BONNYVILLE — The score – 3 to 1 – hardly reflected the close match-up that took place Friday evening between the Bonnyville Pontiacs and the Lloydminister Bobcats at the R.J. Lalonde arena.
Although the Pontiacs AJHL team was able to come out with a win, the Bobcats' pressure was relentless throughout all three periods, forcing the Pontiacs to work to create every opportunity.
In the first period, the Pontiacs took the lead when the evenings first goal was made by Austin Saint with an assist by Trey Funk and JR Ashmead. Going into the second period, the Bobcats came in fresh and determined, striking back getting a goal early in the period to even the score 1-1.
Starting in the second period the Pontiacs were slow to match the Bobcats pressure, but the fuse was lit and quickly their intensity increased. By the end of the period the Pontiacs reached 32 shots on goal compared to the Bobcats with eight shots on net.
The Bobcats' goalie, Kolby Thornton, was keen on the Pontiacs' plays and saved nearly 95 per cent of their shots.
Although there was a high shot disparity between the two teams, the Pontiacs struggled to find the Bobcats’ goalie's blind spot. Austin Saint, Bonnyville local and right winger for the Pontiacs, said “You can’t let him see where the puck is coming from or he’ll save it pretty much every time.”
Continuing that sentiment, Rick Swan the Pontiacs' head coach told Lakeland This Week, “We had a lot of shots come right down centre.”
He added, moving into regular season the Pontiacs will need to increase their presence in the offensive zone and take advantage of the area in front of the crease.
However, incredible saves were made by both teams. Matthew Hennessey, the Pontiac goalie from Warman, Sask., had a solid game shutting down 31 shots on goal with the help of his defensive line.
Entering the third period tied, tensions were heightened as players from both sides made a sustained push for victory. A quick passing play goal by Sebastian Tamburro was made with the help of Kash Rasmussen and Nick Traggio, turning the tide in the Pontiacs' favour.
With the score 2-1 in the last period and everything on the line for both teams, adrenaline was palpable in the stands and on the ice. Following the Pontiacs' second goal, gloves were dropped and punches were thrown by Saint and a Bobcats player, Andon Coles. Both players were ejected from the game.
As the clock counted down the Bobcats made the decision to pull their goalie out to give them a player advantage in hopes to even the score. However, the team’s captain Rasmussen was able to make a break out of the Pontiacs' defensive zone with the puck and score on the open net.
Looking forward to the game against the Bobcats in Lloydminster on Saturday, Swan said, “I think we are going to have an entirely different game tomorrow. The Bobcats will have a home team advantage and it will give them that X factor.”
Coming out of the exhibition round with two losses against the Pontiacs and now another in the regular season, the Bobcats have put it all out on the ice.
The passion from both sides with no doubt be elevated at the 7:30 p.m. match up at Lloydminster's Centennial Civic Centre Arena Saturday evening.