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Deep group of highly skilled players fighting for spot on Jr. A Pontiacs roster

It was a highly competitive and intense first four days at Bonnyville Jr. A Pontiacs main camp as a deep, skilled group of players from across North America fought for a spot on the roster.
Bobby McMann and Team Black were thumped 5-1 by Team White in the Pontiacs annual intrasquad game on Monday night.
Bobby McMann and Team Black were thumped 5-1 by Team White in the Pontiacs annual intrasquad game on Monday night.

It was a highly competitive and intense first four days at Bonnyville Jr. A Pontiacs main camp as a deep, skilled group of players from across North America fought for a spot on the roster.

“We haven't seen this type of intensity in an awful long time,” said Pontiacs Head Coach and GM Rick Swan. “Some of the games were as hard a hitting game as you are going to see.”

Sixty players were split up into three teams on the opening day of training camp before participating in a series of practices and 70-minute scrimmages.

Thirteen players from last year's North Division finalist squad were back on the ice, split us amongst Team Orange, Team Blue and Team Gold.

Steenn Pasichnuk lead the group of returning forwards, a group that also includes 60-point man Kyler Hehn, 21-goal scorer Bobby McMann, Josh Borynec, Alden Dupuis, Chad Hurtibise, Ryan Piche and Ryan Symington.

With eight forward coming back there were a number of spots up for grabs amongst the teams top four forward lines.

Many highly skilled newcomers showed off their talents over the course of the five scrimmage games and gave the fans in attendance quite the show.

“The skill level of this group is something that we haven't been fortunate enough to have the luxury of having in a main camp setting before,” said Swan. “How do you not get excited and optimistic about what lies ahead?”

American Zack Mills, who was drafted 8th overall in the 2015 North American Hockey League draft, turned heads while playing alongside Steenn Pasichnuk for a few contests.

Parker Foo, the 16-year-old younger brother of former Pontiac Spencer Foo, also dazzled with his stick handling and knack for the net.

“The enthusiasm is starting build here after seeing the performances at camp,” said Swan.

Defensively the Pontiacs have some holes to fill as the team will be looking to replace the likes of outgoing players Ryan Black, Cody Fiala and Braiden Doucette, who recently decided to retire from junior hockey.

Only four defensemen who suited up for the Pontiacs last season were back and participating at main camp.

Leading the group of returning blue liners is Brinson Pasicnhuk who looks to improve on his eight goal, 29 point rookie campaign. Gen Bryshun, Holden Daley and Erik Donald join him on the back end.

Between the pipes the Pontiacs welcomed back goaltender Joey Desrosiers, who will be given every opportunity to seize the teams starting role.

Desrosiers was joined by six other goalies at the camp, all of which appeared to be fighting for a single position as Bonnyville's second net minder.

“I was counting on main camp being great because I knew we had 60 great hockey players coming here, but I think it exceeded my expectations,” said Swan. “It was just excellent entertainment and it forced us to make the toughest decisions at this point in time of the year that I've ever had to make.”

The sixty-man roster that started camp on Friday was chopped down to 40 players on Sunday afternoon. Those players were split into two teams for the annual Black and White scrimmage game on Monday night.

Due to the skill level at camp Swan and the rest of the coaches, scouts and decision makers decided to hold a second Black and White game on Tuesday morning. The extra game was to ensure the team officials had as much information as possible before making the next round of cuts.

“Those are the tough decisions the organization has been striving to try and be involved in for 24 years now,” said Swan. “We are finally here. All it proves is that the road to success is long, but that is what it takes to get the organization to the next level.”

The team had to be down to roughly 30 players for the start of the AJHL exhibition schedule, which starts with back-to-back home tilts on Wednesday night against Whitecourt and Thursday night against Lloydminster.

“We believe that we have the skill and the talent here to have an exciting group that fans are certainly going to be able to appreciate,” said Swan.

“We are going to be four lines deep and as deep as any top team in our league. We are going to have four lines that can play, that have top talent and character.”

The Pontiacs will be a lot younger than last year with just two 20-year-olds – Steenn Pasichnuk and Hehn – participating in camp.

The group will play six exhibition games in total with another home contest coming against the Fort McMurray Oil Barons on Sept. 4.

Bonnyville will open the AJHL regular season on Friday, Sept. 11 when the host the Lloydminster Bobcats at the RJ Lalonde Arena.




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