The Alberni Valley Bulldogs dropped a tough one on Tuesday night 4-3 to the Prince George Spruce Kings while playing in Parksville.
While the Alberni Valley Multiplex remains closed due to a low-level ammonia leak detected earlier this month, the Bulldogs have had to move two of their games to neighbouring arenas and postpone an additional four. On Sunday, Nov. 17, they played in a sold-out rink in Campbell River and on Tuesday, they hosted another large crowd at Oceanside Place in Parksville.
The game was scoreless for the first 20 minutes, with the visiting Prince George Spruce Kings outshooting the Bulldogs 19-12. In the second period, the Bulldogs came out of the gate firing with three goals in just over four minutes. Stephen Castagna got the scoring started at the 2:06 mark, affiliate player (AP) Josh Pederson made it 2-0 with his first BCHL goal and Ryan Doolin added to the Bulldogs lead with his 10th of the season.
But before the second period came to a close, the Spruce Kings added two late goals, then added two more goals in the third and held on for a 4-3 win. Bulldogs goaltender Jackson Glassford, originally from the Parksville-Qualicum area, made 37 saves in his return to Oceanside.
The last time these two teams met back in September, the Spruce Kings took an 8-2 win over the Bulldogs.
“We’re a long way from where we were then,” said Bulldogs’ head coach Joe Martin after Tuesday’s game. “Our team has drastically improved, that’s the biggest thing. I would have been shocked to be in a game that was very similar, but I’m not surprised that it was a close game.”
But despite the improvements, Martin wasn’t happy with the loss.
“We didn’t play as consistently as our recent games,” he explained.
The roster looked a little different, as Pederson and another AP, Kurt Hoogendoorn, drew into the lineup on Tuesday. Defenceman Jackson Munro took a heavy hit more than a week ago in Nanaimo and has been dealing with concussion-like symptoms, although Martin expects him to be returning soon. Forward Austin Spiridakis is currently serving a two-game suspension for a blow to the head during the game in Campbell River last weekend.
“[Pederson and Hoogendoorn] had limited ice time, but they played well,” said Martin. “I thought they handled themselves well.”
The Bulldogs are now 12-10-0-2 on the season and will return to game action on Saturday against the Capitals in Duncan, another game that has been rescheduled due to the Alberni Valley Multiplex closure. The Bulldogs and Capitals swapped home games, so the Caps are scheduled to be here Nov. 30—if the Multiplex is open by then.
The Bulldogs have had to reschedule or move 20 percent of their home games, team president David Michaud said.
“It was pretty loud in Parksville,” said Martin. “We had a lot of fans come, which was very impressive. They’re obviously big fans of the Bulldogs, and of hockey in general. I was also impressed with our volunteers coming all that way to help get a game on and make it as much like a game here as possible. It makes it even better for our players.”
While their arena is closed, the Bulldogs have been practicing in Parksville, and practices have been moved down from five days a week to three or four days a week. The added travel and equipment transportation adds about three hours to every practice, said Martin.
“It’s far from ideal,” he said. “The players are tired of it. We’re trying to do the best can with it.”
The team has been supplementing missed practices with outdoor activities, like hiking the Alberni Inlet Trail and playing road hockey with some young fans in the parking lot at the Multiplex. But the missed practices take their toll, especially for the players who are in school, said Martin.
ICE CHIPS… Bulldogs goaltender Jackson Glassford and forward Austin Spiridakis have both been invited to the Team Canada West Camp for the World Junior A Challenge, joining their coach Joe Martin, who is the head coach of Team Canada West. The camp will take place Dec. 1-3 in Calgary.