Image provided by http://gamereadyphotography.com. Pontiacs forward Marc-Antoine Benoit tries to slide the puck past Spruce Grove Saints goaltender Matthew Davis during Wednesday night’s 3-1 loss.
The Bonnyville Pontiacs will enter their final weekend of the regular season in an unfamiliar spot this season.
On one hand, a pair of victories will rewrite the Yaks single-season record for most wins and winning percentage.
On the other hand, the Yaks have lost five straight games after Wednesday’s 3-1 defeat, lost the North Division crown after having a six point lead, and if they aren’t careful, could slide to 3rd place with Spruce Grove only a point behind.
“We think it’s an easy fix and maybe correlated: You work a 9-5 job and around 4 o’clock you start to wind down for work a little bit and I think that’s something that’s caught up to us,” said Coach Rick Swan.
“At the time it’s Game 53, we’re in first place, we’re playing two opponents that we’ve beat before and had success, but we don’t get that success we want because of that wind-down and with teams playing the Bonnyville Pontiacs who are the first place team in the north division – are winding up.
“There’s not a guy in that dressing room that doesn’t care, and there’s not a guy in that dressing room that doesn’t want to get success and get in the win column. But we start to get a little bit internal, which means we start to deviate from what’s made us successful.”
The team is working hard to diagnose the problem with the playoffs in their sights.
Swan said the team has heightened their team talks, posed individual challenges to players, done five hours of 1-on-1 discussion, and conducted more competitive practices.
So it’s a good time to see the 8th place Lloydminster Bobcats and 7th place Whitecourt Wolverines.
“This team has a chance with two wins to get second place. That’s never happened in franchise history. They become the best team in 28 years with winning percentage and second place, which is pretty significant for our organization.
“In any other year, we’d be happy, but we know the potential of this group and we expect to win all the time, even though these last five games haven’t been fun. I’d rather go through adversity now instead of two weeks from now when the real season starts,” said Swan.
Bonnyville local AJ Macaulay made his season debut on Wednesday with Matthew Monk suspended and Luke Albert injured.
Macaulay assisted on Garin Butler’s third-period goal and may see the ice again in the final two regular season games.
The Bonnyville Pontiacs game on Friday against Lloydminster is in conjuction with the Dr. Margaret Savage Crisis Centre’s international men’s walk Walk a Mile in Her Shoes. Puck drop is at 7:30pm.
Pontiacs miss out on AJHL awards
The AJHL announced their award recipients and the Bonnyville Pontiacs nominees will leave empty-handed.
Coach Rick Swan was nominated for Coach of the Year, defenseman Luke Albert was nominated for Outstanding Defenseman, and netminder Colby Muise for top goaltender.
Brooks Bandits coach Ryan Papaioannou was named Coach of the Year, Spruce Grove Saints defenseman TJ Lloyd won Outstanding Defenseman, and Drayton Valley Thunder goalie Luke Lush won Top Goaltender.