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Wednesday , 28 July 2021
Kash Rasmussen fires a puck top corner on Drumheller Dragons goaltender Daniel Allin after squeezing through two defenders last season.

Pontiacs split pair on the road, more optimism about future regular season

Alex Marrocco scored the lone Bonnyville Pontiacs goal on a long deflected wrist shot in the first period and Easton Hesse took it from there making all 30 saves as Bonnyville beat the Fort McMurray Oil Barons 1-0 in their fourth exhibition matchup on Saturday.

The Yaks split games on their first road trip of the season losing 3-2 the night before as Michael Hodge broke the tie on a third-period goal.

Jaxsen Wyatt and Justin Stathopoulos scored their first goal of the exhibition series Friday.

The Pontiacs are now 2-2 in this exhibition season against the Fort McMurray Oil Barons as they look to make their final adjustments to the roster soon.

Bonnyville plays host on Wednesday night at 7 o’clock before heading back to Centrefire Place, formerly called the Casman Centre, on Saturday for the final scheduled game at this point.

Only 100 spectators will be allowed into the games.

You can listen to the games live on Lakeland Connect. 

Regular season conversation

There is a way forward for the Pontiacs and the AJHL going into regular season play and conversations will continue over the next week. As the cohort groups have been expanded to a maximum of 150 people, three times the current amount.

“Which means that potentially we could start looking at five-team league cohorts, maybe divisions. We have an opportunity to maybe kickstart with the regular season and what it’s going to look like,” said coach and general manager Rick Swan.

“We know that the big piece involved with our season as well is to be able to get people in the buildings, mass gathering numbers more than 100, so that it allows us to generate revenue through sponsorship and as well as the gate.”

However, the team is grateful that it seems increasingly likely there will be meaningful competition.

“First things first, we know that that’s the first priority. The second priority people in the building. And then of course, within those two, to be able to have our regular season and get back to playing hockey.

“We’re grateful that we’re doing it now and we’re going to be even more grateful when we get that.”

The North Eastern Alberta Junior B Hockey League is aiming to start in a couple of weeks, and next door, the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League announced Nov. 1 will be the start date for a regular season, approving exhibitions with crowds of 150 for the next two weeks.

Notes

-Defenseman Will Hilfiker played his first game in the AJHL on Saturday and the recruit from Middletown New Jersey, looked steady and poised paired alongside defenseman AJ Macaulay. Import Michael Fairfax from down the road in Toms River, NJ. Coach Rick Swan described him as a 200 foot dman that’s good on both sides of the puck.

-Alex Power currently is the team’s leading scorer through the exhibition. The recruit from St. Andrew’s College has two goals and two assists in the four games. He was slotted on a line with fellow Newfoundlander Matt McKim as he finds his footing.

-The physicality and intensity in the fourth exhibition game was the best so far and resembled a regular season contest. Bonnyville was engaged early and it’s likely these two teams are getting less fond of each other with so many games in a row.

-Watchout for AJ Macaulay on the backend this year. NCAA teams are noticing and he’s arguably been the best looking Pontiacs player so far. He looks more poised, is getting more physically engaged as well.

-The team has been actively blending lines throughout the exhibitions, looking for offensive chemistry in the early going before solidifying lines. Bonnyville has scored eight goals in the four games.

-Last year’s top defenseman Josh Kroon is hopeful to hit the ice for the first time on Saturday. He suffered an upper body injury in training camp. Cole Wyatt will likely require surgery after a hit from Max McCoy in the second exhibition game, a 2000-born late recruit this extended camp.

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.