The Drayton Valley Thunder were in town on Tuesday to take on the Pontiacs as the regular season nears its end. The Pontiacs came into the game on a four-game losing skid and weren’t able to match the Thunder’s offensive output, falling behind early and losing the game 5-2.
The game began with a good amount of back and forth play, though Drayton Valley started to apply pressure early. The Pontiacs’ defense eventually gave way halfway through the first period, giving the Thunder a chance to score on a textbook breakout play. Score they did and Bonnyville found themselves down by one at the close of the first.
Bobby Young answered Drayton Valley’s goal with one for the Pontiacs in the fifth minute of the second period. Garin Butler earned a helper on the play that tied the game at a goal apiece. But the game didn’t stay tied for long and the Thunder regained their one-goal lead less than two minutes later.
“I think it was just one of those nights, you know, where we played hard and things just didn’t end up going our way,” said coach Neil Langridge. “We played well but after Drayton got ahead of us, they kind of doubled down and just started to get too far ahead.”
Drayton Valley scored their third of the night three minutes later to wrap up the second-period scoring. In the third period, the Thunder scored another two goals early on to essentially put the game out of reach for the Pontiacs. Austin Saint did manage to light the lamp once more for Bonnyville to bring the score up to 5-2, but that was all she wrote for the Pontiacs for the night.
“[Drayton Valley’s] goalie did really well,” Langridge said, “and ours (Justin Travis) did, too. I think tonight our key shortcoming was our goalscoring. It’s been a bit of a rebuilding season for us, and scoring goals doesn’t come easy at any point and can be a struggle with a younger team. But we just need to refocus and keep an eye on clinching a playoff spot. Once we’re there, hopefully we can upset a few teams, get stronger and better, and go as far as we can.”
A win against Drayton Valley would have secured a playoff spot for the Pontiacs, but with three games remaining in the season, their post-season hopes are far from over. They still sit seven points ahead of the Thunder in the standings, and to clinch a post-season berth, they simply need to win one more game. Barring that, a single loss for Drayton Valley (who have five games left in the regular season) would also put that team out of playoff contention, so the odds are with the Pontiacs.
The Pontiacs have just one more home game before hitting the road to play the Thunder again in back-to-back games on March 2 and 3. The two-game stand will be the ideal place to ensure the Pontiacs make the playoffs, but should they beat Grande Prairie at home on Saturday, they also have a chance of pulling ahead of the Lloydminster Bobcats to gain a more favourable playoff position. The Bobcats have 47 points compared to the Pontiacs’ 42, so for that to happen, Bonnyville must win all three of its remaining games, and Lloydminster must lose its final five games as well.
The Pontiacs play their final home game of the regular season against the Grande Prairie Storm on Saturday at 7:30 p.m.