The Bonnyville Pontiacs took off for their longest road trip of the season last Tuesday with four games in five nights against South Division opponents. Rick Swan’s team were without forward useful source Thomas Kramer and rookie defenceman pop over to this web-site Cam Newton as injuries continue to plague them.
Despite that, they were able to come out with victories in three of the four games closing the game between themselves and the Spruce Grove Saints to eight points. On top of that, Bonnyville also has a game in hand over the Saints having played 29 games compared to their 30.
The road trip didn’t start well for the Yaks, to say the least. Surprisingly, the Olds Grizzlys defeated the travelling Pontiacs 6-3 thanks to four goals from Noah Hackett. The shot count didn’t indicate that Bonnyville was necessarily outplayed, but that Olds capitalized on their opportunities.
“Bonnyville was the better team,” said Pontiacs play-by-play broadcaster Michael Menzies. “They had great chances in the first period but it was a matter of that Olds stuck to their game plan. Goaltender Duncan Hughes played well, defensively they didn’t give Bonnyville any big chances, and then Noah Hackett ends up scoring four goals in 13 minutes or so.”
Bonnyville then moved on from that loss and looked to avenge it with a game against the Calgary Canucks the next day. This would be their second encounter with the Canucks. Their first came earlier in November when Calgary visited the RJ Lalonde Arena. The Pontiacs took care of business on that occasion beating the Canucks 5-1 with star forward Daine Dubois scoring three points.
Goals were a similar trend in their meeting this time around too.
Bruce MacGregor, Joel Ray, Kash Rasmussen, Matthew McKim, and a pair from Daine Dubois gave them a 6-0 win at the Ken Bracko Arena. Noah Amundson was perfect between the pipes making 26 saves for his second shutout of the season.
After a day off spent in the Rocky Mountains, the Okotoks Oilers were the next stop on their Southern Alberta tour, and what a game it turned out to be. Despite trailing 2-0 after 20 minutes, Bonnyville fought back scoring six unanswered goals to take down the Okotoks Oilers who had lost only once in regulation on home ice prior to this game.
“This was the most complete performance of the Pontiacs season,” said Menzies. “For about a minute in the first period (when they conceded two goals) they looked out of place and they got hurt by it. Then in the second period, they came out and were the better team. It was the best the entire team played even more than when they beat Brooks.”
Bonnyville then wrapped up their road trip with a come from behind 5-4 overtime win over the Canmore Eagles. Matthew McKim was the overtime hero in that one which sent the Pontiacs back home with a 3-1-0 record over the road trip.
On top of the overtime winner, McKim caught fire over the four-game road trip. The St John’s, Newfoundland, native scored 10 points (6 goals, 4 assists) in those four games. Typically, Pontiacs fans are used to seeing him pass the puck and his teammates scoring the goals with McKim having 28 assists this year which is third in the AJHL. However, he’s not much of a scorer. Before the trip, McKim had five goals this season which means he passed his season total on the trip alone.
“He was facilitating a lot of offence for that top line, but now he’s shooting the puck a lot more,” said Menzies. “He’s getting better opportunities to score as well where he’s now at the tail end of the passing play to make it all work. I think he’s got more confident now too.”
Those goals are coming at the perfect time for Bonnyville as they recently traded Marc-Antoine Benoit to the Brooks Bandits. Benoit played in 73 games for the Yaks after being acquired from the Drayton Valley Thunder. He scored 43 goals in a Bonnyville uniform and already had 11 this season alone. However, Rick Swan got a couple of solid pieces in return for Drummondville, Quebec, native.
Jaxsen Wyatt and Reilly Connors (Yale University) came back the other way and have already made an impact on this team.
“The additions they got for Benoit have been huge for this team,” said Menzies. “Wyatt has been tremendous. He can play 20-25 minutes of great offensive hockey, moves the puck, and he’s now slotted on the second powerplay unit. And then Reilly Connors on the second line just adds size to that unit with Kash Rasmussen and Bruce MacGregor. He’s a bit of bruiser and can play tough minutes for this team.”
Bonnyville also acquired Andreas Bridgewater from Cowichan Valley (BCHL) in exchange for future considerations. Bridgewater spent last season with the Calgary Mustangs playing in 51 games scoring 33 points (10 goals, 23 assists).
Coming up this week, the Pontiacs have three games at home. Firstly, the Sherwood Park Crusaders come to town on Wednesday night for their first visit to the RJ Lalonde this season. Then, over the weekend, the Fort McMurray Oil Barons are in town for back-to-back games on Friday and Saturday.