Matt McKim scored with ten seconds left in overtime and Matthew Hennessey’s gutsy 28 save performance led to a 3-2 Bonnyville Pontiacs win on Saturday night against the Whitecourt Wolverines.
It was a strong response after Friday night’s 3-2 loss with five lineup changes including sitting three 20-year-old players with healthy scratches.
The victory puts the Yaks at 2-2 for the season after losing by the same score on Friday night in their home opener.
“It’s the response that we were looking for and we challenged our guys to be committed 200 feet players,” said coach Rick Swan post-game.
“Last night, we felt that we weren’t consistently that way. And we gave things up for free.
“I thought that responded the right way in a North Division that every game is going to be a dogfight.”
Austin Saint scored five minutes into the second period on a sweet dish from Kash Rasmussen, and each forward has four points to lead Bonnyville.
Swan had high praise for the 19-year-old from Cochrane, as Rasmussen has played well in all three phases of the game.
“He’s driving the team. He’s driving the locker room right now. And we said after the game, how is this guy not already committed to division one school and he’s been terrific in the faceoff see kills penalties for us,” he said.
Netminder Hennessey and defenseman JR Ashmead were making their regular-season debuts in the AJHL, earning a win and an assist, respectively, while Vincent Lamanna also had a helper in his second overall game.
“I believe that all three of those guys got old stars for their performance in their debuts. And it’s the great thing about having a tight group of healthy players that believe in each other that are committed to each other,” said Swan.
Whitecourt goaltender Isaac Poulter, on loan from the Swift Current Broncos, made 35 plus saves in each game, and provided stout play for a team with a few skilled defenders added to the team.
Returning Wolverines forwards Kaleb Ergang and Bryce Osepchuk had a pair of goals each, leading the attack.
McKim’s second goal of the season ended the contentious weekend series against Whitecourt, which saw tight hockey in both games and limited scoring opportunities for each team.
The power play will be a point of emphasis in the next week.
The Yaks are 0/17 and have had good looks, with AJ Macaulay hitting the crossbar Saturday night, but Bonnyville is the only team that’s played four games to not score on the man advantage.
“It’s an area of concern for our group,” said Swan.
“We’re getting lots of good looks, but ultimately if you don’t get the success that you’re looking for, then you need to really spend the time to make sure that your guys get proper reps.
“Again, it’s creating chemistry and as well as working with the players to teach them how to be at this level and we know we need to be better and it’s going to be addressed for sure–without question.”
Bonnyville will return home to play Drayton Valley this Friday and Saturday nights at 7:00pm. Tickets go on sale Monday morning at 10:00am online. You can listen to the games live on Lakeland Connect.