It was the type of game the Bonnyville Pontiacs were waiting for.
Despite coming into the second end of a back-to-back in Grande Prairie on a three-game win streak, thanks to a 5-2 win on Friday night against the Storm, the message from the coaching staff to buy-in to stronger defensive zone play did not fall on deaf hears on Saturday night.
The Pontiacs limited the Storm to just 20 shots offensively with only four healthy defencemen Saturday night in their 3-2 win over Grande Prairie, while Kash Rasmussen filled in brilliantly for the injured Alex Marrocco, scoring the crucial go-ahead goal with 0.7 seconds left in the second period to take the lead and not look back.
The Pontiacs record improves to 12-4-2 on the season which is good enough for 3rd in the AJHL North division, 8 points ahead of the Whitecourt Wolverines who sit behind them.
Easton Hesse has been the Pontiacs best player so far this season. He’d faced more shots than any other goaltender in the AJHL coming into Saturday’s contest, seeing the rubber 438 times. Only one other netminder had seen over 400 shots.
Bonnyville battles injuries
Meanwhile, the Bonnyville Pontiacs are battling the injury bug.
Standout defenceman Jeremy Gervais did not travel with the team this weekend because of nagging issues, and Cam Newton was declared out for a few weeks from last weekend’s contest against the Grande Prairie Storm with a lower-body injury.
Couple that with the losses of Thomas Kramer and Tyson Gayfer and Bonnyville is being tested with adversity early on in the season.
Still, it hasn’t affected their record.
The Pontiacs now are a perfect 4-0 against the Storm this season and will be home for the next three weekends, beginning Friday and Saturday nights against the cellar-dwelling Calgary Canucks of the South Division and the dangerous powerplay of the Canmore Eagles.
However, the Yaks will get their first look at the North’s Division’s best, travelling to Sherwood Park on Nov. 11 to play the Crusaders, who boast a 19-2 record and the league’s most dominant offensive players.
Three of the top five AJHL scorers wear Crusaders colours, while Carter Savoie has scored an impressive 26 goals in 21 games thus far.
Meanwhile, Lucas Thorne leads the way for Bonnyville.
He’s 11th in AJHL scorers with 10 goals and 17 assists and linemate Matt McKim sits third in the league in total assists with 21.
Yaks come home in November
The early schedule has included a lot of travel for the Pontiacs.
Eleven of the 18 Bonnyville games this year have been on the road, including multiple trips through Whitecourt and Grande Prairie and two mid-week games in Fort McMurray.
That will even out in November as the Pontiacs play six of the next seven games at home before a four-game, five-day road trip down south against the Olds Grizzlys, Calgary Canucks, Okotoks Oilers and Canmore Eagles.
Circle Nov. 16 in your calendars as the undefeated Brooks Bandits come to town, tying their own regular-season record of 20 straight wins to start the season this weekend.
Backup netminder Noah Amundson will likely see the ice as well, as he’s only started three of the team’s 18 games.
The Pontiacs next game is Friday night against the Calgary Canucks (2-17-1) at 7:00pm.