Photo credit: Xander Holcomb, Blackfalds Bulldogs
The Blackfalds Bulldogs and Calgary Canucks know that the first round of the playoffs will see the two teams play for a chance to move on to the conference semi-finals, but before they can embark on that series, they had to play game 60 of the regular seasons to make their records official. Calgary dressed five affiliate players, resting some of their top guns for game 1, while Blackfalds sat Evan Mitchell to help him get through some injury troubles.
A perfect sharp-angle shot from Tyler Wallace beat Spencer Borsos short-side to open the scoring, but Blackfalds’ lead lasted less than two minutes, as Ty Hipkin found a loose puck at the side of the net to square the game 1-1. However, in response, Blackfalds got three goals on the board in the span of 5:08, as Brendan Ross, Jayden Joly, and Tyler Wallace all beat Borsos to help Blackfalds take a 4-1 lead into the break. Blackfalds’ domination continued into the second period, with back-to-back goals from Brendan Ross completing his hat trick and giving the Bulldogs a 6-1 lead through 40, and a 35-8 lead in shots on goal. Calgary pushed back in the third, with Connor Frost, Justin Barker, and Daxton Budd scoring goals in the final 20, but the Bulldogs managed to match every Canuck goal with one of their own, with Jason Siedem, Kasey Hiemstra, and Jack Plandowski getting on the board with third-period tallies to lead the Bulldogs to a 9-4 victory.
Matthew Hennessey earned his 26th win of the season, setting a career-high for the 20-year-old, and Blackfalds set franchise records in regular season wins and points, with 39 and 81 respectively. Blackfalds’ Brett Meerman finished the season with 30 goals and 94 points, currently sitting in second place in the AJHL, and Tyler Wallace’s 42 goals currently sees him in first place in AJHL goals. Jason Siedem, Jayden Joly, and Tanner Willick round out Blackfalds’ 50-point scorers, with Brendan Ross, and Layne Loomer finishing just off the mark. Loomer finished in the rookie lead with 48 points, while Connor Dick finished atop rookie goal scorers with 18. Blackfalds also finishes the season as one of just two teams in the AJHL with three players among the top ten league scorers, with Meerman, Wallace, and Siedem currently sitting in second, fifth, and ninth respectively. The Bulldogs finish the regular season with twelve NCAA-committed players, second-most in the AJHL to only the Brooks Bandits, who have sixteen.
Game one of Blackfalds’ AJHL playoff journey goes Friday night, hosting the Canucks. Blackfalds have never won a game in franchise history, enduring a four-game sweep at the hands of the Okotoks Oilers in the first round of last year’s playoffs, meaning Blackfalds have the opportunity to make franchise history.