The Bonnyville Pontiacs put together another gutsy effort but fell just short against the AJHL’s top North Division team Monday night in the Sherwood Park Crusaders 3-2.
The Pontiacs came back twice from one-goal deficits thanks to goals from Marc-Antoine Benoit and Bruce MacGregor while Easton Hesse was sensational in limiting one of the best lines in the AJHL in Carter Savoie, Arjun Atwal, and William Zapernick (1st, 3rd, and 8th in league scoring, respectively) to just one goal.
However, after outshooting the Crusaders 10-5 in the second frame, penalty trouble cost the Pontiacs in the third period.
After already killing three minors in the 3rd period, Jerred White ripped a shot past Hesse with 66 seconds left on the clock for the game-winner on the powerplay.
It was a big bounceback performance after a letdown 3-0 loss to the Canmore Eagles at home on Saturday.
“I thought our team did very well,” said assistant coach TJ Millar.
“Not taking anything away from the guys that were playing, but looking at who wasn’t in the lineup Cam Newton, Marrocco, Thorne and TK [Thomas Kramer] who’s coming back pretty soon here, but our guys stepped up and they did exactly what we expected of them,” he said.
“They all played minutes that they sometimes don’t get, so I thought it was a great effort and it’s kind of the way the game goes. In the last few minutes, there’s an unfortunate bounce and they capitalized to go up late but other than that we’re proud of our guys for the way they stepped up to the plate last night and just gonna build off of it and get ready for a massive game this weekend.”
That test comes in the form of the best team in the AJHL – the Brooks Bandits.
Brooks broke the league record for the longest win streak to start a season with 22 wins. Spruce Grove snapped their streak and their record sits at 23-1.
“I’m not gonna toot them at all much going into this week. They’re another hockey team. I don’t care about the record. It’s another game just like ours. And we got to be ready to play the right way. It’s on us,” said Millar.
Injury bug bites again
The Pontiacs can’t seem to catch a break from injuries.
Bonnyville native Austin Saint left the game in the first period with a lower-body injury and did not return.
He’ll be evaluated by the team after staying in Sherwood Park Monday night, but Millar he could be out longer than the team would like.
Meanwhile leading scorer Lucas Thorne is still day-to-day with a lower-body injury and hopes to be back in the lineup soon.
Defenceman Alex Marrocco will likely skate for the first time this week since playing in Grande Prairie on Nov. 2.
Forward Thomas Kramer could return to Bonnyville since flying back home to Massachusetts when suffering an upper-body injury against Spruce Grove nearly a month ago on Nov. 19.
Cam Newton is also weeks away.
Pontiacs home for next four
The Pontiacs will be home for their next four games before embarking on a four-game, five-day road trip to close off November.
Brooks comes to the RJ Lalonde on Saturday night at 7:00pm and the Camrose Kodiaks, who the Pontiacs beat 3-2 at the AJHL Showcase, will face the Pontiacs on Sunday afternoon at 2:30pm.
The following weekend the Whitecourt Wolverines are in town for the fifth and sixth meeting against Bonnyville already this season.