BONNYVILLE – The Bonnyville Jr. A Pontiacs playoff run came to an end this week.
The Drayton Valley Thunder won the best of seven series 4-2.
After battling back on twice on the road, Bonnyville’s dreams of advancing to the next round were dashed with a loss on home ice and in enemy territory.
Finding their footing
After losing the first two games in the series, the Pontiacs used the possibility that Wednesday, March 4 could be their last game to turn the series around.
They battled hard, walking away with a 3-2 win over the hosting Thunder.
Drayton Valley was first on the scoreboard, but their lead didn’t last for long.
Pontiac Bruce MacGregor found the back of the opposing team’s net, followed quickly by Daine Dubois to give Bonnyville a one-point advantage.
The Thunder tied it up in the second, to bring the score to 2-2 heading into the final frame.
When Drayton Valley was short a man due to hooking, Pontiac Thomas Kramer capitalized on the powerplay to give Bonnyville the lead.
The Thunder pulled their goalie hoping for one final push, but Pontiac Joel Ray took advantage of the open net scoring the final goal of the night.
Hard fought win
Feeding off of their previous night’s victory, the Pontiacs tied up the series 2-2 with a 1-0 win on Thursday, March 5.
Bonnyville's Kash Rasmussen netted what would be the only goal of the game 11 minutes into the first frame on a powerplay.
Both teams racked up penalty minutes in the second period, but neither could break through the opposing defence.
Evenly matched throughout the third, the Pontiacs held onto the shutout with the final score being 1-0 in Bonnyville’s favour.
Painful loss on home ice
Having home ice advantage didn’t give the Pontiacs the edge they needed to continue their win streak when the Thunder came to town.
They fell 3-2 at the R.J. Lalonde Arena Saturday, March 7 in game five of the series.
“I think that our start didn’t reflect the importance of what the game meant,” explained head coach Rick Swan. “I certainly thought that we were the team that had momentum going into the overtime, and we talked about the importance of details in an overtime period because the last time they beat us in overtime here we missed coverage going into our own end.”
Left wing Ethan Sundar agreed, “The start wasn’t the best, but I think the battle back was good. We just need to focus on getting more shots, getting to the net, and working on our chances.”
The first point of the evening went to Drayton Valley. They kept Bonnyville off the scoreboard for the remainder of the first frame.
The Thunder added another goal to their lead early on in the second, but Rasmussen wasn’t happy with that. He snuck the puck past Drayton Valley’s goalie to get the Pontiacs’ first goal of the evening.
“I had just got on the ice after a change and I saw the puck was going near the net so I was kind of lurking around,” the forward recalled. “I just got lucky enough that it was coming to me and I put it in.”
In the third, Pontiac Joel Ray tied things up at 2-2 to force the game into overtime.
Just over three minutes in, the Thunder found the back of the net, claiming the 3-2 victory.
“We’ve got to be totally dialled in because the better we are without the puck, the more offensive opportunities that we’re going to have,” detailed Swan. “It’s going to take a 60-minute effort of staying in the game, because… if we stay with our game plan and don’t deviate from it, we’re going to create the success that we want.”
The Pontiacs were headed to Drayton Valley on Monday, March 9, and hoped to bring the series back home for game seven.
“That’s our goal, and we’re going to make sure that we give everything that we’ve got to be able to come back and change the result,” Swan noted. “We’ve got to win one game at a time, and to do that we’ve got to take it one shift at a time.”
If necessary, their final game against the Thunder will be at the R.J. Lalonde Arena starting at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, March 11. Check back for the results of Monday night’s game.
Pontiacs season comes to a halt
The Pontiacs playoff run came to an end when they fell to Drayton Valley 1-0 on Monday, March 9.
Although Bonnyville gave a valiant effort throughout the game, the only goal went to the Thunder in the second period and sealed their victory to advance to the next round of the AJHL playoffs.
Check back for a full overview of their season.