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Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Building the Bulldogs...


After two very weird "half seasons" so to speak last year, I can't say how I excited I am at the prospect of the return to normalcy for the 2021-2022 BCHL season. 

In the fall last year, there was the 15 game "extended preseason" which saw the Island Division (minus Powell River) play home and away from early October to mid November. 

THEN came the public health orders due to the pandemic that caused the lonnnnnnnnnnnnnng run through December which saw not only the season start date of December 1st put on hold, and the possibility of a season at all up in the air - but also a halting of team practices and activities as blanket age restrictions were put in place by the Province. 

December became January with no improvements evident, and even the most optimistic of fans/players/parents/coaches/broadcasters/billets couldn't have been blamed for thinking that the way things were going - there wasn't going to be ANY BCHL Hockey in the foreseeable future. 

That thought held through February, and into March. Deadlines were given by the league to the Province. Those deadlines passed without any resolutions. Surely, that had to be the final blow? 

Suddenly, a glimmer of hope emerged. This wasn't over yet. 

And THEN, a ray of light, so to speak... 

On March 12th, the BCHL announced that they had been granted approval to play - a "pod" season

The Bulldogs, and Port Alberni were extra blessed as they were to host their Island counterparts. 

The Hockey ended up being great - or as good as it could've been under the circumstances as the teams played a condensed schedule in a short time span. In the end - who cares, there was hockey again! 

The Bulldogs finished second in the Island pod, just two points back of the Victoria Grizzlies with a record of  11-5-3-1 through their 20 games. 

They lost a STAGGERING amount of talent from the "Extended preseason" to the "Pod season" 

A glance at the roster and departing players from fall to spring, to the best of my memory:

Tim Gould

Loeden Schaufler 

Jimmy Rayhill 

Tyler Kostelecky 

Dawson Tritt 

Jacob Bosse 

Ryan Tverberg 

Josh Zary 

Caige Sterzer 

Oak MacLeod 

Olivier Fizet 

Mattias Dal Monte 

Nicholas Beneteau 

Jackson Glassford 

I've spent a lot of time writing about the past and looking backwards here, I've just realized. This post is about the future, and the building of the Bulldogs for 2021-2022. In chronological order, here's how the roster has shaped up for the coming season.  

June 2nd, saw the Bulldogs announce the acquisition of 2002 born Forward Ethan Leyer

From the Bulldogs website:

The Alberni Valley Bulldogs announced on Wednesday the addition of 2002 born forward Ethan Leyer from the Whitecourt Wolverines of the AJHL.  The acquisition completes the trade the Bulldogs made in February which sent Jacob Bosse to Whitecourt.

Leyer is committed to play NCAA hockey with St. Cloud St has appeared in 114 AJHL games between Whitecourt and Bonnyville.

In his junior career, Leyer has posted 27 goals and 44 assists.  His best season was in 2019-2020 when he posted 17 goals and 31 assists.

“Ethan is a versatile forward” said Bulldogs head coach and general manager Joe Martin. “He’s proven he can score and has continued to grow his whole game.  He’s ready for another step in his career, and I’m excited the Bulldogs can provide that.”

June 23rd, the Bulldogs announced the addition of 2003 born Forward Cole Melady 

From the Bulldogs website:

The Alberni Valley Bulldogs have acquired 03 forward Cole Melady from the Stratford Warriors in exchange for future considerations.

Melady is a native of Seaforth Ontario and posted 11 goals and 31 points for the Warriors during the 2019-2020 GOJHL season.

The 5’11”, 175 pound forward will be a welcome addition to the Bulldogs forward core for the upcoming BCHL season.

“Cole is a player that is strong on the puck, a solid penalty killer, and will add strong character to our locker room.” said head coach & general manager Joe Martin.

For Melady, making the move to British Columbia is something he’s very excited about. “I’m very excited to be joining the Bulldogs and the Port Alberni community.” said Melady. “I can’t wait to get going.”

Melady will join his new teammates for training camp in September.

On June 25th, the Bulldogs announced the addition of 2003 born Defenceman Kai Graves. 

From the Bulldogs website:

The Alberni Valley Bulldogs have acquired 03 Defenceman Kai Greaves from the Waterloo Siskins of the GOJHL.

In 2019-2020, the 6’1″ 180 pound Greaves posted 5 goals and added 16 assists for 21 points in 48 GOJHL games.

Greaves is excited to be headed to Port Alberni. “I am excited for the opportunity and can’t wait to get started with the Bulldogs.”

