At a time when most head coaches would be steaming mad, replaying each whistle in their heads, struggling internally to get over an out-of-character blowout loss, Rick Swan is looking ahead and positive about it. The head coach of the Bonnyville Jr A Pontiacs says the post-season wasn’t representative of the season the Pontiacs had. As he explains, thanks to a franchise record-breaking regular season, the club now has standing in the Junior A world as an elite organization with the ability to produce high quality players.
It was something we didn’t plan, we expected to come in to Bonnyville on Wednesday (for Game 5). We had high expectations for this group, and that’s the mindset for everyone, ‘wow what just happened.’ But let’s move on – Rick Swan Head Coach Bonnyville Jr A Pontiacs
“We’re really going to get ready for our Top Prospect’s Camp and reload,” the camp, at the end of May, invites top players from all over to tryout for the Pontiacs’ squad. The coaching staff will be able to check out these players’ skills and determine if they’d be a good fit for a Yaks jersey. If everything works out and the player loves Bonnyville, as much as the coaches love him, he’ll be invited to training camp in the late summer. “We have a little bit more time than we had thought to spend some time with some top prospects. Have some face time, one-on-one visits with house calls and conversations on the phone to try to get them committed to Bonnyville for next year.”
Over the next couple weeks there’ll be exit interviews with players performed, explains Coach Swan, “we’ll get our closing logistics, house keeping, done. We’ll get our equipment back from the players and have one-on-ones with each player to talk about next year.” Important to the Pontiacs is recognizing the players that have committed to universities or other higher calibre hockey for next season, “we’ll honour our graduating players.” There’ll also be some players in Bonnyville for a while more, “I know there’s some players that’ll stick around.”
“We’re in a good situation because we have a lot of players returning,” there will be seven players moving on from the squad; including league MVP Bobby McMann, Captain of the team and local boy, Steenn Pasichnuk, along with his brother, AJHL’s Top Defenseman, Brinson Pasichnuk. “We think with the seasons Derek Brown, Brandon Whistle, Zach Mills had, we think those guys can step up offensively. Alden Dupuis, Erik Donald, Gen Bryshun, and Ryan Smythington those guys become key 20 year olds who can drive our culture to replace some of the key nutrients that’s lost.”
Swan says there will be some tough decisions when it comes to the 19 year olds, “we have seven and we can only carry six next year. It’s like picking your favourite grandma, they’re all good. But we’re going to have to move a player.” With only one 18 year old on the rooster, Swan says the club will have to pick up quite a few rookies, “the other consideration is we need five 18 year olds in our line-up, every single night, Josh Borynec. Usually, you need seven on the rooster, because if you get injuries, you still need five in the line-up. So that pushes some of our veteran players, next year, so they don’t allow a young player to force decisions on them. There are lots of behind the scenes, just because you have 14 wanting to come back, doesn’t mean you have 14. It makes for a competitive summer.”
“My mindset we’ve taken a step Year 1, we made it to the North finals, which was a franchise record. We’ve taken a step Year 2, by getting franchise records regular season. Now we have to take a step and push towards a North Division Championship.” The AJHL’s Coach of the Year says it’s on him, “I’ll be going out and looking for the best player and put ourselves in a position so that we can win a championship. The recruiting will be elevated more than it’s ever been.”
They look at Bonnyville now in the same light as Spruce Grove Saints and Brooke’s Bandits. That’s been hard to create and we’re glad to be in this position. – Rick Swan Head Coach Bonnyville Jr A Pontiacs
“We’re recruiting as far as in the United States, the great thing about getting success is that players now look at your program as a program they want to come to. We’re thinking that the strides that we made, even those this year we lost in the first round, it’s something that’s allowed us to spend more time with the top prospect,” Top Prospect’s Camp is May 27-29.