The race is on for the Bonnyville Pontiacs trying to jump into 2nd place in the AJHL North Division. Bonnyville defeated Camrose on Friday and Okotoks on Saturday for two victories in the team’s final home weekend of regular season games.
The Yaks once again found timely scoring to achieve success. After the 5-3 win against the Kodiaks in the most well-attended game of the season in Anti-Bullying Night sponsored by Canadian Natural Resources Ltd., the Pontiacs were down 2-0 with just five minutes left in the 3rd period versus the Okotoks Oilers — when once again the comeback was on.
Cole Hipkin scored a powerplay goal with 3:44 left and Sebastian Tamburro tied the game with 1:43 remaining in regulation to tie the game. Then in overtime, AJ Macaulay deked out Oilers’ forward Sam Huck and beat Jack McNaughton five-hole to be the hero. His 9th goal of the campaign gave Bonnyville their 34th win of the season.
“A big one by the local star AJ Macaulay…the poise with the puck to slide that one in five-hole. I wish it was something I taught him, but it’s not even close to something I’ve done,” joked assistant coach Neil Langridge in the postgame.
“It was an interesting one tonight. It wasn’t that we weren’t playing great, we just couldn’t get a bounce. Pucks were bouncing off the stick, right, left and center, and it was just sloppy to start the game off. In the second period, in the last 10 minutes, I thought we controlled the play and we were getting close, and closer, and closer,” he said.
“The timely scoring of this group ceases to amaze me, competing right down to the whistle every single time and we get one, we get two, and then we finish it in overtime, for an exciting last 5 minutes for the faithful in the RJ Lalonde Arena tonight.”
With just five remaining regular season games for both teams, the Yaks sit a point behind the Fort McMurray Oil Barons. However, the Oil Barons have a tougher strength of schedule. If Bonnyville finishes second, it would be just the second time in franchise history they’ve accomplished that feat.
“Our goal for the last 2-3 weeks is to catch Fort McMurray. That’s our goal….it would give us a coveted home ice through Rounds 1 and possibly 2,” said Langridge.
The Pontiacs have just one home game remaining before the playoffs — happening on Wednesday against the Sherwood Park Crusaders at 7pm. After that, Bonnyville heads out on the road Friday for the first time to the newest location in the AJHL against the Blackfalds Bulldogs at the EagleBuilders LP Centre.
The first round of the playoffs is tentatively scheduled for the week of March 4th.