Photo credit: Xander Holcomb, Renegades Photography
The Blackfalds Bulldogs’ first two seasons have had plenty; from heartbreak to jubilation, and everything in between. One thing that the Bulldogs had yet to achieve? A win in their season opener. Year one was a hammering on the road to Brooks, and last season’s was a disappointing 3-1 loss in Olds at the hands of the Grizzlys. In 2023-24, Blackfalds again made the trip south to face the Grizzlys.
As was the case in last season’s opener, the two teams traded first-period goals. Ryder Many Grey Horses took a sweet centring pass from former PJHL star Rocco La Cara and beat Ethan Morrow from close quarters to give Olds the lead. Blackfalds took less than two minutes to find a response, and it was off the unstoppable stick of Connor Dick that they did so. Forcing a turnover in the offensive zone, Dick and Jayden Joly went to work. Joly’s pass found Dick in a good spot, who, with his patented and often unstoppable wrist shot, beat Aiden Comeau over the blocker to tie things up at one going into the second period.
Blackfalds wasted no time taking the lead in the second period, as Layne Loomer’s strong transition play found Eddie Moskowitz streaking into the offensive zone down the left-hand side. Moskowitz’s perfect wrist shot found the twine, giving the Bulldogs their first lead of the night and Moskowitz his first AJHL goal. Kyle Venneman responded for Olds, beating Ethan Morrow at the side of the net on a Grizzlys power play, and once more, the game was tied. A pair of powerplay goals for Blackfalds, however, quickly set the Bulldogs up for victory. First, David Brandes found rookie Josh Knittig with a perfectly delivered cross-ice pass. Knittig’s perfect one-timer registered him his first goal in Junior ‘A’ hockey, and Blackfalds a 3-2 lead. Blackfalds’ next goal was on the power play as well, with Jayden Joly banking the puck off Aiden Comeau and in to make it 4-2.
The Bulldogs’ third period almost couldn’t have been more perfect. Jayden Joly’s second goal and David Brandes’ third primary assist of the game extended the lead to 5-2. The Bulldogs’ best part of the third was their defence, holding the Grizzlys to just four third-period shots, and registered 18 themselves. Blackfalds 5-2 win gives them a 1-0-0 record going into Saturday night’s home opener against the Drayton Valley Thunder.