Easton Hesse made 29 saves and Kash Rasmussen scored his first goal of the season to lift the Bonnyville Pontiacs over the Grande Prairie Storm to a 3-0 win, their first of the AJHL season on Saturday.
It was swift justice for the Pontiacs, who felt they deserved a better fate in the season opener on Friday, losing 5-1 in a game where the score didn’t match the game on the ice.
“It was definitely a nice rebound,” said assistant coach TJ Millar post-game.
The Grande Prairie Storm added two NHL draft choices–netminder Garin Bjorklund and forward Sasha Mutala–and two other WHL forwards in Edge Lambert and Jaycen Bjorklund in the past two weeks, as AJHL teams have loaded up with major-junior talent.
The Yaks are the lone North Division team to not add a WHL player, but did acquire two key pieces who had a big impact on the weekend.
Forward Sébastien Tambucco was slotted on the top line with Matt McKim and Kash Rasmussen, who each scored in Saturday’s win, and Nick Traggio, Brown University commit, solidifies a solid defense corps.
Traggio with AJ Macaulay, Josh Kroon paired with improving Will Hilfiker, and veteran Alex Marrocco alongside fellow 20-year-old Colt Corpse, create a poised, solid backend to support Easton Hesse, who is sure to be busy again this season.
“They all complement each other well,” said Millar.
“You’re able to mix and match your D corps with puck movers…we don’t want to keep pucks stuck on the boards to implement their forecheck and pressure with offense and zone play, we as a group try to take it with pride and move it to our forwards
“You just see the depth with our guys.”
Touted two-way forward Michael Fairfax scored Bonnyville’s only goal on Friday, and is growing more comfortable in the AJHL after coming from Salisbury Prep School this August.
Jaden York looks faster this season and scored the Pontiacs’ second goal on Saturday, while Austin Saint round out the trio with and has the early team lead in points so far with three.
“You also saw some of our depth guys rise to the occasion with some of our players. Michael Fairfax, Jaden York, and Austin Saint. Unbelievable weekend for those guys. I thought they were very consistent and one of the things that we strive for is to work them low beneath the dots, get in on the forecheck, make sure we get in their face with our physicality and move the puck around, so they stay guessing in their own end,” said Millar.
“I thought those three did a tremendous. Kudos to them.”
The Pontiacs like their depth, even as rivals load up with skilled fill-ins.
With still a max of 100 spectators in the RJ Lalonde, the Yaks will play their home opener next Friday night against the Whitecourt Wolverines at 7:00pm, with another Saturday night at home.
The Wolverines have not yet started their season and recorded a positive COVID test two and a half weeks ago.
Junior hockey is exempt from recent health rule changes in the province for the time being.