Junior B call-up Mark Barden and the Alberni Bulldogs ended the Victoria Grizzlies season with a 3-2 Bulldogs win on Wednesday.
Barden scored the overtime winner for the Bulldogs at Bear Mountain Arena and eliminated the Grizzlies from the BCHL playoffs in Game 5 of the Island semifinal best-of-five series.
The Bulldogs now advance to the Coastal Conference final against the Surrey Eagles and NHL Draft prospect Adam Tambellini.
A week ago, Barden was playing with the Delta Ice Hawks of the Pacific Junior Ice Hockey League. Wednesday night he and hundreds of Port Alberni fans entered Bear Mountain Arena.
Victoria went up 1-0 in the first period on a goal by Leo Fitzgerald but the Bulldogs went ahead 2-1 on second-period goals from Manny Gialedakis and Jared Wilson.
Leo scored his second of the game at 15:11 of the third period to force overtime.
Off the opening faceoff in overtime, Evan Tironese and Ryan Lough chipped the puck into the Grizzlies’ end. Barden followed them in to score the winner, just 18 seconds in.
This is the first time the Bulldogs have won two playoff series to get into the Coastal Conference final, Bulldogs’ play-by-play announcer Evan Hammond said. The Bulldogs have appeared in the conference final before, but they had a bye.
Port Alberni hockey products Leo and Myles Fitzgerald, wearing Grizzlies’ uniforms, nearly upset the Bulldogs’ chances of winning this playoff series. Leo scored off a pass from Myles to tie the game in the third period and force the overtime.
– with files from the Alberni Valley News