The Bonnyville Pontiacs will head back on the road to face the Grande Prairie Storm after suffering a pair of losses to the Fort McMurray Oil Barons last weekend.
The Pontiacs fell last Friday 4-3 and then laid down 4-1 on Family Day Monday.
Coach Rick Swan was not pleased with his team after the losses, even though Luke Albert and Grayson Constable did not dress.
“It’s not that Fort McMurray wowed us and that we suddenly became a bad hockey team – we just didn’t play very well. We absolutely gave them everything they got. They played hard, there’s no question, but they didn’t earn a heck of a lot, they didn’t earn four points,” said Swan.
“The practices this week have been heightened, both with emotion and a demand of work and focus. I don’t think it was a very fun week for these guys, but it’s our job to hit the reset for them so they know that that play is not acceptable.”
Swan says it’s a good opportunity for the younger players to establish themselves as leaders on the team while the Pontiacs go through some injuries.
Outstanding defenceman candidate Luke Albert is out right now with concussion-like symptoms but may play Friday, while captain Grayson Constable is day-to-day with illness and a knee injury.
Defenceman Sean Thomson and forward Isaac Saniga could also be back against Grande Prairie.
Thomson has been dealing with a lower-body injury and Saniga will return after suffering from concussion-like symptoms.
With these players out, deadline acquisitions Jackson Hogg and Scott McKenzie have been asked to take on more responsbility. The former Calgary Canucks have now each player double-digit games in the Pontiacs colours.
“They’re really coming along. It’s a big chance in terms of coaching and structure and language with what we’ve got going with these guys, and every day is a new opportunity to grow and learn,” said Swan.
“At this time of the year, we’re insistent on details and we’re insistent on habit so there’s a little bit of maybe frustration that they’re not where we want them to be in that respect in knowing all our structure and habits and details. They’re learning and they’re good kids and they want to be better. They’re jumping right into the fire with the injury situation we’ve got. They’re coming along.”
The Pontiacs are undefeated against the Grande Prairie Storm and recently shutout the 5th place team in the AJHL North Division on Feb. 12, 5-0.
The Pontiacs lead for first in the North Division has dwindled to two points, but a win in either game against the Storm would tie a Pontiacs franchise record for most wins in a season.
“They’ve got six forwards that are as offensive and dynamic as anyone in the league. I really think they’ve got three top-end defensemen and then they get a little young. They lean on their top-6 and top-4 a lot. If we work like we did against them last time we’re going to come out successful.
“If we work like we did against Fort Mac, holy mackerel, we’re going to rely on our goaltenders too much.”