The Bulldogs are on the boil heading into their B.C. Hockey League back-to-back set against the Victoria Grizzlies Friday night at The Q Centre and Saturday in the Alberni Valley. The ʼDogs (16-15-3) are on a six-game winning streak with only eight goals allowed in that span.
“They are the hottest team in the conference and seem to be hitting their stride at just the right time,” said Grizzlies GM and head coach Rylan Ferster.
The Bulldogs are now two points behind the Grizzlies (16-12-5), Coquitlam Express and Chilliwack Chiefs, who are tied for third place in the Coastal Conference.
“It’s going to be close and the placings will probably change 10 times before it’s all done, and anything can happen,” said Ferster.
A big part of the Bulldogs’ turnaround and stingy goals against has been the play of goaltender Hobie Hedquist, whose two shutouts this season give him a franchise record seven in his two-season Bulldogs career. The six-foot-two American creaseman from Heron Lake, Minnesota, is headed to traditional NCAA powerhouse North Dakota and has a 2.92 goals-against average and .909 save percentage in 25 appearances this season after posting 2.53 and .909 in 42 appearances last season. Hedquist was ranked by Central Scouting for the 2022 NHL draft but not selected. But if his strong play continues in the Alberni Valley, and then at North Dakota, free-agent invites to pro camps should follow.
It was a bye week for the clubs as the BCHL celebrated its 60th-anniversary all-star festivities last weekend in Penticton. Olivier Picard, the Memorial Cup-winning forward last season with the Saint John Sea Dogs, 17-year-old goaltending revelation Oliver Auyeung-Ashton and blue-liner Hoyt Stanley, the 77th-ranked North American skater for the 2023 NHL draft, were the Grizzlies selected to take part.
“It was a good event and a great showcase for the league and its players,” said Ferster.
“But it was a long break and the guys are eager to get back at it.”
Team East defeated Team West 6-2 in the prospects game at the South Okanagan Events Centre that was part of the BCHL all-star weekend. NCAA Div. 1 Merrimack-bound forward Ethan Bono, the veteran six-foot-three Bulldogs forward out of Port McNeill, scored and was named Team West player of the game.
The other Bulldogs player selected for the all-star events was blue-liner Jax Wismer, the 17-year-old hometown Port Alberni product committed to NCAA Div. 1 with the UConn Huskies.
“As with any top players, we need to be aware of them when they are on the ice,” said Ferster.