It’s not too often you win in Brooks, but that’s exactly what the Bonnyville Pontiacs did on Friday night, winning 7-5 in an absolute thriller.
However, the following night in Drumheller, the last game before the Christmas break, the Yaks fell to the Drumheller Dragons, collecting two points on the roadtrip.
It’s a good time for a break as well.
Teams across the league are hampered by injuries and many of their best players at the World Junior A Challenge, where Team Canada West began 3-0 in round-robin, then lost three straight to finish in fourth place.
On Friday night, the Yaks were missing three pieces, while the Bandits had six away at the World Juniors and two more injured.
The Pontiacs took full advantage en route to their first win in Brooks since November 27, 2015.
Chayce Schmidt played his best game as a Yak throughout his four-year career, scoring two goals and two assists. Jack Budd also added a pair of goals to seize the lead in defensive goal scoring with 11.
After taking a 1-0 lead into the first intermission, the Pontiacs lead 4-0 after a breakaway goal from JR Ashmead and powerplay marker from Josh Simpson to chase Bandits goaltender Ethan Barwick.
The third period was as topsy-turvy, as you’ll see.
There were three goals in one minute to start the 3rd frame, and the Yaks expanded their lead to 6-2. Schmidt then scored his second of the game, and it seemed all but over.
But Brooks scored three goals, including two on the powerplay, to draw within two with almost four minutes left in regulation.
The Yaks shut the door from there, with Bodee Weiss making 36 saves, none more important than in the 1st period while shorthanded and second period on rush chances.
Goals dry up in Drumheller
On Saturday night, the momentum didn’t quite carry over, as a tight, playoff like atmosphere permeated the Drumheller Memorial Arena.
Schmidt was unavailable with an upper body injury, and the Yaks’ entire leadership group was out of the lineup with captain Trey Funk still out and Giampa away.
It was scoreless until Noah Heinrich got his first of the season, a deflection off a Dragon stick with a little over 6 minutes left in the 2nd period.
The critical point of the game was midway through the 3rd period. The Yaks had some chances on a powerplay, but when Adam Raesler came out of the penalty box, we were the beneficiary of a turnover at the blueline.
Sprung on a breakaway, they beat Cole Tisdale, who tried a poke check, which tied the game. The floodgates opened for the Dragons.
Connor Poffenroth and Easton Adrian scored 29 seconds apart, and it was a lead that the Yaks couldn’t chip into.
Many players were taken by their parents after the game to their homes. Many others have flights early this week to return home for the holidays.
At the unofficial halfway point of the season, the Yaks have shed off the title of ‘rebuilding’ and are 20-12-3 with 25 games left in the regular season.
That’s good enough for 3rd in the AJHL North, just two points behind the Whitecourt Wolverines for second.
The Pontiacs return to action on December 29 against the Lloyd Bobcats, the first of a home-and-home where they’ll host the ‘Cats on Friday, December 30.