The Nanaimo Clippers brought energy to the season opener, but it was the Alberni Valley Bulldogs who capitalized on scoring chances.
The Bulldogs beat the Clippers 4-1 on Friday night at Frank Crane Arena in the first game of the B.C. Hockey League season.
Alberni forward Tristan Bukovec scored all four goals for his team.
“Honestly, I just kind of found the front of the net and my teammates got me the puck there,” he said.
The Clips had the run of play for long stretches, including the start of the game.
“Especially for our home opener, I thought we started great,” said Mike Vandekamp, Clippers coach. “We didn’t have a lot of nerves; we seemed to be flying and pushing.”
But Bukovec scored late in the first period on a wrap-around, and in the first part of the second period Nanaimo ran into penalty trouble and Bukovec kept finding space and loose pucks at the side of the crease.
Nanaimo got on the board midway through the second when Matt Creamer squeezed in a shot from a difficult angle. The Clippers got quite a few outside shots the rest of the way, but couldn’t close the gap.
“We didn’t score on our chances around their net,” Vandekamp said. “We seemed to have trouble being able to find a way to get those rebounds up and over their goalie.”
The coach said the team would focus on special teams and said Sunday’s home game against the Powell River Kings now becomes magnified.
“We’ll just keep plugging away,” Vandekamp said. “Early on we’re going to try to fight hard to keep our heads above water while we learn and grow and get better as a team.”
Bulldogs players Trevor Cosgrove and Jake Witkowski had two assists each.
Shots were 40-22 in favour of the Clippers. Brody Claeys made 39 saves for the win and Brendan Barry got the start in net for Nanaimo before being relieved by Austin Roden.
GAME ON … The Clippers play the Kings on Sunday at 2 p.m. at Frank Crane Arena. Tickets will be available at the door.