Photo credit: Dallas Davis, Eh-Z Sports Media
The Blackfalds Bulldogs’ second regular season as a franchise came to a close Saturday night with a 9-4 victory over the Calgary Canucks, Blackfalds’ 39th victory of the season. The Bulldogs’ 39-18-3 record is a vast improvement from the team’s inaugural season, with Blackfalds rising from 11th in the AJHL last season, to third this year. Both new and returning stars had incredibly productive seasons for the Bulldogs, with captain Brett Meerman’s 94 points setting a single-season franchise record that will be difficult to top.
Brett Meerman took home three awards for the Blackfalds Bulldogs this season; the Milano for Men Scoring Leader, the Fan Favourite Award, and the Reid and Wright Advertising Top Forward Award. Meerman, a Blackfalds native, scored 30 goals and 64 assists in 60 games with the Bulldogs this season. Meerman scored 25 goals and 62 points with Blackfalds last year, giving him 156 regular-season points as a Blackfalds Bulldog in his two seasons with the team, playing in every single game in Bulldogs franchise history. He earned an early-season NCAA commitment to Augustana University, where he will play for the team in their first season playing NCAA division one hockey. Meerman goes into the AJHL playoffs on a nine-game point streak, scoring 21 points in that span.
Tyler Wallace took home the Katz Azz Jerky Most Valuable Player Award, with his 42 goals not just enough to lead the team and set a single-season franchise record, but enough to win Wallace the AJHL Leading Goal Scorer Award as well, with his 42 goals one better than Aiden Fink of the Brooks Bandits, who finished second. Wallace scored 84 points over 54 games with Blackfalds this season. In the six games he missed, Blackfalds had a 2-4-0 record, with a .333 points percentage in his absence, contrasted with Blackfalds’ .713 points percentage with Wallace in the lineup. Each one of Wallace’s 123 games prior to this season came with the Fort McMurray Oil Barons, helping them make the second round of last season’s AJHL playoffs.
Tanner Willick took home two Bulldogs awards, winning the title of Rotor-tech Canada Top Defenseman, as well as sharing the Q2 ALS Working Champion Award. Tanner scored 53 points in 49 games this season, representing Canada West at the World Junior ‘A’ challenge and earning an NCAA commitment to the American International College over his first year in Blackfalds. Tanner finished fourth in points among AJHL defensemen, and second in points per game among AJHL defensemen. He will go into the AJHL playoffs having scored points in 10 of his last 11 games, with 19 assists in that span.
Kody Willick also took home two Bulldogs awards, sharing the Q2 ALS Working Champion Award with his twin brother, as well as Brendan Ross, and won the Bowood Homes Teammate of the Year. Kody is the Bulldogs’ AJHL Greatest Teammate Award Scholarship nominee, making a significant impact both on and off the ice in his first season with the Blackfalds Bulldogs. He earned a career-high 24 points this season, as well as being one of just three Bulldogs to play every one of the club’s 60 games this season.
17-year-old Layne Loomer earned two awards for the Bulldogs this season, the Central City Asphalt Rookie of the Year, as well as the Owner’s Award for Heart and Hustle. Loomer was a nominee for the AJHL rookie of the year, scoring 17 goals and 47 points in the 55 games he appeared in. Like Meerman, Loomer earned an NCAA division one commitment to Augustana University this season. His 47 points this season finished him fifth among all rookies in the AJHL.
Five Bulldogs players won one team award each, with rookie forward Otto Hanson winning the Western Wallpringint Most Improved Player Award, finishing the season with 5 goals and 14 points, making him the sixth-highest-scoring 2006-born player in the AJL this season. The 16-year-old earned an NCAA division one commitment to Western Michigan University in early February. Bulldogs returnee Brendan Ross shared the Q2 ALS Working Champion Award, capping off a season that saw him set career highs in goals (19), assists (30), and points (49), as well as earning an NCAA division one commitment to the University of Alaska-Fairbanks. Another Bulldogs returnee, Jayden Joly, picked up the Bulldogs Foundation Community Hero Award, being recognized for his work in the community of Blackfalds. Joly is the Bulldogs’ nominee for the AJHL Community Ambassador Scholarship and is one of three Bulldogs to have played in all 60 games for the team this season. Bulldogs rookies Charlie Zolin and Jack Plandowski finished off the Bulldogs awards, winning the Bizisul Volunteer of the Year and the Best GPA Awards respectively.
Blackfalds moves into a first-round series against the Calgary Canucks, looking to win their first playoff series in the history of the franchise. Games one and two of the first round are Friday and Saturday at the Eagle Builders Centre.