Thursday , 18 August 2022

Pontiacs head to AJHL showcase with rocking power-play but discipline in mind

It’s showcase time.

The Bonnyville Pontiacs (3-1-1) hot off the heels of a 7-4 win against the Fort McMurray Oil Barons on the road – a place they struggled last season – head off to the AJHL showcase in Camrose to take on the Kodiaks and Whitecourt Wolverines.

While the Pontiacs are still striving for a team identity, they know they have strong areas in their game: Easton Hesse in goal has been the team’s best player through five games with a .926 save percentage and three big wins, newcomers Josh Kroon and Cayden Shmyr have proven reliable and steady in their own zone, and the offensive prowess of the team’s top-6 is near the North Division’s best.

That all leads up to one of the biggest stages of the season in the AJHL showcase where both the Encana Arena and Max McLean Arena will be littered with college and pro scouts.

“It’s a big weekend for everybody, especially the players, and it’s crucial for them not to put too much weight on this weekend,” said assistant coach Neil Langridge.

“It’s a great opportunity to be in front of pretty much all 59 NCAA schools and scouts from professional leagues and all over the map so it’s a great weekend.”

The visiting Pontiacs will have all the eyes on them Friday night in the marquee game against the hometown Camrose Kodiaks, a team with a 2-3 record in the early going but has scored a ton of goals so far.

“It’s always a grudge match almost for some reason against Camrose when the Bonnyville Pontiacs play them. Looking forward to that one.”

On Saturday, the Pontiacs will play a familiar foe in the Whitecourt Wolverines, off to a 1-3-1.

The Pontiacs split with the Wolverines two weekends ago.

Powerplay is clicking

The Pontiacs currently have the league’s top powerplay currently operating at 30 per cent, almost 10 per cent higher than the second-place club.

Twice this season already the Yaks have scored four goals with the man advantage.

That powerplay success was crucial in the win against Fort McMurray, lead by the two top point scorers so far for the Pontiacs: Lucas Thorne and Matt McKim.

“As a unit, the power play was clicking,” said Neil Langridge after Tuesday’s win.

“Lucas Thorne did a heck of a job I thought. He was on for three of the four power-play goals, so him, Matthew McKim and for a while Thomas Kramer until he was injected out of the game, and then young Ethan Sundar stepped in and I thought he did a really good job on that second unit.”

However, defensively the team is looking to limit the amount of rubber that finds its way to Hesse.

Pontiacs’ opponents are firing 33 shots a game on average.

Minor changes

Forward Matthew Gerke has rejoined the club for another look by the coaching staff.

Also, defenceman Devin Pimm has been released. Pimm registered one assist in his only appearance with the club this season.

About Michael Menzies

Menzies is the editor-at-large for Connected Media Inc. 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.