The time has arrived.
The Bonnyville Pontiacs home opener is tonight against the Drayton Valley Thunder.
Before puck drop at 7pm, there is the “Rock the Rink” tailgate party happening outside the arena in anticipation of the first home game of the season.
After a pair of road games with the Whitecourt Wolverines, the Pontiacs return home with a win and a shootout loss.
Their opponent from Drayton Valley is winless in three games, but have been competitive.
In two games against Spruce Grove and in their latest matchup against Sherwood Park, the Thunder lost by just one goal.
The Thunder will stay in town for the rubber match on Saturday night.
A big change for Bonnyville Pontiacs home games this season is the move to early start times from 7:30pm to 7:00pm.
Sitdown with Coach/GM Rick Swan
Coach Rick Swan said Pontiacs fans can expect a different look from their team this season to follow up the franchise record effort of 41 wins from the 2018-19 group.
I think we’ve evolved our team. We recruited a lot of good players, esepcially on the backend that are able to get back to pucks as quick as they can and distribute it to the hands of the forwards as quick as they can and I think we’ve got some team speed as well,” said Swan.
“The game today is about being quick, playing fast, so you have to have an IQ to be able to do that, but also character.”
The man who will leaned upon the most this season is returning goaltender Easton Hesse.
Hesse played in 17 games last season as Colby Muise’s backup and looked stout, finishing near or at the top of goals-against-average and save percentage categories.
His performances in Whitecourt have left little doubt in the coaching staff’s mind that he’s the guy this season.
“We’ll think he’ll be an MVP guy throughout the whole season and his consistency will be mimiced by what he did in Whitecourt,” said Swan.
“He really pushed Colby Muise throughout the entire year, espeically toward the end because of the way he handled him. We all set him up for this year to take over that load and become our number one guy.”
On a team with an emphasis on character, Joel Ray, Daine Dubois, Marc Benoit, Jeremy Gervais and Lucas Thorne are the captains and alternates for the 19-20 Pontiacs, with Ray wearing the “C.”
“Joel’s been with us for three years. He is an excpetional human being in terms of understanding that doing it right is an all the time thing for him. The way he conducts himself off the ice, the way he treats other people, the way he works and comes to work every day in practice to push him teammates, just how well-spoken he is…He’s the consummate example of what any organization would want.”
Multiple newcomers have impressed in the early-going.
Boston College High School product Thomas Kramer has two goals in as many games and linemate Matt McKim has clicked with Lucas Thorne to create a formidable top-6 line in the AJHL so far.
Meanwhile defensively, Josh Kroon has logged a ton of minutes in the early-going, adding two assists.
The Pontiacs will head to the Casman Centre on Tuesday after the brief homestand to take on the Fort McMurray Oil Barons.