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Alberni Valley Bulldogs hope to find their bite against Victoria Grizzlies on home ice

Alex Campbell’s three goals and three assists in two games earned the Grizzlies forward BCHL player of the week honours.
Photograph By DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

Cleve Dheensaw / Times Colonist
MARCH 4, 2019 09:54 PM

The Alberni Valley Bulldogs are hoping a change in scenery leads to a change in results.

“You’re not in trouble in a playoff series until you lose at home,” said Bulldogs GM and head coach Matt Hughes.

That adage will be put to the test tonight and Wednesday as the best-of-seven opening-round B.C. Hockey League series between the Bulldogs and Victoria Grizzlies shifts to Weyerhaeuser Arena in Port Alberni.

Not only do the Grizzlies hold a 2-0 series leads, after 8-3 and 5-0 home victories at The Q Centre, but Island Division-champion Victoria finished 31 points ahead of fourth-place Alberni Valley in the regular season standings.

Victoria’s top-end talent simply overwhelmed the Bulldogs in the first two games. It includes four players ranked for the 2019 NHL draft, including projected first-rounder Alex Newhook and projected second- to third-rounder Alex Campbell.

Newhook, who led the BCHL in scoring in the regular season with 102 points, recorded seven points in the first two games of the Grizzlies-Bulldogs series, and Campbell three goals and three assists for six points, as the latter was named BCHL player of the week.

“[The Grizzlies] came out so intense and fast in the first two games at home and we have to answer that,” said Hughes.

“We gave their top guys too much time and space. They had too many odd-man rushes. We have to pressure them and get in their faces and take that time and space away from them.”

Hughes is hoping a mitigating factor will be Weyerhaeuser Arena, where the Bulldogs enjoy one of the best home-ice advantages in the BCHL, with a loyal and loud fan base.

“We know we have to score more and play better over the full 60 minutes,” Hughes said.

“We have not seen our best yet in this series.”

Emotions came to a boil in Game 2 when Bulldogs’ defenceman Marcus Walter received a game misconduct for joining an altercation in the second period that was sparked by several whacks on Newhook by Bulldogs forward Isaac Tonkin-Palmer, bringing to the Victoria captain’s aid Grizzlies forward Ryan Nolan and defenceman Carter Berger.

“We’re a fast and finesse team, but we’re a strong team, too,” said Victoria GM and head coach Craig Didmon.

“We expect it to get tougher as we head into their rink, where they have some confidence playing. They are going to throw everything at us. It’s going to be a battle and we have to prepare for that.”

The Bulldogs will need to cover Newhook and Campbell like a knit quilt if Alberni Valley is to have success.

“Newhook and company have consistently had to adapt this season, and they will have to adapt again to the [Bulldogs’] coverage,” said Didmon.

It isn’t just about the starry end of the roster, added Didmon: “We rely heavily on our depth, too.”

If required, Game 5 would be Friday at The Q Centre, Game 6 on Saturday in Port Alberni and Game 7 next Monday at The Q Centre.

The other Island Division opening series between the second-seed Powell River Kings and third-seed Nanaimo Clippers has the Kings up 2-1 after a 3-1 win in Game 3 on Monday at Frank Crane Arena. Game 4 goes tonight in the Harbour City.

The cross-over series between the Interior Division-champion Penticton Vees and Island Division fifth-seed Cowichan Valley Capitals is, rather surprisingly, tied 1-1 as the series swings into Duncan for the third and fourth games tonight and Wednesday at The Stick.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

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