BONNYVILLE – After over 100 days since the Bonnyville Jr. A Pontiacs' last game, the local Jr. A team laced up their skates to face-off against the Sherwood Park Crusaders over the weekend.
In front of two nearly empty arenas, the Pontiacs had a win on home ice before losing in enemy territory.
Assistant coach TJ Millar said it was unbelievable to be playing again.
“It was pretty awesome to be able to get back to what you want to call your ‘new normal,’” he continued. “At least we’re getting back to playing after the last three months of waiting and going through the protocol to do what we needed to do in order to get back.”
Pontiacs best the Crusaders
It wasn’t a typical home game for the Pontiacs when they kicked off their eight-game series on Friday, March 12 against the Crusaders.
No fans were crowded in the stands to cheer on the home team and only those deemed essential through the Alberta Junior Hockey Leagues’ (AJLH) Return to Play agreement with the province were allowed within the facility.
But, the Pontiacs were still able to clinch the 3-1 victory.
Millar described the first game back as a "good welcome back."
“You’re going right back into the AJHL. We saw that we needed everybody to compete and we saw our guys pull out a character win on Friday night.”
The first period was quiet as the teams got back into the rhythm of the game with neither adding a point to the scoreboard.
The Crusaders were the first to break through the other teams' defence in the second, taking the lead 1-0 just over three minutes into the frame.
With less than a minute on the clock, Pontiac Zack Whittaker added his name to the scoresheet to tie it up 1-1 before the buzzer sounded.
The third would be where the Pontiacs dominated. The first goal for the home team came from left-wing Sebastian Tamburro and it looked like Bonnyville was going to win 2-1 for a majority of the period.
That was until Pontiac Ryan Koebel got an unassisted goal to solidify Bonnyville’s 3-1 win.
Crusaders team the Pontiacs
Bonnyville’s high from the previous evening’s game didn’t continue when they headed to Sherwood Park on March 13. The Bonnyville team fell to the Crusaders 4-1.
Sherwood Park came out of the locker room hot in the first, getting their first point of the evening less than 10 seconds into the game.
It was the Pontiacs who got a goal first in the second, with Tamburro finding the back of the Crusaders’ net less than two minutes in. That would be Bonnyville’s only point of the game.
The Crusaders added one more point in the second followed by two more in the third to skate off with the 4-1 victory.
Mental lapses were what Millar believes was the reason the Pontiacs weren’t successful during this game.
“The mental lapses are the things that hurt you the most and it’s important to remember that you have to make sure you’re on your toes right from the beginning of the game until the very end,” he stressed, adding one aspect of the schedule for the team he likes is the ample opportunity for practice to address these problem areas.
“We’re going to be able to fine-tune and bring the most out of our players so they can perform in the next two games. I think it’s great that we have the ability to make these tweaks but, at the same time, these players have to make sure that they’re coming to play the games like they’re coming to perform at the practices."
The Pontiacs next two games against the Sherwood Park Crusaders are Friday, March 19 in Sherwood Park and March 20 at the R.J. Lalonde Arena. Puck drop both evenings is at 7:00 p.m.