It will take a committed effort away from the friendly confines of the RJ Lalonde Arena to get the Bonnyville Pontiacs back in their first round playoff series.
Carson Ironside made 52 stops and the Whitecourt Wolverines found timely goals and saves to take Game 2 by a 5-3 score on Saturday night, after a 4-1 victory in Game 1.
The Pontiacs have not led once in the series so far, and despite peppering Whitecourt’s netminders, they just haven’t broken through in the first pair of games and therefore trail the series 2-0.
“It’s a tough one to lose. I thought we played the right game tonight. I thought we were the better team all night long, but we couldn’t solve the young Carson Ironside, 55 shots toward the opponent tonight, kudos to them,” said assistant coach Neil Langridge after Game 2.
“It is what it is now. The message is to the guys that this is a seven game series. So now we have a job to do and go take two in Whitecourt, which with this group of young men, is not out of the question whatsoever. I thought we controlled the play from start to finish tonight. We played a complete hockey game. We needed a bounce or two that we didn’t get and that’s playoff hockey.”
Trey Funk scored a pair of goals, including a great redirection flying through the zone to edge the game 3-2 with 6:05 remaining in regulation.
However, on the ensuing faceoff, Whitecourt was able to work the puck around the Pontiacs zone, and allowed the Wolverines captain Tyler Mahan a lane to net which he buried over Matt Hennessey just 17 seconds after the Funk goal.
While Kash Rasmussen was able to bat a puck home during the 6-on-5 scramble with 1:22 left, his fourth career AJHL playoff goal, the Yaks couldn’t find the equalizer, and the Wolverines scored on the empty net with 0.1 seconds left.
It was a reversal in some ways in Game 2, where the Pontiacs controlled the game 5-on-5, and capitalized on one powerplay chance after going 0 for 6 in Game 1, but the pressure is now on in a must-win situation Tuesday night on the road.
“I think the emphasis has to be on ensuring that we have people in front of the net and in front of their eyes. Their both great goaltenders….we need to make sure we make their life very, very hard. Let’s put it that way. Fighting through screens, fighting through bodies,” said Langridge.
“With 55 shots we did a much better job than late night in creating that havoc, but still we need to make sure that every single time that he’s having to fight.”
Lakeland Connect will broadcast Game 3 and Game 4 from the Scott Safety Centre in Whitecourt. You can listen to the games on lakelandconnect.net/pontiacs.
Pontiacs players finish as finalists
The three Bonnyville Pontiacs — Kash Rasmussen, AJ Macaulay, and Austin Saint — named finalists for AJHL awards did not end up winning the hardware on Monday.
Captain Kash was nominated for MVP which went to league scoring leader Ryan McAllister from the Brooks Bandits who put up 139 points, the first time in over 20 seasons that’s been accomplished in the AJHL.
Bandits defenceman Zach Bookman won Outstanding Defenceman over AJ Macaulay. Bookman set three league records in his final games of the regular season and finished third overall in the AJHL scoring race with 102 points.
The Most Dedicated Player award went to Myles Hilman of the Drumheller Dragons, captain of their club since he was 17, despite Austin Saint’s terrific year .