Monday , 29 November 2021

Pontiacs’ depth, defence, and local stars have them at 8-3-1 start

Is this a Bonnyville Pontiacs team just scratching the surface? They’ve beaten each of the team’s ahead of them in the North standings, but that doesn’t mean they’re satisfied. It appears Bonnyville is just beginning to ramp up. 

Make it a 3-0 week for the Bonnyville Pontiacs–shutting down the Sherwood Park Crusaders 4-1 in a late Sunday night affair to put the finishing touches on a successful week against division foes. 

After home ice victories against the Spruce Grove Saints on Wednesday 4-3 and Drayton Valley Thunder 3-2 in overtime Saturday, the Yaks are now 8-3-1 on the season.

That’s good enough for 4th place in an extremely competitive AJHL North Division, and yet three points back of Fort McMurray, a team they’ve beaten in their only meeting. 

Saint’s game taking strides

Austin Saint scored the electrifying equalizer with 16.6 seconds left and Charlie “Hussle” Russell beat his defender and scored the overtime winner to beat the stingy Drayton Valley Thunder on Saturday. 

Saint now has the team lead in points with 12 and since the beginning of last year’s interrupted campaign has 24 points in 28 games. But it’s his physicality that is creating room for himself, and when he throws bodychecks defenders soon peel away. 

Bodee Weiss earned a solid bounceback win in his first start since being pulled against Spruce Grove the weekend before, making 29 saves to improve his record to 3-2 with a .914 save percentage. 

Captain Kash Rasmussen responded just 24 seconds after the Crusaders first goal with his second tally of the season, and the Yaks limited Sherwood Park to perimeter chances in a solid 4-1 win late Sunday evening. 

The line of Austin Saint, Chayce Schmidt, and Matteo Giampa grinded out hard minutes and altogether earned eight points as Matt Hennessey made 29 of 30 saves to improve his record to 5-1-1. 

The depth throughout the roster is continuing to show signs of progression, as the Yaks are coming closer and closer to full 60 minute efforts, which is what coach Rick Swan preaches. 

The Pontiacs through 12 games have beaten every North Division team at least once, except the Grande Prairie Storm who they have not yet faced–for long. 

It’s a forecheck, backcheck game

One of the most dynamic offensive threats for the Pontiacs is Ethan Sundar, a third-year player who is earning some stripes at both ends of the ice. Since coming to the Pontiacs as a 16-year-old, Sundar’s offensive skills have been evident from day one, but is growth in another area has been noticed.

Sundar has been used more often that not in a penalty killing role over the past year and a half, which has complimented his offensive game for 9 points this year so far. A player who still has two seasons of junior eligibility after this one is continuing to gain confidence at the Junior A level.

From Sharon, Connecticut to Bonnyville, Alberta 

Defenceman Nick Traggio has been able to actually get a sense of the community this year. Acquired around this time a year ago in the midst of a fluctuating season from the Brooks Bandits, Traggio only got to play a couple games before the season paused and he returned south of the border.

Now here for good, the Brown University commit and 20-year-old is a consistent top 4 defender for the Yaks, who has found an ability to generate pucks from the point to the back of the net three times.

Storm surged?

With their longest bus trek of the season in the offing, the Pontiacs will go to Grande Prairie Friday for a weekend set against a Storm team currently 2-8-3. 

It’s an opportunity in the schedule to seize valuable points over the course of the next three weeks as the Yaks only play one team with a winning record in their next nine contests. 

Upcoming games: 

  • Oct. 23 at Grande Prairie | 7pm
  • Oct. 24 at Grande Prairie | 6pm
  • Oct. 27 HOME vs Grande Prairie | 7pm
  • Oct. 29 HOME vs Calgary | 7pm
  • Oct. 30 HOME vs Canmore | 7pm
  • Nov. 2 at Okotoks | 7pm
  • Nov. 3 at Calgary | 7pm
  • Nov. 5 at Canmore | 7pm
  • Nov. 6 at Olds | 7pm

All games can be heard on lakelandconnect.net./pontiacs.

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.