The Bonnyville Jr A Pontiacs dropped a pair of games in Grande Prairie this weekend, against the Storm. The weekend wasn’t a total bust, as the Yaks were able to skate away with a point after taking the first of two games in GP to overtime. Assistant Coach, of the Pontiacs, Neil Landridge says the club was shorthanded due to some key players on the injured list.
“We’re starting to feel not having Derek Brown and Brandon Whistle in our lineup,” both Brown and Whistle are on the AJHL injury list, with no description of the injuries on the AJHL site. “We have to start finding some secondary scorers on our rooster. We’re looking at some of our young guy to fill in for when those guys are not around.” Langridge explains that was one of the contributing factors to the struggles the team say in Grande Prairie. “It’s one of the things we needed to improve on this weekend.” Overall, it was “two good efforts against the good Grande Prairie hockey team and a tough barn to play in,” says Langridge.
The Pontiacs took it to overtime with 58 seconds left in the game, after three periods of hard action. The game opened at 7:04 with a goal from the Storm’s Justin Bernier. The Yaks matched it just over a minute later, from Zach Aston with an assist from PJ Marrocco.
The second period provided more back and forth action, with no goals. 2-2 game heading into the third, the Storm had the go-ahead at 8:02 from Parker Smyth. It would take the remainder of the period, and a power play for the Pontiacs to even the score with a goal from Charlie Gawlicki, helpers out to Lucas Thorne and Isaac Saniga.
Grande Prairie used only 21 seconds to pop in the winner from Justin Bernier.
“We salvaged one point and got it out of the game. I thought we deserved a better fate,” the Pontiacs just couldn’t find the back of the net, says Landridge. “Their goalie played very well.”
Grande Prairie opened scoring in the second game of the weekend, from Dallas Comeau at 8:42 on the first. They kept the lead until 6:46 in the second, when Kash Rasmussen tied it up, with the help of PJ Marrocco. GP took advantage of the power play and moved ahead with a goal from, Parker Smyth (assists from Dallas Comeau and Connor Blake).
“We looked a little fatigued.” Langridge says the club had some great scoring opportunities in the second game, as well; but just couldn’t get it in the net. “We weren’t baring down and finding the back of the net, like we should.” The Storm took a two-point lead in the third, with a goal from Justin Bernier to close the game 3-1.
“It’s a 60 game schedule, with 30 of them on the road. Regardless of where you are, we have to be better prepared going into these games.” Langridge explains the Pontiacs are a younger group of players than we’ve seen in recent years, “it’s a big learning curve for them and for us, as coaches. When we’re dealing with the young guys, it’s going to take a while for them to have the mentality of being everyday Jr A players and what it takes to play in the Alberta Jr A Hockey League. That’s a work in progress for us and we’re going to keep all 25 guys there.”
“You’ll see this team in a couple of weeks, even a month, it’s going to look a lot different, than what we’re seeing now.” Even though the club is coming home with only one of a possible four points, Langridge says there were a lot of positives from the weekend, “Sandro Silvestre was phenomenal in both games this weekend. He’s been rock-solid for us. That’s where it all starts. If your goaltender can give you that opportunity to win every night, that’s probably the biggest part of winning. We know we have that and we know that the young guys are starting to figure it out.”
Practice this week will be consistent with the structure and systems the team has been working on since the start of the year, explains Langridge, “we stay with the process. The worse thing you can do with a young team is to shock them and jump from skill to skill. We know what we need to work on and we know what we need to better at. We’ll stick with the process and we’ll see the improvements.”
The Pontiacs invite the Spruce Grove Saints to town on Friday night for a 7:30 pm game against the Saints. But you can catch the boys before that on Halloween. Players will be on the streets on Bonnyville helping the young trick or treaters across the road and making sure everyone has a safe & fun Halloween.