Midget Alberni Bulldogs play for Island hockey title

The Alberni Valley Midget A Bulldogs beat Peninsula Eagles 4-3 in sudden death overtime on Sunday, Feb. 20 to earn a spot in the Vancouver Island Tier 2 hockey championship starting Feb. 27.

The Van Isle Ford Midget Bulldogs will play for the Vancouver Island Tier 2 championship after winning a tense semi-final 4-3 in sudden death overtime against Peninsula Eagles on Sunday.The single game knockout format meant both teams had a lot riding on the result.  The Bulldogs were tentative at first, allowing the bigger Eagles to be first to the puck and control the play.  Peninsula scored after seven minutes, with the Alberni defense tied up in the neutral zone. They scored again early in the second period after a prolonged attack inside the Bulldog zone.Down two goals, the Bulldogs needed to change something. The coaches juggled the lines to step up the physical game with third year players like Bryan Read, Nolan Jarvis and Jesse York. Some solid body checks from the bigger defencemen like Ryan White, Nathan Read and Ryan Buse also contributed.  The momentum shifted in favour of the Bulldogs and led to their first goal in the middle of the second period.  Working down low Sam Visona and Brady Janzen set up Carson McCulloch to score from the right side.Alberni evened it up at the start of the third period.  This time it was Janzen pouncing on a rebound in the slot and firing it through five-hole.  McCulloch and Colby Lim assisted.  Peninsula went ahead again on a power play with 13 minutes left. It was a long five minutes before Alberni got it back. This time it was Janzen pounding it in as he and McCulloch battled in front of the net. Lim collected the second assist. The Bulldogs out-skated the visitors through to the end of the third period.  They had some good chances but were unable to convert.  The score remained tied 3-3 at the end of regulation time.Sudden death overtime lasted two minutes. Coming down the right side, Brandon Antonichuk faked a shot then beat the defence and put the puck to the front of the net where Beau Wilson one timed it under the goalie.  The arena erupted with the realization that Alberni Valley will play for the Vancouver Island title.This was an all round team effort.  The coaches feel the team is gelling at the right time.  Head coach Brent Demerais said that “Their conditioning showed up late in the game.  We need to thank (dryland coaches) Dave and Jill Sherlock for their work with the team all season.”  He complimented Bryce Dirocco who stopped 36 shots for the win and Antonichuk for his fearless work in the corners, both 5 on 5 and on penalty kill.At the end of the game the team gathered at centre ice to salute their cheering supporters in the stands.  They are grateful for the extra fan support and hope for even more in the final.  Special thanks go to Jim Oliver who stepped in to lend his professional touch to the announcements and to Van Isle Ford for their major sponsorship of the team.ICE CHIPS…The Vancouver Island final will be a best of three series against Juan de Fuca Grizzlies. The first game will be at 3 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 27 at Bear Mountain Arena.  The second game will be at home on March 5 and the third game (if necessary) on March 6.

— AVMHA