BONNYVILLE – In less than a decade, more than 100 hockey players have advanced from the Bonnyville’s Jr. A Pontiacs team to play on a National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) Division I team.
In December, two Pontiacs players, Alex Power and Sebestian Tamburro, accepted commitments to attend university while playing for the schools’ hockey team. This season alone, six players have committed to a higher level of competitive hockey.
In early December, Pontiacs’ forward Power accepted a commitment to Quinnipiac University, marking the 100th player commitment for the junior hockey team to advance to an NCAA level.
The 19-year-old Newfoundland-native told Lakeland This Week that being given the opportunity to move on to the next level is “a big step and a big honour.”
Power does have the option to play for the Pontiacs for one more season, but he has decided to start university and begin playing with the Quinnipiac Bobcats in the fall.
“It's definitely going to be hard. I know a lot of work is going to have to be done, but it's just about savoring every moment here,” said Power. “It's sad in a way that this is going to be my last year because I wasn't really expecting it to be, but I'm just going to make the most of it and (will) work as hard as I can this summer and go in there feeling strong.”
Power is currently playing his second season with the Pontiacs and has made a large impact in his short amount of time at the RJ Lalonde Arena. In 33 regular season games, Power scored 21 goals, had 12 assists and has been named Star of the Game four times.
"Alex Power plays the game with pace and with the puck, he possesses outstanding deception and brings an unmatched committed work ethic to the rink each and every single day," said Pontiacs’ Head Coach and General Manager Rick Swan.
"He dedicates himself to being the best he can be on and off the ice and the way he carries himself like a pro... (He) is a great example to our younger players. Alex's commitment is well-deserved, and he has worked extremely hard for this opportunity... I am so proud and excited for Alex’s NCAA journey and know that Quinnipiac is getting themselves an instant culture enhancer and very good hockey player.”
Preparing for his move to the next level, Power said, “It's definitely going to be a lot faster, a lot harder. Definitely a lot of older guys, so I have got to try to put on a lot of weight this summer and work on my speed.”
Shortly after Power committed to Quinnipiac, he was also named the Inter Pipeline AJHL Rookie of the Week on Dec. 14., after earning two consecutive Viterra AJHL Star of the Game awards.
Power scored the opening goal and a game-tying goal in a 4-3 overtime loss on Dec. 8, against the Whitecourt Wolverines. He repeated his strong performance on Dec. 11, with two goals and an assist, as well as earning his third short-handed goal of the season in an 8-3 final against the Olds Grizzlys.
“I've had a goal to get that all year,” said Power with a smile, referring to the Inter Pipeline AJHL Rookie award. “At the start of the year I had wanted to get either a player of the week or Rookie of the week, so I guess now I just (have) to get player of the week – I've still got time.”
From Toronto to Bonnyville to Hamilton, NY
Tamburro, a Pontiacs forward who scores big and sets up his teammates for success, tells Lakeland This Week, it is his hope to play for the Bonnyville team for one more year before moving on to play for the Colgate Raiders in the 2023/24 season.
On Dec. 29, Tamburro officially announced his commitment to Colgate University’s Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) hockey team.
“It's an honor – I'm just super stoked to be able to get that opportunity, especially in the COVID world,” said Tamburro.
However, the 19-year-old noted that while he is focused on his overall hockey development, he is excited to see where the Pontiacs end up this season, referring to their high standing in the AJHL North Division and the team’s shot at a championship run.
"Colgate is an excellent school and I am looking forward to helping them achieve success, after I do everything I can to bring us closer to a championship for the Town of Bonnyville," he said. “I love this place. We've been extremely successful, and I've had a lot of personal success... So (waiting another year) is something I really want to do.”
Tamburro arrived in Bonnyville last season at the beginning of November, but had his opportunities cut short, playing only four games, due to disruptions to the regular season caused by pandemic and public health measures.
Prior to landing in Northeastern Alberta, Tamburro played for the Aurora Tigers Jr. A team in the Ontario Junior Hockey League (OJHL).
So far this season, Tamburro has earned 13 goals and 33 assists, as well as being named Star of the Game six times.
"Sebastian Tamburro is our team’s top scorer and he is not only one of the very best skaters in the Alberta Junior Hockey League, he is an exceptional human being as well," said Swan.
“Tamburro has made an immediate impact in our locker room and in our community and represents what a Bonnyville Pontiac is all about. He needed the right situation, along with the right belief, and Sebastian coming to Bonnyville was a perfect fit for him to develop. In saying that, his ceiling is high and he will continue to grow as a player and person. Colgate has a ‘top drawer program’ which allowed former Pontiac and current Toronto Marlies forward Bobby McMann to excel academically as well as a player.”
A driving factor behind Tamburro’s pursuit of hockey is a combination of a love for the game and growing up playing the sport with his father and cousins. One of his cousins currently plays professional hockey in Slovakia.
“I’ve been blessed to see him progress through his career, well actually all three of them,” said Tamburro, adding that being a part of a hockey family and having deep love for the game is what has paved the road to pursuing hockey as a career.
Tamburro is the 101st player donning Pontiacs’ jersey since 2013/14 to commit to play at the collegiate level.