Photo credits: Scott Stimson, Blackfalds Bulldogs & Xander Holcomb, Renegades Photography
The Blackfalds Bulldogs are proud to announce that Kody Willick, Brendan Ross, Tanner Willick, Jayden Joly, and Layne Loomer will make up the leadership group for the 2023-24 season.
Serving as captain is 2003-born forward Kody Willick.
Kody played in every single preseason, regular season, and playoff game for the Blackfalds Bulldogs in 2022-23, totalling 10 goals and 28 assists in the 81 games he played. He was one of just two Bulldogs to appear in every regular season and playoff game for Blackfalds last season, alongside former captain Brett Meerman.
“To be named captain of the Bulldogs is not only an honour and a privilege but a responsibility that I take very seriously,” said Kody. “I’ve had the pleasure of learning from some of the best leaders that this league has seen, and I plan to continue building on the culture that has been so important to this group.”
Kody was the recipient of the 2023 AJHL Greatest Teammate Award and had previously served as captain for his U18 AAA team in 2020-21, the Prince Albert Mintos.
“Kody came to our team last year and he was one of our leaders a season ago, even though he didn’t wear a letter,” said Bulldogs Head Coach Doug Quinn.”He was one of the leaders in the dressing room, and when we think about the Bulldogs organization, it’s not just on the ice but it’s also off the ice, and Kody brings a work ethic to every game, every practice, any community events, any charity events; Kody’s kind of the guy leading the way. He was an easy choice to be captain.”
Serving as an alternate captain is 2003-born defenceman Tanner Willick.
Tanner and Kody came to Blackfalds together via trade ahead of the 2022-23 season and were the only pair of twin brothers to play together in the AJHL last year. Serving as an alternate captain, Tanner had a very strong season, scoring 53 points in 49 regular season games with the Bulldogs. Along with finishing tied for third in the league in points among defencemen, Tanner was a finalist for the AJHL’s Most Outstanding Defenceman award and was named to the All-league team for the South Division.
Head Coach Quinn commended his star defensemen, saying “Tanner’s definitely one of our leaders on the ice. He’s a veteran guy, he’s been in the league a few years, and he’s one of our top players. Tanner was an easy choice too.”
Tanner represented Canada West at the 2022 World Junior ‘A’ challenge, scoring two points in six games. Shortly after the tournament, he made his NCAA commitment to play at the American International College in Springfield, Massachusetts.
Serving as an alternate captain is 2004-born forward Jayden Joly.
Joly was a member of the 2021-22 Blackfalds Bulldogs, scoring 11 goals and 29 points in Blackfalds’ inaugural season. He served as an alternate captain last season, scoring 25 goals and 53 points. The Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta native is just two games away from setting the Blackfalds Bulldogs franchise record in regular season games played.
“Jayden was one of the first kids that we’ve signed, and I’ve seen a lot of growth for him over the years,” said Head Coach Quinn. We’re excited for him to take on the role, and now that he’s one of the older guys, he’ll have the opportunity to express his views a little bit stronger than last year.”
Joly was one of the first players in franchise history to earn an NCAA division one commitment, putting pen to paper in January 2022, signing on to be a Western Michigan University Bronco following his AJHL career.
Serving as an alternate captain is 2003-born forward Brendan Ross.
Like Joly, Ross was a member of the Bulldogs in their inaugural season. Returning for the 2022-23 season, Ross was one of the most consistent players for the Bulldogs, scoring at a high pace throughout the year, including an 11-game point streak between late October and late November in which Ross scored 14 points. Ross’ first game of this season will be his 100th in the AJHL.
Head Coach Quinn says that Ross’ evolution into the player and leader he is today is up to his confidence, saying “(He was) somebody that was with us the first year, somebody that I’ve seen really grow as a hockey player and as a leader. You can see the confidence and his level of play has gone to a whole new level, he has the confidence to really step out and be a leader.”
In early February, Ross made his NCAA commitment to the University of Alaska – Fairbanks. The Calgary, Alberta native was the joint-recipient of Blackfalds’ playoff MVP award for 2022-23.
Serving as an alternate captain is 2005-born forward Layne Loomer.
Loomer, the Lethbridge, Alberta native, was Blackfalds’ 2022-23 Rookie of the Year and a finalist for the AJHL’s Rookie of the Year award. Much like many of his teammates, Loomer kept improving as the season went on, finishing the season with 12 points in his last nine games. His 17 goals and 47 points in 55 games made him the leading scorer among Bulldogs rookies and fifth place in the AJHL among rookie skaters.
“Layne is a player who has probably grown as much as anybody. He’s done the extra work; after practice, he’s in the gym doing the extra stuff to condition himself and condition his body,” said Head Coach Quinn. “He’s somebody that is committed to his craft, and he’s a great example for the other guys to see that; this is tough, and if you want to get to the next level, you have to put in the time, and Layne does that better than anybody.”
In December, Loomer made his NCAA division one commitment to Augustana University.
“The other four members of our leadership group play key roles in the dressing room and on the ice, so I couldn’t be happier to be alongside such great leaders and hockey players,” said Bulldogs captain Kody Willick. “With the help of my teammates, coaches, and family, I am ready to lead this team and can’t wait to get the season started.”
Blackfalds’ season opener is set for 7:00 in Olds tomorrow night, with their home opener coming Saturday at the Eagle Builders Centre against the Drayton Valley Thunder.