The Bonnyville Pontiacs will look to bounce back after their four-game winning streak was snapped by the Calgary Mustangs on Saturday night in a 5-2 defeat.
They host the Drayton Valley Thunder tonight: a team that’s given the Yaks a bit of trouble despite their 16-18-5 record and 6th place standing in the AJHL’s North Division.
In four matchups this season, the Pontiacs are 2-1-1, handling them at times with 5-0 results, but also falling 2-1 in the shootout at home on Nov. 17.
“They have to work. That’s the identity I think they embrace,” said coach Rick Swan about the Drayton Valley Thunder.
“As a group, they want to make sure their identity is established by being the hardest working team on the ice, and they’ve done a really great job with that. Then their goaltender [Luke Lush] has been 15-5-3 since they acquired him and he’s been sensational, arguably he’s been the best guy in the past 20 games. You think of those losses against them, we fired almost 50 shots at them, and he was sensational.”
Lush has been spectacular since the Thunder acquired him from the Camrose Kodiaks. The 20-year-old has a .936 save percentage and 2.05 goals against average in that span. Since losing 5-0 to Bonnyville on Nov. 3, Lush has only two regulation losses and an impressive 11-2-3 record.
Pontiacs split weekend games
The Pontiacs played their first home game in over a month last Friday against the South Division’s cellar-dwelling Olds Grizzlys. The Yaks dropped a touchdown and fired 69 shots at the Olds net en route to a 7-0 win.
Playing on back-to-back nights, the R.J. Lalonde faithful got a much more competitive game against the Calgary Mustangs. Although entertaining, the Mustangs forecheck created some problems and the Pontiacs struggled to pass the puck effectively to their forwards.
However, it just as easily could’ve swayed the Pontiacs way if it weren’t for netminder Ben Howard. Howard made some crucial saves on a couple 2-on-1’s and on shots in tight to the net, stopping 33 of a total 35 shots.
“You always expect excellence from your group, it isn’t always going to be there but it doesn’t mean you can’t expect it from your guys,” said Swan.
“I also believe our group of 22 and coaching staff have that same belief, that they would’ve liked a better performance. We know that’s going to be the standard of every team we play.
“It had only been five days we were together since a 10-day layoff at Christmas, much of the guys hadn’t done a heck of a lot. We talked to our guys after the game and said the practice is where we have to invest in, so when we do play the significant number of games that we have, that’ll allow us to bring that practice to the game and allow a little bit more efficiency,” said Swan.
The Pontiacs can move back into a tie for first place with a win as the Sherwood Park Crusaders are idle tonight.