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Bonnyville Jr. A Pontiacs dominate during exhibition games

The Jr. A Pontiacs crushed the competition during the pre-season after facing off against the Lloydminster Bobcats, Drayton Valley Thunder and the Blackfalds Bulldogs. 

BONNYVILLE – If the exhibition season is any indication of how the Bonnyville Jr. A Pontiacs regular 2023-24 season will play out – Yaks fans are in for a treat this year. 

The Jr. A Pontiacs crushed the competition during the pre-season after facing off against the Lloydminster Bobcats, Drayton Valley Thunder and the Blackfalds Bulldogs. 

Going up against the Bobcats in game one and two of the preseason, the Pontiacs won both games with a final score of 5-2 on Sept. 1 and 7-1 on Sept. 2.  

After a four-day break, the Pontiacs would finish game three with a five-point lead against the Thunder, beating the opposing team 6-1. 

On Friday and Saturday, the Bonnyville team would face-off against the Bulldogs. The Pontiacs would keep up their winning streak, winning 5-2 and 4-2. 

Beaudoin named team captain 

Last year, Nicolas Beaudoin spent the season with an R next to his name on the Jr. A Pontiacs team rosters marking his rookie year. This year, that letter is being replaced by a capital C. 

At the beginning of September, the Pontiacs announced that the St. Paul teen would be appointed to the role of team captain. 

“It was definitely a shocker for me, but it's also a huge honour and I'm very proud,” Beaudoin told Lakeland This Week. “I base my game off of making sure I'm there for the guys, caring for them and just trying to pay attention to every little detail.” 

According to the Pontiacs’ head coach Mario Pouliot, Beaudoin was the clear choice for the role following a stellar rookie season where he earned 40 goals and 34 assists, for a total of 74 points in just 55 games. 

Beaudoin’s performance last season also earned him the AJHL Rookie of the Year. He was also nominated for the Giuseppe Greatest Teammate Award. 

Following in the footsteps of Pontiacs alumni and former captain Trey Funk and points leader Matteo Giampa, Beaudoin said, “I think they just knew how to control their emotions and just drive the boys up, even when everything was going wrong for us. And so, I want to be a leader that will be positive, a leader that will never give up, and a leader that will take care of the boys.” 

RELATED STORY: Far away from home, Alaska awaits hockey player Nicolas Beaudoin 

Exercising his leadership early on, Beaudoin was also given the opportunity to select his leadership core. 

“That came with a lot of pressure, but I'm very honoured to be able to have a say in who I want by my side throughout the whole year. And so, I picked four assistant captains that I personally look up to and who other guys in the room will be able to look up to as well.” 

Before making the decision, he reflected on who he could feel comfortable talking to about hard things and potentially making difficult decisions with. Beaudoin chose returning AJHL players Max Seguin, Tyler Blocha, RJ Ashmead and Joshua Simpson. 

Having committed to the University of Alaska Fairbanks near the end of 2022, Beaudoin acknowledges this could be his last season with the Pontiacs. 

“I have a decision to make – but that will be a decision for next summer. I'm just focused on one year at a time, and we have a big year ahead of us. I'm focused on being in the present with the guys that we have this year and I'll make my decision afterwards,” he said. 

Moving into the 2023-24 season, Beaudoin says the most important element of being a leader is to be able to “bring a team of 25 individual players into one connected strong team that can go through anything together.” 

He continued, “We spend 10 months of the year with these guys and so everyone needs to feel welcomed and part of the family... You're trying to build a brotherhood in the dressing room and that lays heavily on your leadership core.” 

Homegrown player joins the Pontiacs 

After donning a Drayton Valley Thunder and a Brooks Bandits jersey, Blocha is finally getting to hit the ice with the jersey he grew up admiring. 

Born and raised in Bonnyville, Blocha has faced a whirlwind of changes in his AJHL career having played just over two seasons with Drayton Valley and a season with the Brooks Bandits.  

In early 2022, he was also recovering from a knee injury but went onto win the AJHL Interpipeline Cup and Centennial Cup with the Bandits last season.  

Before being scooped up by the Bonnyville Pontiacs for this year, the Bandits traded Blocha to the Crusaders as part of a multiplayer deal earlier this summer. 

Speaking to the rapid change, he said, “Going through minor hockey this type of thing doesn't happen, but it's definitely a learning experience seeing how a bunch of different teams do things differently, and it's pretty cool experiencing it for myself.” 

Coming home to play for the community he grew up in has been “different,” he said. 

“I haven't been home for a very long time but getting the experience and chance to come back home for my last season of junior hockey before going to play college hockey, it's pretty exciting to play in front of the fans who have watching this team for so many years.” 

Blocha also said he is proud to be able “to inspire younger generations of local kids to play in this organization.” 

Other Lakeland players on the Pontiacs roster this year include Dylan Hebert, Brent Hoshowski and Beaudoin. 

“It really brings the community together when local kids play for the local team,” said Blocha. 

Being his last year in junior hockey, Blocha won’t be taking it for granted. Next year, he will be heading south of the border to play for the Northern Michigan Wildcats in the CCHA Conference of NCAA Division I hockey. 

RELATED: Blocha commits to play hockey for American university

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