Pontiacs lose two rare SJHL matches over weekend
The Bonnyville Jr A Pontiacs welcomed North Battleford for a little preseason fun on Saturday evening at the RJ, then traveled to the North Stars home in Saskatchewan for a Sunday battle. The games will likely not repeat themselves after September, as North Battleford plays in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League (SJHL), and the Pontiacs in the Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL). Head Coach for the Pontiacs, Rick Swan said he wanted to test the squad against their provincials neighbours to shake things up a little.
“We had two good tests tonight,” Coach Swan explains there was a method to his cross-provincial madness, “number one to see what we have to work with and number two if the guys were going to be AJHL ready, by playing a veteran team, like North Battleford.” It was a good measure of what the team can bring, says Swan. “The evaluation situation that we had was ideal for us (coaches) and it gave the players that were willing to showcase themselves an opportunity.”
“Once we start league play, this level (of play) is going to increase even more.” Recognizing the three losses in a row, first in Lloydminster, Friday, 9-2 against the Bobcats, then Saturday and Sunday, 4-3 and 5-2, against North Battleford, Coach Swan says the losses raise opportunities. “Opportunities for us, the coaches, to evaluate and assess what we have. Opportunity, for the players, to showcase their skills. Are they AJHL ready – or do they need another year.” Coach Swan and his team have been using the exhibition season to make some tough decisions, “discussions we have with players, when we release them, is that you (as a player) won’t know if you’re ready or not, unless you go through this process.”
The Pontiacs beat Lloydminster in the first exhibition game of the year, it was an all rookie game on both sides of the ice. Coach Swan said Friday night they kept the rookies on the ice, regardless of what the Bobcats decided to do. For the North Battleford games, veteran players were put in the mix. “By the time we get through our six exhibition games we’re going to have a team ready to play in the AJHL.”
The next exhibition game for the team is Thursday in Fort McMurray. The Pontiacs will then welcome the Oil Barons to the RJ on Friday for a 7:30 puck drop.