BONNYVILLE – Jr. A hockey is finally back for the Town of Bonnyville.
The Bonnyville Jr. A Pontiacs had an overtime win and a loss when they hosted the Whitecourt Wolverines over the weekend for their first two home games of the regular season.
Although the Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL) season officially kicked off for the Pontiacs on Nov. 13 and 14 when they faced off against the Grande Prairie Storm, the team was excited to play in front of their fans.
“There were only 100 people (at the arena) but it still felt fairly electric,” expressed head coach Rick Swan. “The 100 people that we get in here are passionate fans and we can feel that energy build.”
Captain Matt McKim added, “We had the first two on the road and it was definitely nice to get back to the R.J. (Lalonde Arena) and get a win in front of our fans.”
Pontiacs fall to Wolverines
The Pontiacs didn’t have the first outing they were hoping for on home ice when they fell 3-2 to the Wolverines on Nov. 27.
The only point of the first went to Whitecourt when they found the back of Bonnyville’s net just over 10 minutes into the frame.
The Wolverines added another point to their lead to kick off the second period, but the Pontiacs weren’t going to let that fly. Forward Chayce Schmidt put the home team on the scoreboard with a shorthanded goal to bring the score to 2-1.
The teams fought hard during the third, keeping each other from adding an additional point until there were less than five minutes left in the game. Whitecourt added a point to their lead, which was quickly answered by Pontiac Sebastian Tamburro.
The win went to Whitecourt when the Pontiacs couldn't tie it up before the final buzzer blew.
Nailbiter overtime win
The 100 fans ended the evening on Nov. 21 cheering when the Pontiacs got a 3-2 overtime win with seconds left in the frame.
Swan described the victory as a “great response” following the loss the night before.
“We didn’t think that we forced that team to earn the success that they got and what I mean by that is we gave them mental break mistakes where we broke down and we allowed them to get things for free and our objective (during the game) was to make sure that we consistently worked hard for 60-minutes,” he detailed. “It was an exciting game from the perspective of the fans in the building but also a good confidence builder for us.”
Fresh off their loss from the night before, Bonnyville left the locker room determined to get a win on home ice.
The teams fought hard during the first and it wasn’t until there was less than a minute left that Pontiac Justin Stathopoulos snuck the puck past Whitecourt’s goalie.
Whitecourt managed to tie it up less than two minutes into the second. Pontiac Austin Saint gave the home team the 2-1 before the frame was through.
During the third, Whitecourt would once again manage to tie things up at 2-2 and would force the game into overtime.
The teams faced off for a final five minutes of sudden death, trading shots on net as the clock ticked down. When it seemed like the game was headed into a shootout, Pontiac Matt McKim got an unassisted goal to solidify Bonnyville’s first victory on home ice.
“I had just come back at the end of my shift and I was a little bit tired,” McKim recalled. “Kroon picked up the puck, gave it to me, I saw one of the guys go for a chance, so I stayed with it, and then it got deflected into the five-hole.”
As the team turns their sights to the rest of the season, the players are simply grateful to be back on the ice.
“Everything’s kind of going crazy right now and we’re fortunate enough to still be playing,” noted McKim. “With a shortened schedule, every period and game matters that much more.”
The Pontiacs are back on home ice Friday, Nov. 27 when they take on the Drayton Valley Thunder. Puck drop is 7 p.m.