The Pontiacs suffered a letdown on home ice on Friday night against the Sherwood Park Crusaders, but responded the following night on the road to split the weekend series against their North Division rival.
After a 2-0 loss on Friday night where the Crusaders netminder Gus Bylin stopped all 37 shots and stood on his head, the Yaks flipped the script on Saturday. Matt Hennessey steered aside all 18 attempts to earn his third shutout of the season, while the Pontiacs went 2-for-3 on the powerplay, and 4-for-4 on the penalty kill.
In the past four games, the Yaks have surrendered just three goals against and are winning the special teams battle more often than not.
Kash Rasmussen banked in a shot from below the goal line on Lochlan Gordon, while AJ Macaulay sniped one from off the rush to give the Yaks a 2-0 lead early in the second period they wouldn’t look back from.
“On the powerplay, we got two. On the second one we might have been lucky because there was one second left. But it definitely was a battle of special teams,” said Yaks assistant coach Derek Hemsley after the game.
“Tonight we did a goob job of shutting down their powerplay, making sure they didn’t get any good looks. Even 5-on-5, we only gave up four shots in the 1st and four shots in the 2nd. It was actually in the 3rd period when we were defending the lead that we gave up the most shots. We kept to our commitment to defence, our commitment to our hunt, and making sure we helped Henner out, because he made some big saves.”
Rasmussen added an empty-netter with over 4 minutes left in the third period as Crusaders coach Jeff Woywitka pulled the goaltender with 5:58 remaining in regulation to go 6-on-4.
The Yaks captain continues a terrific season after having his eight game point streak end on Friday, along with Sebastian Tamburro.
Meanwhile, Macaulay’s ability to jump into the play offensively, as Hemsley is activating his defenders more into the rush, saw him bury his 8th goal of the season.
Hemsley sung his praises on Saturday as well adding that his stick is one of the best in the AJHL.
“He’s also a leader in the dressing room and a leader on the ice. He plays the right way, he says the right things, and he puts together a quiet game. It’s not very flashy, but it’s very effective. Happy to see him score a goal tonight,” he said.
The Pontiacs have their last regular season road game in Spruce Grove on Wednesday night with the chance to even the season-series three wins apiece.
Bonnyville is home this weekend with special features on each game night. Friday is the Pontiacs and Canadian Natural Resources’ Anti-Bullying Night where fans are encouraged to come to the rink wearing pink.
If the playoffs started today, the Pontiacs would meet the Whitecourt Wolverines in the first round, but there is much left to be decided.
Sitting just four points behind the Oil Barons for second in the division with a game in hand, Bonnyville is still looking to overtake Fort McMurray for the 2-seed. Plus, just one point separates Lloyd (5th) and Whitecourt (6th). That means every game down the stretch matters into the final positioning.
- The Pontiacs have jumped to 3rd leaguewide in goal scoring with 197 total. Brooks is first (312) and Spruce Grove is second (256).
- The powerplay is also up to 7th in scoring four times with the extra man in the past three games. They also have the 5th best road powerplay in the league.
- AJ Macaulay’s goal on Saturday was the 10th of his AJHL career. His next game will the 120th of his career.
- If Kash Rasmussen plays the remainder of the schedule, he will surpass 150 regular season games total in his career.
- Ethan Sundar is still close to returning from injury. His last game was Nov. 30.
- Other Pontiac injuries with Trey Funk, Michael Fairfax, Jon Barker, and Noah Heinrich are also on the mend in time for the post-season.
- Chayce Schmidt and Austin Saint are both top-10 in penalty minutes with 134 and 107, respectively.
- Hennessey’s shutout ties him with the league-lead with three this season. He also sits third in the AJHL in wins.
- The Pontiacs are looking to get their second victory Wednesday in Spruce Grove, where they have also lost three times all season. One of those to Bonnyville.
- The Yaks are 6-3-1 in their last 10 games.
- You can listen to every game this season on lakelandconnect.net/pontiacs