The Alberni Valley Bulldogs may have just ended their 2015-16 season but head coach Kevin Willison is already looking ahead to the next one.
The Bulldogs lost 7-3 against the Nanaimo Clippers in Game 5 of the first round of the BCHL playoffs on March 11.
“As soon as the season ends, you start preparation for next season,” Willison said.
The team will host two spring camps, one in Port Alberni April 8-10 and one is Osoyoos April 30-May 1.
“Those are what you look forward to, you get the talent to come in here and try to play at the BCHL level,” said Willison.
“There should be some good prospects—we’ve scouted all year long through our staff, whether it be in Canada or the U.S. and those handpicked guys coming to camp will have to come in and showcase themselves to make the hockey team.”
Willison felt like the youth of the team held them back this year.
“We only had four 20-year-olds where you’re allowed six but we thought we had good enough 19-year-olds to carry us,” he said.
“But you can’t substitute anything for experience. Would have been nice to have six 20-year-olds, but we only had four. They logged a lot of ice time and were the heart and soul of our hockey team—you’ve got to give them a lot of credit for helping the young kids.”
While Willison would like an older team for next season, having the right players is more important.
“As long as they fit into our program. That’s the most important thing. We have a number of [players born in 1996] coming back next year so whether they fill that roster spot for us or we go out get a more experienced [player]… who knows.”
The team has other things to work on as well—as was evidenced in their season-ender—which they lost 7–3. The Clippers capitalized on several power play opportunities.
“At the end of the day, I thought we played extremely hard but we fell short,” said Willison, adding that it didn’t help having forwards Chris Schutz and Jordan Sandhu out for the game.
“We were good on the penalty kill through the series and then in Game 5 we fell apart there and Nanaimo took over on their powerplay.”