Ethan Bono of the Alberni Valley Bulldogs has plenty of practice playing against some of British Columbia’s top hockey prospects. Playing on the same team as them, however, was a very different experience.
Bono was one of two Bulldogs, along with defenceman Jax Wismer, who travelled to Penticton on Jan. 20-21 for the B.C. Hockey League’s 60th anniversary All-Star Weekend. The event included a Top Prospects Game at the South Okanagan Events Centre on Friday and an outdoor skills competition, Alumni & Friends Game and All-Star Tournament on an outdoor rink on Saturday.
Playing with the other BCHL prospects was “kind of weird,” Bono admitted.
“You play against those guys every night, and you start to not like some guys so much,” he laughed. “But then to actually meet them and play on a line with them was pretty cool. It’s the best of the best in the BCHL, and to be on a team with those guys was an honour.”
It was good to have teammate Jax Wismer with him at the event, Bono added. All of the events saw large crowds, despite a dump of snowfall that started during the All-Star Tournament on Saturday.
“I think Penticton does a good job of drawing fans into their rinks,” said Bono. “It was still a good turnout.”
Team East beat Team West 6-2 in Friday’s Top Prospects game, but Bono scored one of Team West’s two goals. Bono was coming up the left wall on the breakout when he saw one of his defencemen, Nanaimo’s Ethan Mistry, on the right hand wall.
“I just threw a pass over to him,” said Bono. “We broke into the zone on a three-on-two and I noticed that both defenceman kind of looked at him, so I got on my horse and got behind the defenceman on my side. He sent a pass over to me and I was able to pick it up in my skate.”
The rest, said Bono, was just instinct as he threw a backhand on net and picked the top corner.
“It was a nice play by [Mistry] to get it over to me,” said Bono.
Holy cow how about @BonoEthan at the @BCHockeyLeague Top Prospects game !! pic.twitter.com/hqDKROpDhH
— AVBulldogs (@AVBulldogs) January 21, 2023
All in all, Bono said, the All-Star Weekend was a “really cool experience.” It was also Bono’s first time playing in an outdoor rink.
“Other than playing pond hockey with some of my buddies, it was a first for me,” he said. “It took a bit to get used to because the ice was pretty bad, but it was a lot of fun.”
Bono, originally from Port McNeill, recently marked 100 regular season games in the BCHL. He has played with the Bulldogs for three seasons now, starting during the 2020-21 “pod” season when he was just 16 years old.
“[The Bulldogs] have done a lot for me over the past three years,” said Bono.
Bulldogs head coach Joe Martin has been “a great coach,” said Bono, and Bono has had the opportunity to play on some very competitive Alberni Valley Bulldogs teams, including last year’s Coastal Conference pennant winners.
“I had a lot of mentorship from guys like Stevie Castagna, Josh Van Unen and Josh Zary,” said Bono. “The Bulldogs have done so much for me.”
In the fall, Bono plans to head to college and start his NCAA Div. 1 hockey career at Merrimack College in Boston, Massachusetts. In the meantime, the Bulldogs are battling for a playoff spot. The team will be on a road trip for the first half of February and won’t be returning to the Alberni Valley Multiplex until Feb. 18 when the Powell River Kings come to town.
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