Bodee Weiss gave his best performance of the season on Wednesday night in a winning effort.
Bearing down, execution, being opportunistic…these are all ways to say that when given the chance, you score in the game of hockey. The Bonnyville Pontiacs have been better at this aspect of the game lately, a big reason why they’ve now won back-to-back games after a five game losing skid.
The offence came alive for a 9-4 win against the Olds Grizzlys on Saturday, and the Yaks earned their first road victory of the season on Wednesday night against the Lloyd Bobcats.
Bodee Weiss had his best performance of the season making 34 saves, as the Yaks were outplayed for stretches of the 1st and 2nd periods, but got the puck luck as the game went along, as opposed to earlier games this season against Drayton Valley and Canmore where they believed they deserved a better fate.
“Unbelievable,” said assistant coach Ryan Blocha in the B&R Eckels Pontiacs Hockey Postgame on Lakeland Connect.
“When you’ve got your goalie behind you like that, we can afford to make some of those little mistakes. He was our star tonight.”
The penalty kill went 6 for 7 and the powerplay buried twice, including a timely goal from Dante Siciliano with 0.2 seconds left in the 1st, which gave the Yaks a 1-1 tie and allowed them to settle into the game.
Luka Sukovic is the team’s hottest offensive weapon with consecutive games with two goals. His work in front of the net saw him put Bonnyville up 3-1.
However, the returning 20-year-old was called for two offensive zone penalties, which drew the ire of Yaks head coach Mario Pouliot, who spent a few moments on the ice with the officials after the game.
While the Bobcats scored on the 6-on-4 with the net empty, the Yaks secured the victory, improving their record to 4-5-1 heading into a home-and-home set this weekend against the Spruce Grove Saints.
“We needed that. Maybe it wasn’t our best game, but we still got out with the W, so that’s good for our group.”
The line of Luka Sukovic-Jack McAra-Billy Batten is gelling and seems to be the only one immune from Pouliot’s constant maneuvering at the moment.
Sukovic’s 7 goals and 5 assists leads the team in points, places him in the top-10 in the AJHL in scoring, and already puts him one away from tying his goal output from last year in a fraction of the time.
“Honestly, it’s the work I put in during the summer and then the two guys I’ve been playing with,” said Sukovic before Wednesday’s game.
“Billy is super skilled and knows where I am and Jack is big, skilled also. Right now, we got some good chemistry.”
Nicolas Beaudoin is also returning to form. The 19-year-old captain is a prime focus for the opposition — he’s had little space, been played physically, and was dealing with the pressures of being named the captain — but last year’s AJHL Rookie of the Year is looking more and more like the elite player he showed last season.
Beaudoin scored twice last Saturday and popped two assists vs the Bobcats, putting him up to eight points overall.
The Yaks must be encouraged by Weiss’ game as well. The returning goaltender has had a bit of a topsy-turvy start to the season. His save percentage was sitting dead-last among goaltenders across the league before his great performance Wednesday.
Now, he hopes to continue improving his numbers and giving the Yaks opportunities to win, sitting with a 3.28 goals against average and .876 save percentage.
New pieces on the chess board
The wheeling and the dealing continues for the club as well, as the Yaks brass has liked the look of some of the newcomers over some of the returning players.
Sitting with a handful of diminutive 2005-born defencemen — Dylan Hebert, Jordan Schanbacher, Michael Ryan — Noah Heinrich was shipped out earlier this week to the Fort McMurray Oil Barons in exchange for a player development fee.
The Provost-native is committed to RPI in the NCAA and played a total of 69 games with the Pontiacs over the course of three seasons, scoring 3 goals and 17 assists.
Conversely, Ethan Look was being outpaced by rookie scorers and struggled to produce so far this season, and was acquired by the Canmore Eagles in exchange for a player development fee. He had 31 points last year, but was kept off the scoresheet in seven appearances in 2023-24 thus far.
The Yaks did add as well. Levi Green, a big-bodied, 6’5″ winger made his Pontiacs debut this week. Green started his season with the Red Deer Rebels, and last year had 32 points in 33 games while playing with the Vancouver NE Chiefs U18AAA.
- While the 2-5-1 start was the worst since 2015-16, that team then went on a franchise record nine game winning streak, set the franchise record with 40 wins, and only lost six more games all season in regulation. It was also a team that the season before had went to the North Final.
- JR Ashmead’s game has steadied and he blocked some crucial shots while penalty killing lately. The Yaks number one defenceman recently surpassed 125 regular season games with the Pontiacs. Counting postseason and his two games with the Olds Grizzlys to begin his junior career, Ashmead is now a veteran of 150 games, the most on this Bonnyville roster. He has eight points in 10 games.
- The Pontiacs seemed to have a consisted pair alongside Ashmead in rookie Dante Siciliano. Siciliano seems like he could be the solution as playing on the top of the Yaks powerplay unit, while over the boards for penalty killing situations as well.
- Clarence Beltz is showing the tools that could make him an effective power forward. However, he does have a little health issue to clear. After scoring twice vs the Grizzlys, Beltz is now dealing with tonsillitis.
- The Spruce Grove Saints have been very un-Saintslike to start the season. After last year’s AJHL Final run, they’ve started 5-6 under new head coach Ryan Marsh, their worst start since going 4-4-0-3 in 2007-08. They have scored just 27 goals, which is 11th of 16 in the league, and have no player with over three goals.
- Bonnyville has committed 96 penalty minutes this season, which is the fewest in the league.
- The Brooks Bandits come to town next Wednesday, currently sitting with a 8-1 record.
- Bonnyville is home Friday night, away on Saturday night. Puck drop for both games is 7pm.
- You can listen to every game, all season on lakelandconnect.net and lakelandconnect.mixlr.com.