It was a tale of two different games for the Bonnyville Pontiacs’ weekend set against the Sherwood Park Crusaders. One saw the team fall behind 3-0 in the first period and claw their way back to within a goal in the third period, the other saw the team ahead early before blowing a third-period lead.
Despite good stretches in each game, it’s a pair of losses for the Yaks (5-3 and 4-3), who are 1-3 against the Sherwood Park Crusaders in their eight-game series.
Nick Magis had four points and Liam Hughes a pair of goals to lead the Crusaders to a win on Friday night at the Sherwood Park Arena. Goaltender Matthew Hennessey was pulled after allowing his fourth goal of the game in the 2nd period. However, Bonnyville rallied with strong forechecking and grit.
Second-year forward Justin Stathopolous potted a pair of second-period goals to make it a two-goal game by intermission. After the Yaks killed off a high-sticking double-minor on newcomer Wyatt Cook, his line with Austin Saint and Matt Gerke made the game as close as it would get.
Stathopolous’ goal was the first the Yaks have scored on the powerplay in six previous regular-season games.
Gerke scored a beautiful wrister in tight over Carson Cherepak for his career AJHL goal with Cook getting his first point officially in the league.
However, an offensive zone turnover led to a shorthanded goal for the Crusaders as Magis beat Bradley Mistol, who played his first AJHL game action after coming on in relief of Hennessey.
The Yaks fell 5-3.
Mason Mantzavrakos scored his first AJHL goal, but two third-period markers gave the Sherwood Park Crusaders their third win of the season on Saturday at the RJ Lalonde Arena by a 4-3 score.
Hennessey had a bounceback effort making 24 saves after being pulled the night before.
Bonnyville went on a four-minute powerplay to start the game and Chayce Schmidt’s net-front presence earned him the game’s first goal just 54 seconds into the contest.
Austin Saint scored four minutes later and Bonnyville was in the driver’s seat until the last six minutes of the 1st period.
The Crusaders responded with two goals in 42 seconds by Zafir Rawji and Liam Hughes to draw even by the intermission.
Then Mantzavrakos, like Gerke the night before, scored a beautiful goal for his first-ever in the AJHL. “Mantz” as his teammates call him, found the puck in his skates near his own blueline and started a rush through the neutral zone, taking the defenceman Caelum Dick to his backhand side, and protecting the puck, roofed it over Lochlan Gordon.
However, the Yaks puck luck ran out in the 3rd period. James Gibson’s initial shot was deflected off the faceoff and floated over Hennessey’s glove to tie the game, and moments later a defensive zone breakdown saw Liam Hughes a clear path to the net from the corner, which he roofed for the game’s eventual winner.
The goal was Gibson’s first in the league and Lochlan Gordon got his first win in the process.
Four more matchups between these familiar foes are scheduled for the next two weekends.
The Yaks will be home Friday, March 26.
You can listen to all the games live on Lakeland Connect at lakelandconnect.net/pontiacs.