Pontiacs flex muscles against top North Division foes in pair of wins

Marc-Antoine Benoit scores his team-leading 25th goal of the season last Friday against the Canmore Eagles. The Pontiacs lost to the Eagles 5-4 in OT. Image provided by http://gamereadyphotography.com

“Didn’t it have all the makings from what’d you assume or expect in a North Division final?” said Coach Rick Swan after Saturday’s tilt against the Sherwood Park Crusaders.

The Bonnyville Pontiacs faced the two top teams in the AJHL’s North Division this weekend – and defeated the Sherwood Park Crusaders at home 4-1 to increase their edge in the standings to four points.

That followed their 2-1 OT win on the road against the Spruce Grove Saints thanks to Bobby Young’s winner.

“Today was something that if they wanted to see the AJHL at its finest all they had to do was come to tonight’s game. People talk about the Oilers, but why not come watch the Bonnyville Pontiacs and the Sherwood Park Crusaders?” said Swan.

After a scoreless first period, team points leader Marc-Antoine Benoit broke the ice six minutes into the second period, and Bobby Young scored another a minute later.

The Pontiacs held the lead for the rest of the game, thanks to a quick reply by Lucas Reeve after Tyler Jette looked to make it a one-goal heading into the intermission.

Luke Albert added the final goal from Lucas Thorne in a game that gives to the Pontiacs the inside track to finish first and also set franchise records.

Swan said the team set goals with ten games remaining in order to get the team in the performance stage of their development: eliminate penalties, playing within the lines and on the right side of the puck.

“Today was a big step and a big confidence booster for our guys to know that if we play the right way, do the things that successful teams do and in the same mindset that they have, that they’ve got a chance to achieve something special in the regular season, but give us optimism that we can do that in the playoffs as well,” said Swan.

The game had a playoff-like intensity and with 18 seconds left tempers flared between Garin Butler and Brett Wieschorster, which left each team on testy terms in their final regular season matchup.

“The game is played with a lot of passion – to make sure that the emotions that you need to have to play the game the right way, is between those lines. They want to make sure they appreciate Garin’s [Butler] efforts and sacrifice…and those are guys that play the right way all the time and play hard all the time. That allows us to have that chemistry and cohesion as a team,” said Swan.

The Pontiacs record improves to 38-10-4 and on pace to finish the season with their best record in franchise history. Their team record for wins in a season is 40, the team says.

All of the Pontiacs remaining games are against North Division opponents. They host the Grande Prairie Storm on Tuesday.

Earlier this week, Yaks forward Lucas Thorne was one of 16 players named to the AJHL’s 2019 Inter Pipeline All-Academic Team.

Seven Pontiacs players (Benoit, Constable, Dubois, Albert, Thomas, Gervais, Kraus) have 0.8 points per game or higher.