The final score was Alberni Valley 5 – Nanaimo Clippers 4 in a shootout.
The end of the game was much more than another BCHL season coming to a close. This final horn represented a close on the toughest season, likely in the history of junior hockey.
Bulldogs players began arriving in Port Alberni in August of 2020. The pandemic provided more questions then answers, however the BCHL began playing exhibition games in September hoping to wait things out long enough to have a regular season.
As case counts worsened, restrictions were added and the BCHL found themselves unable to travel around the province to play games. The players waited, and waited, and waited some more to get the news they could safely re-start.
The Bulldogs lost a large portion of their line-up to other teams and leagues that were playing in other areas of North America. The players who stayed could only wonder if they made the right decision.
Word finally came that the BCHL had received approval to play a shortened 20 game “Pod” season and the Bulldogs learned they would be hosting the Island. Joe Martin and Brandon Shaw went to work rebuilding the roster.
When Luke Pearson made the final save of the season, the Bulldogs and BCHL brass could breathe a collective sigh of relief. The season was a success.
Much more than the Bulldogs improving to an impressive 11-5-3-1, it was about providing the players the chance to showcase their many talents. What showcase they put on.
A dynamic trio in Stevie Castagna, Brandon Buhr and Josh Van Unen emerged to be one of the most dominant lines in the BCHL. The line combined for 34 goals and 48 assists in the 20 games. Buhr and Castagna finished 2nd and 3rd in BCHL goal scoring, while Josh Van Unen tied for league-lead in assists with 20.
There were many more success stories along the way as well.
Lukas Jirousek scoring 10 goals to close out his jr career, Chase Klassen’s emergence as a point per game player while adding a physical element that is tougher to find these days, Luke Pearson’s play in goal, Emanuelson Charbonneau logging first pair minutes on defence despite being one of the youngest players in the line-up, the 6 NCAA Div 1scholarships earned this year and so much more. That is what the 2020-2021 season is all about.
Congratulations to Victoria, Nanaimo and Cowichan, as well all the BCHL clubs that did whatever was necessary to make this season happen.
To our fans, sponsors and families, thank you for your support this year. We can’t wait to welcome you all into the Dawg Pound this fall.