Bulldogs head coach and general manager is looking forward to what Greaves will bring to the Bulldogs back end. “We’re excited to add Kai to the Bulldogs. He is a very well liked teammate amongst our group who brings a very smart and strong approach to his game.

Kai will join his new Bulldogs teammates for training camp in September.

On July 27th, the Bulldogs announced the acquisition of 2003 born Goaltender Hobie Hedquist

From the Bulldogs website:

The Alberni Valley Bulldogs have acquired 03 goaltender Hobie Hedquist from the USHL’s Dubuque Fighting Saints in exchange for future considerations.

The 6’3″, 185 pound native of Heron Lake Minnesota is committed to play NCAA hockey with the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks.

Hedquist appeared in 21 games last season for Dubuque.

Bulldogs head coach and general manager Joe Martin feels that Hedquist is possesses the tools to help the Bulldogs. “The acquisition of Hobie is tremendous for our group.  We think he’s positioned to have a breakout year and we’re excited that he chose to be a Bulldog.”

Hobie shared the enthusiasm about becoming a Bulldogs this year. “I’m excited for the opportunity to live in Port Alberni and join the Bulldogs.  I can’t wait to get up there for the season and get started.”

Hedquist and the rest of his new teammates open the BCHL’s 60th season in October.  Bulldogs season memberships will go on sale in August for just $299.00 for adults.  Youth 18 & under are no-charge when accompanied by an adult compliments of the San Group.

Most recently, the Bulldogs shared a roster update compiled by the BCHL that shed further light on the roster for the coming season - it can be read in full by clicking HERE or you can read it below. 

Great job by the league, and the Bulldogs, to get this information out. 

With the BCHL gearing up towards its 60th anniversary season, we take a look at some of the new faces that will pull on a Bulldogs jersey for the 1st time this fall.

As the host team of the BCHL’s Island Division pod, the Bulldogs finished second last season, just two points shy of first place with a record of 11-5-3-1. Stephen Castagna finished tied for fourth in league scoring with 29 points in 20 games, while his teammate Brandon Buhr ended his campaign with 28 points, good enough for sixth among all players.

Both of those players are returning next year and will join forces with a new crop of players who committed to the team or were acquired via trade this offseason.

We caught up with Bulldogs head coach Joe Martin to go over all the new faces for 2021-22.

New recruits

Nicholas Beneteau (2003, F)

  • Hometown: Windsor, Ont.
  • Previous team: Leamington Flyers (GOJHL)

Due to COVID shutdowns in Ontario, Beneateau last played in the 2019-20 season with Leamington where he scored 15 goals, added 21 assists and totaled 36 points. He was named to the league’s Rookie All-Star Team at the end of the year.

Martin’s scouting report:

“He’s a big centreman and a responsible two-way player. He’s coming from a coach who we’ve gotten players from in the past. He’s coached well and will help us in both ends of the rink. In time, we want him to be a top centreman for us.”

Mirko Buttazzoni (2004, F)

  • Hometown: Langley, B.C.
  • Previous team: Burnaby Winter Club Prep (CSSHL U18)

He only played four games last year for BWC, but managed to play at a point-per-game pace with three goals and one assist. The year prior, he was a productive offensive player with West Van Academy’s Elite 15s squad where he notched 25 points in 33 games.

Martin’s scouting report:

“He’s a 2004, so I think he’s just starting to play his best hockey. He started coming on at the end of last year, even though he didn’t get to play a lot of games. He reminds me of Diego Cuglietta who we had in Merritt a long time ago. He hounds pucks and is extremely competitive.”

Booker Daniel (2001, F)

  • Hometown: Vanderhoof, B.C.
  • Previous team: Tri-City Americans (WHL)

Daniel has made several stops over his junior career, including a couple short stints in the BCHL with the Nanaimo Clippers and the Surrey Eagles. More recently, he’s played parts of three seasons with Tri-City of the Western Hockey League and, last season, he put up nine points in 19 games during their shortened year.

Martin’s scouting report:

“He’s a 20-year-old from the Western League. He’s going to help us with speed as well as bringing pucks to the net. He’s another highly competitive person. It creates a bit of an older hockey team for us with the addition of Booker. I think it adds to our tenacity and our team speed.”

Kai Greaves (2003, D)

  • Hometown: Cambridge, Ont.
  • Previous team: Waterloo Siskins (GOJHL)

In 2019-20, Greaves was named to the Rookie All-Star team in the GOJHL after putting up five goals and 16 assists for 21 points in 48 regular-season games.

