Friday , 3 December 2021

Pontiacs 10-3-1 after surging past waning Storm, home for next 3 this week

Make it five straight wins for the Bonnyville Pontiacs after a pair of comfortable blowouts against the Grande Prairie Storm this weekend. 

After a 5-2 victory on Friday, the Yaks scored early and often in a 7-1 rout the following evening against the AJHL North Division’s current cellar dwellers.  

Bonnyville improves to a record of 10-3-1 to sit just three points out of first place. 

“We know that this team has a ton of upside,” said assistant coach Neil Langridge post-game Saturday. “We’re starting to see everyone get adjusted to the pace of play in the Alberta Junior Hockey League. They’re starting to understand some of the systems and they’re sticking to the framework of the structure. But it was great to see that offensive flair tonight.”

AJ Macaulay and Kash Rasmussen extended point streaks to five games, while Austin Saint had a 3 point night on Friday to continue his offensive tear to begin the year. 

Saint sits 24th in AJHL scoring with 8 goals and 7 assists.

AJHL standings as of Oct. 25. AJHL

Defenceman Jon Barker had a Gordie Howe hat-trick Friday, potting his first career AJHL goal and getting the best of Evan Gass in a heavyweight tilt. 

Michael Fairfax and Sebastian Tamburro had career nights on Saturday — four points each.  

“It was pretty good,” said Fairfax after the game, who said the last time he had a four point game he was 7 or 8 years old.

“Definitely good to come out of here with four points. It got a little bumpy for us at the end so it was good for us to get the boys going and everyone feeling good.”

It’s a Pontiacs team that is finding offense from everyone right now, something fans don’t all too often see in the AJHL — where point totals on the team are so bunched together.

Rookie Matteo Giampa since being acquired from the Brooks Bandits has 10 points in 12 games, with 4 goals in his last 5 games. Playing alongside Chayce Schmidt and Austin Saint, that line is finding chemistry with each member providing complimentary skills to make the unit work. 

Only five skaters didn’t register a point in the Saturday rematch. 

Splitting starts this weekend, both Matt Hennessey and Bodee Weiss have the coaches confidence between the pipes. They sit 5th and 6th, respectively, in league-wide save percentage.

The Yaks have a three game homestand this week: hosting the Storm again on Wednesday, before seeing two of the South’s bottom teams in the Calgary Canucks and Canmore Eagles, who they’ll see again on the road when the calendar flips to November.

“We’re hoping to get a couple of bodies back in the lineup as well Nick Traggio and may draw back in on Wednesday,” said Langridge.

“But it’s going to be some more hard hitting action. Don’t kid yourselves, if you think Grande Prairie is going to be happy with this weekend’s performance and they are going to come in and ruin our home game on Wednesday night.”

Jon Barker 

Hailing from North Kingstown, Rhode Island, 6 foot 6 defenceman Jon Barker is not only learning the game Junior A, but the nuclear option if opponents want to run around and take liberties.

Barker says that’s an ingredient he brings to this year’s Pontiacs team, which was evidenced by his big scrap against Evan Gass and decision victory in the tilt.

“That’s something that Rick [Swan] told me was to be more physical. And he [Gass] crosschecked me and I turned around and he asked me to go. So why not? I decided to give it to him. And you saw how it happened,” said Barker.

“Being from the northeast US, Bonnyville is kinda the polar opposite to be honest. Just going to the gas station and seeing people and they say hi, or you go to Sobey’s and you see people with Pontiacs hats, and it’s great.”

Chayce Schmidt 

Third-year Pontiac forward Chayce Schmidt isn’t the flashy scorer–he’s the gritty, hard-nosed defensive center who shuts down opponents.

A veteran of now 80 AJHL games, Schmidt’s commitment to the defensive side of the puck is point of pride for the 19-year-old from Lloydminster.

On Friday, he was one the ice for his first goal against in 14 games, an absurd stat for a player that typically starts every penalty kill.

“It’s something that I take a lot of pride in honestly. When you’re not producing, you look for other ways that you can produce and penalty killing is another way where other guys may not want to play that way, but I respect other guys who play well on the PK,” said Schmidt.

Upcoming games:

  • Wednesday, Oct. 27 | Home vs Grande Prairie Storm | 7PM
  • Friday, Oct. 29 | Home vs Calgary Canucks | 7PM
  • Saturday, Oct. 30 | Home vs Canmore Eagles | 7PM
  • Tuesday, Nov. 2 | at Okotoks Oilers | 7PM
  • Wednesday, Nov. 3 | at Calgary Canucks | 7PM
  • Friday, Nov. 5 | at Canmore Eagles | 7PM
  • Saturday, Nov. 6 | at Olds Grizzlys | 7PM

About Michael Menzies

Menzies is the editor-at-large for Connected Media Inc. Born and raised in Vermilion, he started in May 2018 during his NAIT Radio and Television practicum and reports on local politics, sports, and community issues. He became the Bonnyville Pontiacs play-by-play voice during the 2019-20 season. He also comments on provincial and national issues. Menzies hosts Connected! Evening Monday-Thursday at 5 o’clock. He also likes to buy books and read some of them.