The 2013-14 edition of the Alberni Valley Bulldogs Jr. A hockey team hit the ice last weekend for a trio of exhibition games, tying Cowichan Valley 3–3 on the road, and losing to Victoria 4–2 on the road and 6–2 at home.
Not an auspicious start for a team in transition, but not a worry for head coach and general manager Kevin Willison.
“At the end of the day the boys had a long week,” Willison said.
“Training camp is not an easy time of year,” he said, adding that main camp was larger than he and assistant coach Adam Hayduk anticipated.
But that was last weekend.
This weekend the Bulldogs will play a home-and-home series against the Nanaimo Clippers to close out their exhibition season. The roster sits at 28 players, and Willison has six more decisions to make.
B.C. Hockey League teams must pare their rosters down to 22 players by Sept. 6, the beginning of the Bauer BCHL Showcase at Prospera Centre in Chilliwack.
The Bulldogs’ blueline is deep and offensively “I think we’re going to be fine,” Willison said. “What we lack is size at the front end. We don’t want to get pushed around.”
He and Hayduk will be looking to make a change up front in the coming weeks to bring some size up front.
Forward Tryg Strand, named team captain last week, has been playing with Hunter Stewart and Mitch Makin at centre, and already shown some chemistry. Strand scored twice in the 4–2 loss to Victoria.
“That line will probably play against a lot of other top lines,” Willison predicted.
Brad Rebagliati has looked solid for the starting role in net. Behind him, Blake Pearson has been the surprise of training camp, Willison said.
Pearson, a 1997 player from the Okanagan Hockey Schools has had a good camp.
“He got thrown in [the game] in Victoria and shut the door.
“He looks very solid,” Willison said.
ALBERNI VALLEY Bulldogs host Nanaimo Clippers Saturday, Aug. 31, 7 p.m. at Weyerhaeuser Arena in the AV Multiplex for the second game in a home-and-home exhibition series.