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Nanaimo Clippers looking to rebound at home against Penticton in BCHL series

Island team down 2-0 as series returns to Nanaimo's Frank Crane Arena tonight
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Penticton Vees’ Casey McDonald, right, and Nanaimo Clippers’ Cooper Black battle for the puck earlier in the series. The teams face off tonight in Game Three in Nanaimo. ADRIAN LAM, TIMES COLONIST

The Nanaimo Clippers hope it is home sweet Island home tonight and Wednesday at Frank Crane Arena in the 2022 Fred Page Cup B.C. Hockey League final. They need it to be, trailing the Penticton Vees 2-0 in the best-of-seven series, after dropping the opening games 4-1 before 4,459 fans and 3-1 before 3,906 fans over the weekend at the South Okanagan Events Centre.

Nanaimo had a spotless 12-0 playoff record heading into the final but the Vees have now won 14 consecutive games after having dropped their first post-season game to the Trail Smoke Eaters. Penticton has looked every bit the team that won the regular-season title at 43-8-3 as they have outscored Nanaimo 7-2 in the first two games in solving the imposing puzzle that is six-foot-eight Clippers goaltender Cooper Black, who is headed next season to the Ivy League in NCAA Div. 1 at Dartmouth.

Black, who was almost unbeatable heading into the final, has faced 71 shots over the two games and leads the league in playoff save percentage at .945. The Clippers have put only 39 shots in total over the two games on NCAA Div. 1 Northern Michigan-bound Vees goaltender Kaeden Lane, who leads the playoffs with a goals-against average of 1.47.

Penticton’s Luc Wilson, committed to NCAA Div. 1 Minnesota State, had three points in the first game against Nanaimo and leads playoff scoring with 22 points. NCAA Div. 1 Maine Black Bears-bound brothers Josh and Bradley Nadeau continue producing and have 20 playoff points each. Vees defenceman Ryan Hopkins, ranked for the 2022 NHL draft, has a goal and assist in the final series.

Jackson Nieuwendyk has scored for Penticton and has eight goals in the post-season. The son of Joe Nieuwendyk, he is among two off-spring on the Vees of NHL Hall of Famers, with the other being blueliner Joshua Niedermayer, son of Scott Niedermayer.

Meanwhile, Nanaimo will be looking to diversify its attack. Kai Daniells scored both goals for the Clippers in Penticton and has eight in total in the playoffs. Andrew Noel assisted on both Nanaimo goals. NCAA Cornell Big Red-bound Sean Donaldson, who leads Nanaimo in the playoffs with 12 goals and 19 points, was held point-less by the Vees in the two games in the Okanagan.

The Clippers were third in the Coastal Conference at 33-17-4 before dispatching the Surrey Eagles, Chilliwack Chiefs and Langley Rivermen in straight games in the post-season.

“The Vees are a very good team and took it to us in Game 1,” said Nanaimo coach Colin Birkas.

“We were much better in Game 2 and thought we had the game tied 2-2 with nine minutes to go, and that would have turned the tide, but our second goal was disallowed. One of the keys is we have to get our power play going, and now we have home ice.”

This is the seventh meeting between Nanaimo and Penticton in the Fred Page Cup final. The Clippers won the first three consecutively in the mid-to-late 1970s with future Victoria Cougar WHLers and eventual NHLers Barry Pederson, Greg Adams, Torrie Robertson and Gary Lupul. Penticton beat Nanaimo in the 1980, 2008 and 2015 league finals.

This is Penticton’s 22nd trip to the BCHL final since 1961. Nanaimo is in the final for the ninth time. Penticton has won recent BCHL championships in 2008, 2012, 2015 and 2017 and is after its 13th Fred Page Cup championship overall. Nanaimo has won five BCHL championships, the last in 2007.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com