Three Alberni Valley Bulldog alumni have committed to NCAA Div. 1 schools for the upcoming year.
Casey Bailey, Connor Varley and Kenney Morrison have all finalized university commitments this fall after playing last season for the Bulldogs.
Bailey and Varley have both committed to the new Div. 1 program at Penn State University while Morrison has decided to attend the University of Western Michigan.
Teams in the US Hockey League drafted the three players last spring. After much soul searching they made the decision this summer to move to the United States this year to play junior hockey. Bailey and Morrison are playing for the Omaha Lancers while Varley is playing for the Des Moines Buccaneers.
Bailey and Varley are both US-born players, which was a big factor in them finishing their junior careers in the States, Bulldogs’ assistant coach Adam Hayduk said in a press release.
The 6’3’’, 195-pound Bailey is from Anchorage, Alaska and came to the Bulldogs in the 2009-2010 season. Described as a power forward, Bailey enjoyed two seasons in Alberni, finishing with a total of 41 goals and 41 assists for 82 points.
Varley joined the Bulldogs last season out of Lansdale, Pennsylvania. He had a strong rookie season, recording nine goals and 20 assists for 29 points and finished as the Bulldogs’ top defenseman.
Morrison is a native of Lloydminster, Alta. and last season he registered 35 points, eight goals, 27 assists in 55 games for the Bulldogs. Morrison was drafted by Omaha as one of the few import players. The 6’2”, 190-pound defenseman leads all Omaha defensemen and is tied for third among all USHL blue-liners with 31 shots on goal this season.
Morrison will join fellow Bulldog alumni Frank Slubowski when he arrives at Western Michigan. Slubowski is having an excellent rookie season in goal for the Broncos.
All three players were quick to comment on how their time in the Alberni Valley with the Bulldogs contributed to their success. “Playing in Alberni helped me to develop both on and off ice,” Morrison said.
“[Former] coaches Paul Esdale and Kevin Hasselberg were a big part of my development on the ice and I would like to thank them.”
Varley shared many of the same sentiments. “My time in the Alberni Valley was pivotal in achieving my dream of playing Div. 1 hockey,” he said in a press release.
“I learned a lot about the game and how to be successful on and off the ice.”
The veteran Bailey said his two seasons in Port Alberni were critical to his hockey career. “It matured me as a hockey player and as a man. I was granted the opportunity to play with and watch great players during my time in Alberni.”
Bailey played for Nolan Graham and Esdale.
“My time spent in Port was a great period in my life and leaving was one of the hardest things I have ever done. I am proud to say I was an Alberni Valley Bulldog and will be for the rest of my life,” he said.
“We are proud to have been a part in the development and college recruitment of all three of these players,” said Bulldogs’ President Andy Oakes.
“We were sad to see them leave last summer…but in hockey one never begrudges a player or a coach taking advantage of an opportunity that they think will benefit them.”