Photo credit: Xander Holcomb, Renegades Photography
Following wins over Olds and Drayton Valley to start the season, two losses to the Drumheller Dragons and Okotoks Oilers saw the Bulldogs fall to just a .500 record after the first week of the season. Roster changes were made and as the newcomers began to integrate into the squad, a 4-2 win over those same Oilers prior to the AJHL Showcase gave the Bulldogs a strong foundation with which to build. Their most dominant performances came at Showcase, with an 8-1 win over the Bonnyville Pontiacs notching Blackfalds their biggest margin of victory since Friday, February 17 over the Canmore Eagles near the end of the 2022-23 regular season. The Bulldogs beat those same Canmore Eagles in their second game of the showcase, 3-0, to give them a 5-2-0 record through the season’s first month.
It was the Bonnyville Pontiacs once more whom the Bulldogs faced to start October. Blackfalds came into Tuesday’s clash confident, having bested Bonnyville so heavily the week prior, but the capability of the Bonnyville squad wasn’t going to allow the Bulldogs to emulate their seven-goal victory from just six days previous.
Blackfalds’ strong start to the game was marked by a goal early, with Jayden Joly’s knuckle puck finding its way past Nathan St-Germain on the early powerplay to make it 1-0 for the Bulldogs. After a first period that saw the Bulldogs outshoot Bonnyville 9-7, the Bulldogs’ start to the second period continued to build on the strong foundation of the first period, with Hunter Brown’s work down the left wing and strong pass to David Brandes in the middle of the ice giving Brandes the chance to tip the puck over St-Germain’s glove and make it 2-0 Blackfalds. Similarly to the Bulldogs, however, the Pontiacs made good on their first powerplay opportunity of the game, with James Schneid finding some space in the left circle and placing a perfect snapshot over the glove of Wilson Maxfield, making it a one-goal affair at the halfway point of the game.
Before the second period was over, the Bulldogs would again extend their lead, and again Hunter Brown and David Brandes factored in heavily. Capitalizing on a turnover in the offensive zone, Brown’s poke check gave Eddie Moskowitz the puck in a good area. Moskowitz found Brandes in the right circle, and while Brandes’ shot was denied by Nathan St-Germain, but Alexander Dimitriadis pounced, finding the back of the net on the rebound to make it 3-1 going into the third period.
Luka Sukovic tipped in Pier-Olivier Allard’s point shot just 2:49 into the third period to, yet again, cut the Bulldogs lead down to one. As Blackfalds had done throughout the game, though, they were able to strike next and extend the lead again. Brendan Ross’ long stretch pass was perfectly placed for Dakota MacIntosh to skate onto, and the newly acquired power forward made a great move to tuck the puck past Nathan St-Germain. Bonnyville would again cut the lead down, with Max Seguin capitalizing on a rebound to make it 4-3. The Bulldogs, however, held on, winning their fourth straight game and improving their record to 6-2-0.
Bulldogs defenceman David Brandes, who was named one of the stars of the game, commended both his team’s strong performance and the strong game played by his partner Jacob Dennis.
“I felt good… I really like playing with him, he’s such a receptive guy, we talk after every shift about what we could both do better.”
Brandes also commended newly acquired Hunter Brown’s help in creating Blackfalds’ second and third goals, in which Brandes scored and assisted respectively, saying “(Hunter Brown) had the puck on his forehand… he sauced out an area pass for me and my backhand found its way over (St-Germain’s) shoulder.”
Bulldogs associate coach Brady Bakke complimented his teams’ sixty-minute effort, saying “I thought any time they got momentum, we were kind of able to take it back from them… overall, I think we were pretty happy.”
Blackfalds’ next game goes tomorrow night in Whitecourt, starting the teams’ first Northern road trip of the season.