NANAIMO - The Clippers start the season looking to get back to their winning ways of 2014-15 and 2015-16.
Last season was frustrating at times with the team finishing fourth in the Island Division and falling in five games in the first round of the playoffs to Victoria.
But for the eight players returning from 2016-17 it was a year of growth and should set the table for a strong campaign this time around.
Austin Roden will battle for the starting job, although publicly it’s not known who will start for Nanaimo on Friday in the season opener against the Bulldogs.
Shawn Guison had a solid rookie year and is looking strong as part of a defensive pair with newcomer Jordan Wharrie.
Up front it’s easy to see the likes of Crozier, Collins, Harris, Millette, Silye, and Lynn all putting up improved numbers in their second seasons in Nanaimo.
Veterans Brad Belisle and Parker Colley appear poised to play significant roles on the team this year and young players like Preston Brodziak and Tyler Maser up front, and Ben Pirko and Collin Heinold on the back end, have shown tremendous potential.
Maser is calling the team's home opener against Alberni Valley a statement game.
"We want to come out hard and take the body on them," said Maser. "I'm super excited, I can't wait to get things going."
On Thursday the Clippers added some scoring punch and veteran leadership with the addition of 1997 born forward Cal Babych.
The son of former Vancouver Canuck Dave Babych made hockey history back in April when he scored the overtime winner in the longest game ever played in the CHL.
It was the series winning goal for his Everett Silvertips as they beat the Victoria Royals in the fifth overtime.
Babych is a veteran of 164 games in the WHL and also spent 38 games in Coquitlam of the BCHL last season.
He's looking forward to joining his new teammates.
"It's going to be an exciting year from everything I've heard and everything I've been told. It's a great team and I'm just excited to be a part of it," said Babych.
The Clippers also named their leadership group for the upcoming season the day before the home opener.
Jamie Collins will wear the 'C' as the captain. The Ontario born forward is in his second year with Nanaimo and is poised to take on a role as the Clippers first line left winger.
The assistant captains will be last year's top returning scorer Tristan Crozier and one of the team's top defensive recruits in the offseason - Jordan Wharrie.
Heading in to the season opener Nanaimo has recent history on their side, taking the 2016-2017 season series with a 5-1-0-2 record.
They also took the head to head preseason meeting 4-1 on August 26.
Game time is 7 p.m. Friday at Frank Crane Arena, night two of the season will take the Clippers to the Island Savings Centre in Duncan the following night.
On twitter: @danmarshall77
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