Falling two games in the opening series of the AJHL playoffs will be a tough hole to climb out of, but Head Coach Rick Swan says the team is not out of the best of five series. The Pontiacs lost game two last night at the RJ Lalonde Arena falling 3-2 to the Crusaders. With one day off before heading to Sherwood Park for a do-or-die match, Coach Swan says it’s his job to make sure the boys have clear minds.
“When you work that hard and you don’t get the success you’re looking for, guys are a little bit [frustrated],” putting the loses behind you and moving forward to game three is the goal, explains Swan, “the message is it’s a best of five series. Are we in a hole? Absolutely. Are we down? Yes, but we’re not out. We’ve played well and they’re come out on the success side.”
We need to go there and take it one period at a time, one game at a time. – Rick Swan Head Coach Bonnyville Jr A Pontiacs
The Yaks fell behind in the first period with two unanswered goals from the Crusaders, late in the period. Coming back from the locker room for the second, the squad had a new determination. They were able to avoid the Crusaders’ physicality and slow plays down, which worked in their favour to tie things up. Brandon Whistle planted himself in optimal firing distance in front of Sherwood’s goalie to fire one top shelf at 6:45 from Brinson Pasichnuk. Less than a minute later, B. Pasichnuk sniped a beauty from Alden Dupuis to make it a 2-2 game heading into the third.
*#25 Brandon Whistle
The last 20 minutes it started getting dirty in the boards; chirpin’ as players left the ice and more of a body game. “It’s no secret, there’s a rivalry there,” Coach Swan says he’s really preaching to the squad to not let it get in their heads. “We played these guys four times in the last seven years in the first round. There’s no love lost. I think the more we play it’s going to escalate and increase.” Sherwood Park took the lead at 6:46 of third with a goal from Merritt Oszytko, the Pontiacs kept the battle fierce and even with pulling the goalie for the last minute of play, the squad was not able to recover the point and fell to the Crusaders 3-2.
The biggest thing now, is we can’t get down on each other. We can’t start to think that we want to care in the wrong way, by calling guys out. We have to stick to what was working for us in the regular season and get back to the way we play. We knew it was going to be tough, and it certainly is going to be tough. Are we capable of beating the Sherwood Park Crusaders? Absolutely. – Rick Swan Head Coach Bonnyville Jr A Pontiacs
Heading into game three, the Pontiacs have Saturday to clear their minds, reflex and prepare for what could potentially be their last game of the season. “To see how hard our veterans are working, our graduating players, it’s gotta be a great mentorship for our young guys to see. This is it, these guys are leaving, they won’t be playing Junior A hockey again. You have to look at how much they’re shelling out and challenge yourself to make sure you’re honouring them in the right way.”
We played two great games and we played them hard for two games. It’s gonna take some grind. – Rick Swan Head Coach Bonnyville Jr A Pontiacs
Game 3 is Sunday in Sherwood Park at 7:30 pm. Pontiacs are down 2-0 in the best of five series.