It may not have been the triumphant return their fans were hoping for, but the BCHL’s Alberni Valley Bulldogs were finally able to play on home ice Saturday night for the first time in almost a month.
Their last game at the Dawg Pond was a 4-0 victory against the Powell River Kings on Nov. 2. The next day, a low-level ammonia leak was discovered in the Alberni Valley Multiplex and both rinks were shut down by Technical Safety BC for weeks as repairs were made.
On Saturday, Nov. 30, the Bulldogs returned to Weyerhaeuser Arena to face the Cowichan Valley Capitals and fell 6-4 to the visiting team in front of more than a thousand fans.
The Caps took a 2-0 lead in the first, but the Bulldogs fought to tie things up in the second with goals from Isaac Pascoal and Tim Gould. The Caps scored again toward the end of the second period, but Bulldogs forward Tommy Bannister made it 3-3 just a minute later.
In the third, the Caps took a 6-3 lead with three goals in a row. Bulldogs defenceman Moe Acee managed to score once more in the dying minutes of the game, but the Caps took the 6-4 win. Bulldogs goaltender Jackson Glassford made 38 saves in the loss.
It was the first game that the Bulldogs have played without head coach Joe Martin behind the bench. Martin, along with athletic therapist Scott Crema and goaltending coach Jamie McCaig, is off to Calgary to coach Team Canada West for the World Junior A Challenge. Assistant coach Brandon Shaw has stepped up behind the bench in their absence.
The Bulldogs will be hosting the Merrit Centennials on Wednesday, Dec. 4 in a game that was rescheduled because of the Multiplex closure. During the closure, the Bulldogs were forced to postpone or move more than 20 percent of their home games—even playing a pair of games in Parksville and Campbell River.
During a pre-game ceremony on Saturday night, city councillor and former Port Alberni Junior Hockey Society president Ron Paulson thanked the communities of Parksville and Campbell River for being so accomodating.
“Nothing like good old Island spirit to help each other out,” he said.
He also thanked Bulldogs players, coaching staff and their families, as well as Multiplex staff, for their response to the closure.
“Our Bulldogs bring a sense of community to our city,” he added. “We are so fortunate to have you guys to represent our community throughout the province. Now, it’s time to get our second home opener going.
“Welcome home, boys.”