For the first time in franchise history, the Bonnyville Jr. A Pontiacs are perfect on their 4-game, 5-day road trip. The Pontiacs closed out the final two games of the Friday and Saturday with a 6-5 win in Brooks and a 3-1 win in Drumheller. To start the trip on Tuesday the Pontiacs took Calgary 4-2 and Canmore 6-1 on Wednesday. Head Coach, Rick Swan, says the trip has been, “unbelievable.”
“Before we set out on this trip, we had set team goals,” Coach Swan says the guys performed all week to secure the goals they set were matched, “man-for-man, they wanted to be able to come out of this weekend with eight points.” It wasn’t just a matter of saying you want those points, it was figuring out ways to get them, says Swan, “we also set process goals in terms of how we were going to do that. One of it was we had to be above 88 percent on our PK (penalty kill), and we were 100 percent. We had to be above 10 percent on our power play, and of course we exceeded that, and we had to make sure our face-off percentage was above 60, we exceeded that. We made sure our goals-against were less than two. ”
“We got four out of five of our process goals, which allowed us to get the victory,” states Coach Swan
The Friday game versus Brooks was the only game, on the road trip, where the Pontiacs allowed more than two goals against, still taking a close 6-5 win against the Bandits. Coach Swan was very proud of the squad, post-game stated he felt the team worked for the win. “I like the fact that we competed hard, especially when momentum changed and Brooks was able to allow their guys to get back into the game.”
We stuck with it for 60 minutes, by not getting down. – Rick Swan Head Coach Bonnyville Jr A Pontiacs
The Bandits opened up the scoring, at 4:34 in the first; this would be the only time the opponent scored first on the Pontaics during the trip. Pontiacs answered at 9:39, with a power play goal from Bobby McMann . Brandon Whistle and Kyler Hehn would get the assists on that. Another power play goal from the Pontiacs to close the period at 2-1 for the Yaks, came at 14:19 from Zach Mills from Gen Bryshun and Alden Dupuis.
The Bandits came back hard in the second and lit the board early, 12 seconds in. The Pontiacs didn’t leave the game at a draw for long, Mills recorded his second goal of the game just 11 seconds later off Charlie Gawlicki.
Mills would go on to record his first AJHL career hat trick, but not before Hehn scores for the Pontiacs at 2:31 from from Ben Mack and Whistle. Brooks answered at 4:53 on a power play making for an exciting game. But it was Mills who really took the glory with his third goal of the game at 10:44 from McMann and Bryan Gerstenfeld. The period ended 5-4 Yaks with a goal from Brooks at 14:27.
The hat trick was special for Mills, who had friends up from his home state of Minnesota to watch the 18 year old. “All my buddies are home from college for American Thanksgiving and they all ran over to my [parents’] house to watch their first Canadian Hockey game.” The game was televised, so Mills’ friends and family were able to enjoy the milestone with the left-winger.
I got a hat trick, so that was pretty cool! – Zach Mills #10 Bonnyville Jr A Pontiacs
Two more goals in the third would decide the game, McMann recorded an unassisted beauty at 12:37 and Brooks’ last minute effort at 19:40 went on the sheet but wasn’t enough for them to force extra time.
Zach’s a kid that cares, he’s an individual that wants to do well all the time. – Rick Swan Head Coach Bonnyville Jr A Pontiacs
Finishing the road trip in Drumheller, Coach Swan said going into the game, “we’re making sure the guys are focusing on the process. If we look too far ahead, you lose sight of the things that allow us to be success for and you’re not going to achieve what you want.”
The Drumheller game was less back-and-forth from the night before in Brooks, with the Yaks’ Dupuis lighting things up off a power play at 10:22 from Bryshun and Mills. That would be the only goal in the first.
Our focus is in the now. – Rick Swan Head Coach Bonnyville Jr. A Pontiacs
Early in the second, Captain Steenn Pasichnuk had a shorthanded goal at 4:22 from Dupuis. The Dragons would record their sole goal of the game at 14:34 of the second. The Pontiacs scored once more, early in the third, before the end of 60 minutes of play, at 1:09 Mills on the power play from Brinson Pasichnuk. Impressive for B. Pasichnuk who spent 27 minutes reflecting in the penalty box.
Taking all eight possible points was unreal, says Captain Pasichnuk, “it’s a real confidence booster for the team.” The penalty kill was on fire as the Pontiacs shut down 43 minutes shorthanded. Captain Pasichnuk says he was very impressed with the team’s penalty kill, saying of the Dragons, “they were on the power play for most of the game, even had a five on three in there, but we were able to kill off a lot of penalties. Oliver [Charest, goalie] stood tall for us too.” The Pontiacs now third in the AJHL with a penalty kill of 86.73%.
We’ve had guys like Justin Fountaine and Mark Letestu come through this organization – Steen Pasichnuk #89 Captain Bonnyville Jr A Pontiacs
Pontiacs won’t be back in the RJ until the 5th of December, but they are in action Wednesday. The squad will meet rivals, the Lloydminster Bobcats. The Pontiacs have yet to beat the Bobcats this season and will be hungry for a win.