Martin’s scouting report:

“Kai is a strong right-handed defenceman. We were short right-handed shots last year at the end. He’s well-liked by his teammates. He came out for a visit, met some of our players and hit it off with the guys right away. He’s a good fit for our locker room. He adds the ability to add some offence in time. I’m looking for him to provide some strong minutes against some good opponents.”

Hobie Hedquist (2003, G)

  • Hometown: Heron Lake, Minn.
  • Previous team: Dubuque Fighting Saints (USHL)
  • Commitment: University of North Dakota (2022-23)

Hedquist had a 4-9-1 record with Dubuque last year in 21 appearances for the Fighting Saints. Prior to that, he played in the Sioux Falls Power program in South Dakota.

Martin’s scouting report:

“He’s a goalie that played a lot of games last year. He’s looking to play on a strong hockey team and provide an opportunity to win every night.”

Cole Melady (2003, F)

  • Hometown: Seaforth, Ont.
  • Previous team: Stratford Warriors (GOJHL)

The third former Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League player on our list, Melady brings instant offence to the Bulldogs lineup. In his most recent season in 2019-20, he racked up 31 points in 47 regular-season games as a rookie with Stratford.

Martin’s scouting report:

“He’s very well-coached. In time, he’ll be an offensive player for us. He took a big step last year in the GOJHL. This year, he’ll be relied upon to grow his role. He’ll start off as a depth forward, but we believe this guy is going to be one of our top all-around players pretty soon.”

Zeke Nicholson (2004, F)

  • Hometown: Vancouver, B.C.
  • Previous team: St. George’s School U18 Prep (CSSHL U18)

Nicholson only played four games for St. George’s last year, but still managed four points in that short amount of time. In 2019-20, he suited up for West Van Academy Elite 15s and had 36 points in 36 games.

Martin’s scouting report:

“He’s very similar to Cole [Melady]. He’s a strong skater. He played for Tyler Kuntz at St. George’s so he’s well-coached. He understands the details and has a very good skill set.”

Caden Tremblay (2005, D)

  • Hometown: Port Alberni, B.C.
  • Previous team: North Island Silvertips U18 (BC U18)

Although he only got in a pair of games last season, the year prior, he put up 27 points in 30 games from the back end, playing for the Silvertips U15 team.

Martin’s scouting report:

“He’s a young defenceman, but he’s a mature 16-year-old. He’s a strong skater. He’s highly competitive and makes it hard on opponents.”

Acquired via trade

Ethan Leyer (2002, F)

  • Hometown: St. Albert, Alta.
  • Previous team: Whitecourt Wolverines (AJHL)
  • Commitment: St. Cloud State University (2022-23)

Leyer, a three-year Alberta Junior Hockey League veteran, amassed 74 points in 114 regular-season games in the league, beginning with the Bonnyville Pontiacs and then the Whitecourt the past two years.

Martin’s scouting report:

“He has a lot of speed. He has a good skill set. He’s a good two-way player and very good on faceoffs. Going into his fourth year of junior, we’re looking to provide him with quality teammates and a good hockey team and for him to provide us with some scoring.”

Maxwell Dukovac (2002, F)

  • Hometown: Aurora, Ill.
  • Previous team: Nanaimo Clippers (BCHL)

Dukovac played 10 games in the exhibition season with the Nanaimo Clippers in 2020-21, but did not participate in the pod season in the spring. He was acquired by the Bulldogs on Jun. 1 as part of a future considerations trade in November. His most recent regular-season action came in 2019-20 when he had 21 points in 14 games for Chicago Mission 18U.

Martin’s scouting report:

“He’s a two-way player that just got started with Nanaimo last year, but didn’t finish the season. We saw some bright moments from Max and we’re looking to help him continue that.”

Photo credits: Dan Hickling (Daniel, Hedquist)

A look at other returnees eligible this season, to the best of my knowledge:


Cameron Newson

Emanuelson Charbonneau 

Eduard Wruck 

Jeremy Fontaine 

Braden Blace 

Darren Beattie 


Josh Van Unen 

Ethan Bono 

Logan Walker 

Brandon Buhr 

Talon Duff 

Adam Jeffery

Finn Brown 

Jaydon Merritt 

Josh Zary

Stephen Castagna

Kobe Assam

Chase Klassen 

Brady McIsaac 


Bailey Monteith 

Ashton Sadauskas

Jackson Glassford 

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