The Alberni Valley Bulldogs’ post-season came to an emotional end on Saturday, April 23 in Langley. The home Rivermen eliminated the Bulldogs from the BC Hockey League’s Coastal Conference semifinals with a 5-2 victory.
“I had a very good friend say yesterday that collecting banners is a hard job,” Bulldogs’ team president David Michaud said. “We got one of them (first place Coastal Conference regular season). For this organization that’s a really good step forward.”
The Bulldogs had staved off elimination Friday night with a tight 2-1 win over Langley in front of 1,320 raucous fans at the AV Multiplex—dubbed the “Dawg Pound.” The Bulldogs took a 1-0 lead at 5:44 of the second period off a goal by Emanuelson Charbonneau. Daniel O’Neill tied it up for the visiting Rivermen at 18:38 of the second, and the teams went into the second intermission tied up at one goal apiece.
Josh Van Unen scored the winner at 7:38 of the third period off assists from Kai Greaves and team captain Stephen Castagna, and the Bulldogs shut down Langley for the rest of the night to force Game 6.
The Bulldogs went into Saturday’s game having notched one more goal—seven—than Langley in the low-scoring series. Both teams seemed evenly matched, Michaud said. The Bulldogs scored first, Cole Melady finding the twine at 13:42 with Nicholas Beneteau and Logan Holm assisting. Langley scored three unanswered goals, including two by Riley Wallack in the second period, to take a commanding 3-1 lead. One of Wallack’s and another from Ryan Upson were power-play markers.
The Bulldogs’ Braden Blace score unassisted on a power play at 5:07 of the third period to cut the Rivermen’s lead to 3-2, but Max Dukovac (from Owen Kim and Max Bulawka) scored at 15:34 to put the game away for Langley. Kim scored the final goal of the game and series (from Stephen Sielsky) at 19:37 and Langley won 5-2.
“It’s hard,” Michaud said Monday morning. “The most gut-wrenching time for me was seeing our 20-year-olds almost a full hour after the game finished, still sitting on the bench in full uniform.
“It’s soul-crushing to see them fall short of their goals.”
Michaud said finishing the BCHL regular season atop the Coastal Conference and making it to the semifinals was a step forward for the organization. “While our goal was to hold a trophy at the end of the year and we fell short of that…as an organization we took big steps this year.
“There’s a ton our guys can be proud of.”
The team will lose strength and experience with their 20-year-old players such as Castagna and Josh Zary, Josh Van Unen, Booker Daniel, Arlo Merritt and Ryan Nause. However, they’ve left a legacy, and the team “has some tremendous building blocks in place,” said Michaud.
ICE CHIPS…The Bulldogs’ year-end awards gala takes place this Wednesday, April 27 at RimRock Casino. Tickets are $55 and available at the Bulldogs’ office outside the AV Multiplex on Roger Street or online via the website at albernivalleybulldogs.ca. Doors open at 5:45 p.m., dinner is at 6:30 p.m. and auction will follow.