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Clippers look to stay alive in Grizzlies' den

Game 5 set for Friday in Victoria
Grizzlies blue-liner Ranvir Gill-Shane and Clippers forward Connor DeTurris will renew their rivalry on Friday at The Q Centre. (ADRIAN LAM, TIMES COLONIST)

Where there is life, there is hope.

“I looked in the obituary ­section of the newspaper today and didn’t see our name listed there,” said Nanaimo Clippers head coach Colin Birkas.

“As long as that is the case, you keep playing.”

But with a sword dangling over the team as the Clippers are down 3-1 in their best-of-seven opening-round B.C. Hockey League playoff series against the Victoria Grizzlies heading into Game 5 tonight at The Q Centre.

“We are trying to remain positive,” said Birkas.

“I’ve been through it as a coach [facing elimination] but some of these young players haven’t yet at the BCHL level.”

The Clippers were the fifth seed in the Coastal Conference and the Grizzlies the fourth seed.

“We’ve had a good season but ran into an unfortunate run of injuries,” said Birkas.

“We are staring down the barrel and missing our top-three defencemen. But the Grizzlies are missing some of their top- D-men, too. This is the playoffs and nobody is going to feel sorry for you and nobody is going to help you.”

The Clippers will have to help themselves as their only option now in the series is to win out.

Three of the four games have been competitive and to the wire. That includes Game 4 in which Nanaimo led 2-0 on Wednesday night in the Harbour City before the Grizzlies rallied for a 3-2 victory with two of the Victoria goals coming on the power play.

“Our special teams have been not bad, but also not great, and they need to come up big for us,” said Birkas.

Containing Chase Pirtle, who has five goals and seven points in the playoffs after leading Victoria in points in the regular season, hasn’t been easy for the Clippers. The big forward from Far Hills, New Jersey, committed to the Cornell Big Red of the NCAA and one of the three finalists for the BCHL rookie of the year award, is physical and skilled and has been a handful for Nanaimo.

Nanaimo answers ­offensively with NCAA University of Connecticut Huskies-bound forward Mike Murtagh, who led the Clippers in regular-season points with 63, and who also co-leads Nanaimo in the playoffs with two goals and five points. Blueliner Isa Parekh also has five points for Nanaimo in the playoffs to continue a notable season for the family with brother Zayne Parekh recording 33 goals and 96 points this regular season as a defenceman for the Saginaw Spirit of the major-junior Ontario Hockey League to be ranked 10th overall by Central Scouting for the 2024 NHL draft as a sure-fire first-rounder.

The other BCHL Coastal Conference opening-round playoff series feature the top-seed Surrey Eagles against the eighth-seed Cowichan Valley Capitals, second-seed Chilliwack Chiefs versus the seventh-seed Langley Rivermen and third-seed Alberni Valley Bulldogs against the sixth-seed Coquitlam Express. All series are best of sevens. The Bulldogs-Express series is tied 2-2 heading into the fifth game tonight in Port Alberni. The Eagles lead stubborn Cowichan Valley 3-1 heading into their fifth game tonight in Surrey. The Chiefs swept the Rivermen.

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