The Bonnyville Jr. A Pontiacs’ opened up the AJHL’s exhibition season with the first game in the league, which went down August 26th, 2015 verses the Whitecourt Wolverines. The Pontiacs lost a high scoring match-up, in front of the home crowd, at the RJ Lalonde Arena, 7-6.
Voice of The Pontiacs, Robb Hunter says despite the loss, the game showcased the players’ incredible skill, “It was a 7-6 game, which is probably a little bit more high scoring than I think the coaching staff, on both teams, would’ve liked to have seen. On the flip side of that, it does mean that there was some pretty skilled players that were firing away to put the puck in the back of the net.”
One of the stand-outs last night was, Saskatchewan boy with relatives in the Bonnyville area, Ryan Rothenburger, who lit the board three times for his first hat trick in a Pontiacs jersey. “He’s sorta a local played, played his midget hockey last year in Saskatchewan,” Hunter clarifies it’s a six degrees of separation-esq situation. “I think he was of the young guys who was maybe gripping the stick a little tight through the first weekend of camp, maybe the nerves getting to him a bit,” but last night Rothenburger lit up, says Hunter, “he’s a guy who scored a lot of goals in a really good midget league in Saskatchewan, so you knew it was just a matter of time for him and he exploded last night offensively. It was a lot of fun to watch, he’s going to be a player to watch certainly for the rest of the exhibition season, and I would say in the start of the regular season, as well.”
The final Pontiacs roster is still some time away, explains Hunter, “the regular season starts September 11th, and I would imagine the decision-making process as to who’s going to be on that roster for that game against the Lloydminster Bobcats, at the RJ Lalonde Arena, will be made right up until that point.”
However, the start of the regular season doesn’t always mean a set line-up, Hunter clarifies, “there’s always a little bit more tweaking that happens to the line-up.” Fans can expect some cuts coming out of the training camp and into the first few exhibition games. “The cuts are generally made, then the roster is trimmed down from there. You’ll get a pretty good idea sorta before the last exhibition game, before that September 11th home opener.”
Tonight’s exhibition game will come with a little high stakes, as the Lloydminster Bobcats are in town, says Hunter, “I think you’ll see a few more veterans in the line-up, certainly for Lloydminster and I think the Pontiacs will sneak a few more veterans in tonight’s line up as well.”
This rivalry is years in the making and heated up at the end of last season when the Pontiacs knocked the Bobcats out of the playoffs in the second round, game 6 with an overtime goal. “They’ve got a lot of quality young players that are coming in, the veterans that are coming back look awfully good, it’s going to be a very exciting year and hopefully, fans get just as excited as they were at the end of last year and carry that momentum over to this year. Anyone who remembers what those 50/50 draws were like during the playoffs, to see a few of those at the start of the year would be really fun and create a lot of excitement.”
Puck drops, vs. the Lloydminster Bobcats, tonight, August 27th, at 7:30 at The RJ Lalonde Arena in Bonnyville