given up a lot of goals all year. He complimented the Bulldogs after the game. “This is a good hockey team; maybe a little bit young,” he said, adding that they remind him of where Nanaimo was last season.
“They have nothing to hang their heads about. They battled us pretty hard.”
Consistency is what gave Nanaimo the edge in this series, he added—that and the flexibility to play wide open games such as the first two in the series, as well as tighter games behind the blueline like they had to in Port Alberni. “People are realizing that we’re pretty deep, and we’re a pretty solid team.
“We’ve been pretty consistent all year,” he said. “We don’t really have one superstar kind of a guy. We’re four lines, six D and two goalies, and that’s how we play it.”
Winning the Island Division regular season gives the Clippers home ice advantage in the division finals. Nanaimo has won nine games in a row now, and has only lost a handful of games at home.
The Clippers will play the winner of Cowichan Valley Capitals vs. Powell River Kings series. The Caps have a chance to win their series at home on Friday, March 6 for Game 5.