Bulldogs end regular season strong with 4-2 win against the Saints

Article Credit: Alessia Proietti
Photo Credit: Tom Grimsdale, Ideal Images Red Deer

The Blackfalds Bulldogs ended their regular season on a high note, beating the Spruce Grove Saints 4-2 on Saturday night at the Eagle Builders Centre.

The team celebrated their final home game before the playoffs with a Fan Appreciation Night and a team awards ceremony.

In March, Blackfalds forward Brendan Ross broke the franchise record for most goals scored in a regular season at 43 and most career points as a Bulldog at 157. Tonight, he broke another franchise record for earning the most points in a regular season with 95.

The two teams faced off nine times throughout the AJHL and BCHL leagues. Blackfalds won five times, with one loss in overtime and another at their most recent match on March 30 in a shootout.

Overall, the Bulldogs finished third in the BCHL’s Alberta Division with 85 points in 68 games and a record of 39-22-6-1. The Saints currently sit in last with 56 points in 65 games at 25-34-5-1.

Scoring summary

The Saints were the only team to make it on the scoreboard in the first period, with a goal by Alexander Babich on Bulldogs goaltender Wilson Maxfield at the five-minute mark.

Now 1-0 for the visitors, they were also outshooting Blackfalds 16-8 after 20 minutes of play.

However, the Bulldogs quickly caught up in the second period. Carter Cormier scored early at 3:28 with a deflection as he was skating past the crease of the Saints’ netminder Alexander Scheiwiller. His fourth goal this season was assisted by Otto Hanson and Ryan Shaw, tying the game 1-1.

Shortly after at 6:55, Blackfalds’ Jayden Joly gained the lead with another deflection goal, short side. Now 2-1, Luke Dahlen and Ben Feenan got the helpers on his sixth goal this BCHL season.

But at the 12th-minute, Spruce Grove’s Jed Magarrell tied the game 2-2.

The Bulldogs outshot the Saints this time in the middle frame 9-6.

Blackfalds regained the lead early in the final period with a goal by Brendan Ross, the puck slowly but surely reaching the net from the left faceoff circle. Ross’ 13th goal this season puts him in a tie with Brett Meerman for the franchise record of most points in a regular season at 94. Assisted by Joly, the goal puts them ahead 3-2 at 1:23.

With Spruce Grove’s Keifer Miller sent to the box for a high-sticking double minor, Blackfalds’ Ross scored his second goal of the game, and 14th of the season, with a one-timer at 18:42. Ross now holds the record for having the most points, 95, in a regular season in franchise history. Joly and James Johnson got the apples on the power play goal, pushing their lead 4-2.

While the Saints pulled out goaltender Schweiller for the final minute of regulation, it was not enough to tie the game.

Spruce Grove slightly outshot Blackfalds in the third period 7-6.

Shots on goal

SGS: 29

BFB: 23

Power play

SGS: 0/5

BFB: 1/5

McWilliam Auto Service Three Stars

1st: Brendan Ross (BFB) – 2G

2nd: Jayden Joly (BFB) – 1G, 2A

3rd: Wilson Maxfield (BFB) – 27SV

Bulldogs Head Coach Doug Quinn said although it’s been an unusual year, he was happy to see the team take another step forward, upping their game over the last few weeks to play more consistently in defense and goaltending.

“You want to be peaking as you go into the playoffs,” he said. “It’s never going to be easy and you’re going to have adversity and you just got to find a way to win a game and we did that.”

Some of those adversities include various player injuries like Carter Patterson and Aaron Brown, the latter getting three additional injuries just this weekend following his return on Friday from a roughly two-month injury-related break, Quinn confirmed.

“I think we were playing with maybe four and a half healthy defencemen so that made a bit of a difference, but it gave other guys opportunities to step up and take advantage and I’ve seen some growth in some players,” he said.

With Ross breaking three Bulldogs records this season, Quinn said he remembers the forward joining the franchise in their first year of operation in 2021.

“I still remember him coming in as a first year, I guess you could say a little raw, but learned how to play the game properly,” he said. “He’s a complete player. He plays both ends, he’s on our top penalty kill unit, he’s on the top power play, and one of the best players in the league.”

The Bulldogs now head into their first BCHL playoffs with round one against the Sherwood Park Crusaders in a best-of-seven series. The Crusaders are in second place in the Alberta Division holding 98 points and a record of 48-16-2-0. In eight matches against each other, the Crusaders won five times.

The top teams in the Alberta and B.C. Divisions will then battle it out in the finals.

“I appreciate the BCHL stepping up and giving us a place to play. It’s actually been really exciting, the quality of the teams that we’ve been playing game after game, no easy games,” he said.

After achieving their goal of third place in their division, Quinn says he is happy the team will have a two-week break.

“We played 68 games in a short timeframe and we’re a little bit banged up but we need to get healthy. We have some reinforcements, some younger guys, coming in who are going to be given an opportunity over the next two weeks to see if they can make our team better,” he said.

The playoff schedule is as follows:

· Friday, April 19 at 7 p.m. @ Sherwood Park

· Saturday, April 20 at 7 p.m. @ Sherwood Park

· Tuesday, April 23 at 7 p.m. @ Blackfalds

· Wednesday, April 24 at 7 p.m. @ Blackfalds

· *Friday, April 26 at 7 p.m. @ Sherwood Park

· *Sunday, April 28 at 2 p.m. @ Blackfalds

· *Tuesday, April 30 at 7 p.m. @ Sherwood Park

*= if needed

Faceoff on April 19 will be at the Sherwood Park Arena with the broadcast live on Mixlr.

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