Monday , 21 September 2020

Pontiacs conquer Storm in 5-0 victory

Grande Prairie Storm captain Conor Blake, left, and Pontiacs captain Grayson Constable pose for the ceremonial faceoff for the anti-bullying night at the RJ Lalonde Arena on Tuesday night. Image credit: http://gamereadyphotography.com

The Bonnyville Pontiacs extended their point streak to eleven games and Grayson Constable kept his personal point streak going in the Yaks 5-0 win against the Grande Prairie Storm.

Grayson Constable scored the only goal in the first period, but Coach Rick Swan says he wasn’t pleased about the first frame, and a greater response was needed in the second and third period.

“After the first period I thought we didn’t approach this game with the right mentality that we needed to, and that goes along with the goals we set. We have to be prepared, we have to make sure our emotional, physical focus and investment is ready to play our game no matter what team comes to the RJ or no matter what arena we go into,” said Swan.

Swan said he liked the team’s response, especially after chatting with the leadership group during the first intermission.

“They came out and responded the right way. My message obviously after the second period was thank you and my message after the game was thank you for responding the right way. We can’t be part-time guys –  sometimes when we feel like we’re ready to play and sometimes we’re not ready to play. You can have all the fun you want after the game and you can earn your fun for what you accomplish during the game – but you have to be ready to play,” said Swan.

Easton Hesse continued his terrific season as the Pontiacs 1a option between the pipes, stopping all 25 shots in the shutout.

Hesse has some of the best goaltending stats in the entire AJHL. In 16 appearances, Hesse’s record moves to 12-1-2 with a 1.76 GAA and .930 save percentage, both second in the league. The top goaltender, Tanner Marshall of the Brooks Bandits, has roughly half as many starts as Hesse.

Colby Muise also sits in the top 10 with a 2.34 GAA and .921 save percentage.

“I thought Easton Hesse was sensational….we call ten-bell saves anything that’s a Grade A scoring opportunity where our goaltender has to be on his game. Colby Muise and Easton Hesse have been that all year, but there were way too many Grade A chances just because we lapsed our focus mentality and as a result, we didn’t have the first period we needed to. The next two periods is where we’ll set our focus,” said Swan.

Hesse was the best penalty-killer, as the Pontiacs number one penalty kill in the AJHL handled the Storm’s six powerplay tries.

Marc-Antoine Benoit scored a shorthanded goal with moments left in the second period to make it 3-0. He moves back into the Top 20 in league scoring with 56 points.

Luke Albert, fresh off his recognition as the AJHL’s Defensive Player of the Week, scored two goals in the third period, including a seeing-eye wrister on the powerplay to continue the Pontiacs strong special-teams play this season.

Trey Thomas, Grayson Constable, and Luke Albert each finished with three points.

The Pontiacs are 4-0 against the Grande Prairie Storm this season and will see them twice on Feb. 22 and Feb. 23.

The Pontiacs will travel to Fort McMurray to play the Oil Barons twice this weekend, Friday night and Family Day Monday.

The Pontiacs next home game is Feb. 27 against the Spruce Grove Saints.

The goals for the Pontiacs remain the same: clean up the defensive zone, don’t take penalties, don’t overhandle pucks, and play the right way on both sides of the puck.

“I think it’s my job to not take my foot off the gas and ensure our players play the right way, and if I have to wear a bit of a black hat in that situation because I need them at their very best in March because we can’t think we can accomplish something special this year,” said Swan.

About Michael Menzies

Menzies is the editor-at-large for Connect Media. Born and raised in Vermilion, he started in May 2018 during his NAIT Radio and Television practicum and reports on local politics, sports, and community issues. He became the Bonnyville Pontiacs play-by-play voice during the 2019-20 season. He also comments on provincial and national issues. Menzies hosts Connected! Evening Monday-Thursday at 5 o’clock. He also likes to buy books and read some of them.