After bringing an Island Division title to the Nanaimo Clippers last season, both are focused on a much bigger prize, which is the Fred Page Cup.
The Clippers went 37-17-2-2 last season with much of the credit going towards Jordan, who posted the third-highest save percentage in league history at .935 while posting a record of 30-9-0 in 41 games.
Nanaimo also coasted past the first round of the playoffs with the 2000-born netminder in goal for all four victories and posting a .934 save percentage along with a 2.25 goals-against-average.
It’s been a meteoric rise for Naylor, to say the least.
After posting a .500 record between the pipes in his first season, the Aldergrove, BC product recorded six shutouts during 2019-20 in front of a stout defensive team, which included the likes of Aiden Hansen-Bukata, Robby Drazner, Devon Mussio, and Trevor LeDonne just to name a few.
So what contributed to the big turnaround?
“I just think the experience in my first year helped me so much and it showed me that this league is tough to play in if you are not ready for it. I put in a lot more work during the offseason with more people helping me, and I think having a solid defense in front of me really helped,” explained Naylor. “Our assistant coach Colin Birkas brought in a pretty good d-zone system and it was an overall good formula for a goalie to have.”
Darren joined the Clippers organization halfway through the 2017-18 season, replacing longtime head coach Mike Vandekamp after spending two years coaching junior B with the Delta Ice Hawks of the Pacific Junior Hockey League.
Naylor also held the title of General Manager before Clippers owner Wes Mussio hired Tali Campbell, but then added the responsibility of Director of Hockey Operations to his name.
Jordan on the other hand, spent one game with the Clippers as an affiliate while in junior B with the Ice Hawks.
With that said, the father and son dynamic is an old hat for the Naylors.
“It’s pretty healthy. We have been doing it for a long time now, he’s coached me all the way up from initiation, and all through the years we have it figured out. At the rink, he is the coach and away from it, we have a pretty good relationship as father and son. We have been doing it for so long that I don’t think we notice it anymore,” mentioned Jordan.
“Echoing Jordan, we have done it for so long that I had a player come up to me halfway through the year and said ‘I didn’t even know that was your son.’ Jordan isn’t treated any differently; he’s expected to work hard and not cheat the system,” Darren said.
“This is my last year coaching Jordan and I am looking forward to it and we have put in the extra time together to build a team that can help us win a championship.”
When the elder Naylor took the head coaching job in Nanaimo, he also left one of the best junior B teams in the Ice Hawks, where Jordan was the starting netminder and didn’t feel it was necessary to rush him up to the BCHL too soon.
“I didn’t want to disrupt that at all, it was important for Jordan to finish what he started there. We called him up for one game, which was an eye-opener and really helped him along and when we got involved the next year, I had my second goalie go back east and go to school, so we threw Jordan into the fire a little earlier than anticipated but he did OK in a complete rebuild.”
New season, same expectations
The Clippers are looking to build off the on-ice success they had last year before the disruption of COVID-19. Nanaimo sees some fresh new faces on the backend after several blueliners either graduated or accepted NCAA scholarships.
The head coach is pretty confident in his recruiting. “We brought in the Rose boy from the states (Carter), we picked up Palandra (Michael) from down east, and then we picked up guys with some experience in Kabir Gill and Colten Kitchen. I really like our D, it’s mobile with some size, maybe not as experienced as last year’s but I think we have done a pretty good job.”
“Up front, we really wanted to get some guys who can score. Last year, we would really dominate teams in zone time but would come out of the first period and be up only 1-0 or tied 0-0 and we didn’t have that natural goal scorer.”
The Clippers play their first exhibition game on October 2 against Alberni Valley.