After taking the first week of the season off, the Bulldogs finally get going this weekend when they open their season on home ice for the first time in franchise history.
Friday night sees the Victoria Grizzlies in town, the 2009 RBC Cup Hosts. The Bulldogs then have Saturday off before hosting the Powell River Kings Sunday afternoon.
Let?s start off with the Bulldogs and the changes fans will notice from the end of last season?s roster to the debut roster for 2008-2009. Gone to graduation are Captain and leading scorer Daniel Moriarty. Also gone to graduation and off to the NCAA ranks is the second leading scorer from last season Marcello Ranallo, who is off to the University of Connecticut. Mark Morikawa is another departure as has decided to try out with the USHL. Shane Malone was traded to the Burnaby Express for goalie Kevin Jebson, who is still at the time of this writing trying out with the WHL?s Moose Jaw Warriors. Summertime deals also saw Devin Braden moved to the Quesnel Millionaires and Adam Baldassarre moved to the Prince George Spruce Kings. Jordan Principalli was traded along with Matt Frydrysek to the Quesnel for the new man between the pipes on opening night, Matthew Wong. A fortunate turn of events later saw Frydrysek re-acquired and once again wearing Red, Black, Copper and White. Harrison May at the time of this writing is at home awaiting a trade after trying out with the Edmonton Oil Kings of the WHL, while recruited goaltender Frank Slubowski is rehabbing an off-season injury that will make him miss the entire upcoming season.
Returnees include top five scorers James Kerr, Lee Patzer and Evan Witt. Also back are Chris Moulson, Warren Muir, Ben Payne, Eliot Raibl, Zack Mazo, Josh Pineiro, Kevin Ross, Adam Hout, and Robert Lindores, who saw action last year as an affiliate player.
Newcomers include 2007-2008 BCHL All-Star Matthew Wong and Colin Rundell in goal. The new Bulldogs on defence are Shae Naka and Curtis Tonello. Upfront joining the team are Justin Castagna, Jackson Garrett, Branden Gracel, and Brett Mohler.
Off-ice changes include on the bench, where last year?s Associate Coach Bryant Perrier has been named the new Head Coach with Alan Kerr taking on just the General Manager role. Former BURNABY Bulldog Chris Shaw is his new right hand man as the new assistant coach running the defence core.
Victoria enters play Friday night after opening up the season a week previous with a 6-3 win over the Nanaimo Clippers in their home opener at the Frank Crane Arena. The Grizz had leads of 1-0 after one period and 2-0 after two periods on goals by Cam Reid and Brian Nugent ? on the power play. A hectic third period saw Nanaimo get on the board to trim the gap to 2-1 but just over 30 seconds later Mike Hammond scored on a breakaway to restore the two goal cushion. The craziness continued 16 seconds later as the Clippers struck back for a 3-2 score. Just two minutes later the Clippers found the net again to tie it up at 3-3. The eventual game winner came from new Grizzlie and former Salmon Arm Silverback Derek Lee, as he scored on a breakaway with 6:34 to play in the third. Tyler Gubb would erase all doubt for Victoria scoring into the empty net with 55 second left, before Brian Nugent rubbed salt into the wound scoring to make it 6-3 with just 25 seconds to play.
Shots favoured Victoria 35-24, with Anthony Grieco picking up the win in goal. The Grizzlies were 1 for 6 on the power play while the Clippers were 1 for 4.
Of course almost everyone knows that the Grizzlies are the host team for the 2009 RBC Cup tournament. This means about as much going into this weekend as the fact that these teams split two games in exhibition season does. The Bulldogs need to simply get their butterflies out, which sometimes comes from a home opener and a first career game in a new league or a new sweater. I would imagine the coaching staff is focusing their efforts on preparing the team to play their game and get them ready, and not much time working on preparing for the Victoria Grizzlies.
A look at noticeable departures from the Grizzlies from last season to this season sees plenty of change. Leading scorer Keenan Desmet is gone from the roster, traded to the Salmon Arm Silverbacks in return for the BCHL rights to Evan Pighin. As of the time of this writing Pighin is neither in a Victoria uniform or a Chilliwack Bruin uniform, the WHL team he played for last year. The Grizzlies acquired Pighin?s former BCHL linemate in Derek Lee when they shipped Ashford McMaster and the ever-popular ?future considerations? to the Salmon Arm Silverbacks. Also gone are such names as Robbie Bailey, Chris Santiago and Matthew Wong who were all dealt to the Quesnel Millionaires for Mike Leidl. The Grizzlies then in turn shipped Leidl to Burnaby for rearguard Lee Baldwin. The most notable graduating player has to be Jordie Benn, off to the NCAA ranks with Alaska-Fairbanks. Notable returnees from last year include Brian Nugent, Justin Courtnall, and Jonathan Milhouse who were all in the top 5 in team scoring. Notable additions include between the pipes, as Matthew Wong carried the mail last year before being dealt to Quesnel before ending up in the Bulldogs crease. Anthony Grieco is the new man in net. Grieco is a 20 year old with experience at the NCAA level with North Dakota, and most recently experience at the Major Junior level with Mississauga of the OHL. Myles McRae is also a notable addition up front, a four year WHL vet with the Kelowna Rockets.
The pregame show is on the air in the Alberni Valley on your radio on 93.3 The Peak FM and on your computer anywhere through the world through the BCHL Fanzone at www.bchl.bc.ca starting at 6:45 with the play-by-play to follow shortly after the pregame ceremonies at 7:00pm.
Pregame festivities include an introduc