A week ago, Mak Barden was playing with the Delta Ice Hawks of the Pacific Junior Ice Hockey League. On Wednesday night hockey fans in Port Alberni raised him to hero status as he capitalized on a play from Evan Tironese and Ryan Lough and scored 18 seconds into overtime, vaulting the Alberni Valley Bulldogs into the BC Hockey League Coastal Conference final with a 3-2 win over the Victoria Grizzlies.
Several hundred fans from Port Alberni packed Bear Mountain Arena in Victoria for Game 5 of the Island Division semi-finals.
Victoria went up 1-0 in the first period, but the Bulldogs evened it up and went ahead 2-1 in the second period. Victoria tied it up at 15:11 of the third period, forcing overtime.
Tironese and Lough chipped the puck into the Grizzlies’ end off the opening faceoff of overtime and Barden followed them in to score the winner.
This is the first time the Bulldogs have won two playoff series to get into the Coastal Conference final, play-by-play announcer Evan Hammond said. The Bulldogs have appeared in the conference final before, but they had a bye.
While the team will take a day to let their win sink in, head coach Kevin Willison said in a post-game interview with PEAK FM that it will be brief. “We have to move forward here. There’s no time to sit back and relax.”
The Bulldogs face the Surrey Eagles this Friday, March 29 and Saturday, March 30 in Surrey. They are home in the Dawg Pound again on Monday, April 1 and Tuesday, April 2.
Tickets go on sale when the Bulldogs’ office opens Thursday morning.
ICE CHIPS...Port Alberni hockey products Leo and Myles Fitzgerald, wearing Grizzlies’ uniforms, nearly upset the Bulldogs’ chances of winning this playoff series. Leo scored off a pass from Myles to tie the game in the third period and force the overtime.