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Alberni Valley Bulldogs profile: Hlib Artsatbanov

After their Fred Page Cup final loss to the Penticton Vees, the Alberni Valley Bulldogs saw several players depart the team. Among those departing was starting goaltender Hobie Hedquist.

With Hedquist attending the University of North Dakota this season, the Bulldogs needed a new goalie tandem. Returning to the Bulldogs is goaltender Callum Tung while joining the team is Ukrainian-born goaltender Hlib Artsatbanov.

Artsatbanov is a 2004-born goaltender from the Czech Under-20 league. He played last season on the HC Sparta Praha U20 team. In July, the Bulldogs recruited him to Port Alberni.

Artsatbanov isn’t the first European-born goaltender to play in the BCHL. From 1986 to 1988, former National Hockey League goaltender Byron Dafoe played for the Juan de Fuca Whalers. Dafoe was born in Sussex, Great Britain. However, Artsatbanov was the first European-born goaltender to be recruited under the BCHL’s new recruitment rules.

This article is about Artsatbanov’s path to Alberni Valley. Interestingly enough, his journey in hockey of record begins in North America.

From Phoenix to Belarus

During the 2019-20 season, Artsatbanov played for the Phoenix Junior Coyotes 15U AAA team, which plays at the Ice Den in Scottsdale, Arizona. Artsatbanov’s playing time with the Coyotes was limited, only getting into seven games before the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic. He did, however, have three shutouts in those seven games.

For the 2020-21 season, Artsatbanov didn’t play for any team due to the pandemic, but the following season, he joined Minskie Zubry in the Belarusian Higher League. In 16 games with Minskie Zubry, he posted a 14-2-0 record with a 2.82 goals-against average and a .906 save percentage.

As mentioned, Artsatbanov played for HC Sparta Praha U20 team last season. In 2022-23, he got into 23 games and had a record of 13-10-0. During the playoffs, the Donetsk, Ukraine product led his team to a league championship with a post-season record of 11-2-0.

Also last season, Artsatbanov also played for his home country at the U20 World Championship Division One Group B. In the tournament, the U20 Ukraine team finished with a silver medal. Artsatbanov had the fourth-best stats of any goaltender with a 2.44 goals-against average and an .891 save percentage.

Coastal Conference changes

Artsatbanov is joining a Bulldogs team coming off their best season ever and he’s also joining a very competitive Coastal Conference. Several teams in the division have new goaltending tandems including the Clippers, Capitals, Kings, Eagles, and Chiefs.

In Chilliwack, the Chiefs recruited Kazakhstan-born goaltender Vladimir Nikitin whose recruitment was announced one day after the Bulldogs unveiled their signing of Artsatbanov.

For Artsatbanov, he has to help the Bulldogs compete against teams that made improvements during the off-season. He also has to follow up Hedquist’s legacy as the go-to goalie in Alberni Valley. Hedquist backstopped the Bulldogs to a Fred Page Cup final appearance, something no goaltender in franchise history had achieved.

Artsatbanov’s career thus far has taken him to several interesting places, now including Vancouver Island with Alberni Valley. As of this writing, the 19-year-old has a 3-1-0 record with a 3.10 goals-against average and a .917 save percentage in five appearances. Tung has seen the bulk of the action for the Bulldogs this season, but Artsatbanov is providing a steady second option for general manager and head coach Joe Martin and his staff.