The arena was almost full and the crowd was lively, as the Bonnyville Junior A Pontiacs hit the ice in their home opener on Sept. 11. Celebrating the 20th year of the franchise, the Pontiacs players were all introduced wearing the uniforms of past Pontiac alumni.
Even with the big crowd on their side, for the second game of a home-and-home series with the Lloydminster Bobcats, the Pontiacs could not pull out the win. The Bobcats defeated the Ponticas 3-2 in a heartbreaker that took a shootout to be decided.
The Pontiacs came out hitting and shooting against the Bobcats. Bonnyville dominated the physical play and outshot the Bobcats 14-6 in the first period, but it was the Bobcats who scored first. Bonnyville had several chances and even a two-man advantage but could not put one in.
Finally, 13 minutes into the period, Pontiacs forward Tyler Henry tied the game up on a shorthanded break. With a burst of speed Henry broke in alone and put one right past the Lloyd keeper. Just moments later, energized by the goal, the Pontiacs got back to their physical play, as Pontiacs forward Devon Kalinski laid out one of the Bobcats players mid-ice. The physical play must have been taking a toll on the Bobcats, as their frustration began to show mid-way through the period. Right at centre ice a frustrated Bobcat dropped his gloves and jumped on Pontiac winger Ty Carey. Carey was at a slight disadvantage at the start of the fight, but once he regained his balance he tuned the Bobcat in.
The second period saw a bit of a slowdown in the pace, which will happen when several penalties are called one after another. The Pontiacs found themselves on the bad end of two quick penalties. This gave the Bobcats an opportunity and they scored on the two-man advantage, taking the lead into the third 2-1.
The third period was much like the second, with several penalties called and lots of pushing and shoving after the whistle. The Pontiacs were able to get their chances throughout the third but could not seem to get one past Lloyd's hot goalie, who made 45 saves that night. Then finally, with one minute left, Tyler Henry came through again. He scored a goal from down low, tying the game up at two and sending it to overtime.
Head coach and GM Chad Mercier said of Henry's play, "He was outstanding tonight...that's the type of effort we need to continue to see."
Overtime saw a few chances but neither team could put the other away, so the game headed to a shootout. The Bobcats first shooter skated in and shelved one right under the cross bar and that was all they would need. The Pontiacs were unable to muster a goal in the shootout, leaving them with a tough loss to swallow after a hard-fought game.
Kevin Carthy said after the game that he felt the team played hard and deserved a better result. "We picked it up near the end there, battled back. Too bad we couldn't get the win."
Mercier said his team played very well and competed hard but ran into a hot goalie. "Unfortunately sometimes even when you sell out the results don't come, but you just gotta stay with it."
The Pontiacs played their first game of the year a night earlier, but this time it was in Lloyd's arena. The Pontiacs were unable to keep up with the Bobcats' pace, losing the game by a final score of 3-1.
It was a long and grueling process but they made it. After finishing the exhibition season with two straight wins, Mercier said he and his team were ready and excited to get the season going. Mercier and his coaching staff had some tough cuts to make but they now have their roster down to 24 players. Mercier said they would typically carry a few less, but due to injuries they have kept some extra players on the roster for the start of the regular season.