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BCHL: Alberni Valley Bulldogs end regular season on high note

Pair of wins propel Dawgs into Coastal Conference playoffs against Coquitlam Express
Alberni Valley Bulldogs’ Braxton Buckberger takes control of the puck from Surrey Eagles’ Ryden Evers, setting up ‘Dogs’ Zeke Nicholson, top, to give Alberni Valley a 3-0 lead in their BC Hockey League game Friday, March 29, 2024. (SUSIE QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)

The Alberni Valley Bulldogs ended their 2023-24 B.C. Hockey League regular season on a high last weekend, with a pair of wins.

The Bulldogs dispatched both the Surrey Eagles and Langley Rivermen in their final two home games of the regular season, Friday, March 29 and Saturday, March 30.

The Bulldogs held off the league-leading Surrey Eagles—who sat most of their star players—to win 3-2 on Good Friday. That gave them six straight wins on home ice and 33 wins on the season in 54 games.

League-leading goal-scorer Hayden Stavroff scored Saturday to bring the Bulldogs even with the Rivermen before Matt Kursonis scored at 4:13 in overtime to give the Bulldogs a 3-2 win and their seventh straight home victory. They finished third in the Coastal Conference with a record of 33-20-1-0-0 for 67 points, just two points shy of Chilliwack Chiefs who finished in second.

Stavroff scored five goals in his last few games (and had eight points in his last four games) to capture the BCHL goal-scoring title this season with 35. He is the first Bulldog since Mitch MacMillan to lead the league in goals. The win was No. 22 for goaltender Callum Tung, who also made the most saves of any goaltender in the BCHL the season, with 1,118.

The Bulldogs will face Coquitlam Express in the Coastal Conference quarterfinals beginning Friday, April 5 and Saturday, April 6 at the “Dawg Pound”—the Alberni Valley Multiplex. Both games start at 7 p.m. The series moves to Coquitlam for games 3 and 4 on Tuesday, April 9 and Wednesday, April 10, then return for Game 5 (if necessary) in Port Alberni on Friday, April 12.

Big change for BC Hockey League

The Merritt Centennials announced on Easter weekend that they will be ceasing operations as a B.C. Hockey League team after 51 years. A press release issued on the team’s website and social media cited “continuing into the future is no longer viable,” but didn’t mention any other reason for the decision.

On the same day, the Kootenay International Junior A Hockey League announced that the Centennials will be joining the KIJHL as an expansion franchise for the 2024-25 season. They will play in the Bill Ohlhausen Division.

Brad Anstey and Daniel Schofield have purchased the Centennials, marking the franchise’s move from public to private ownership.

The KIJHL operates under BC Hockey as a Junior A, Tier 2 league.

The Centennials will face the Salmon Arm Silverbacks in Round 1 of BCHL playoff action starting April 5.

New challenge for BCHL post-season

The BCHL has announced a format for the new Rocky Mountain Challenge post-season series between the Alberta and B.C. playoff champions. The two playoff winners will meet in a best-of-three series from May 31 to June 2, with all three games being hosted by the Alberta champion. This series will mark the official end to the 2023-24 BCHL season.

“With the addition of the five teams from Alberta midseason and having them play a separate schedule from our B.C. teams, this felt like the perfect way to introduce competition between the two provinces, while giving the athletes a memorable event to cap off 2023-24,” said BCHL Commissioner Steven Cocker. “If this season is any indication, this is bound to be an action-packed weekend and will set the table for the exciting future of the BCHL.”

ICE CHIPS…Bulldogs’ playoff tickets are on sale now at the Bulldogs’ box office…The Bulldogs’ year-end awards gala is scheduled for Wednesday, April 3 at RimRock Casino in Port Alberni. Tickets are $60 each. Doors open at 5:45 p.m., dinner starts at 6:30 p.m. Presented by Port Alberni Junior Hockey Society.

Susie Quinn

About the Author: Susie Quinn

A journalist since 1987, I proudly serve as the Alberni Valley News editor.
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