The Bonnyville Jr. A Pontiacs have started their exhibition season on an even playing field, following a win and loss against the Lloydminster Bobcats.
The Pontiacs dominated the Bobcats in their first exhibition game of the season, defeating the Bobcats on Tuesday, Aug. 28 with a final score of 5-4 in overtime.
“We came out on top in overtime,” recalled rookie Ethan Leyer, who had two assists during the first game.
The Pontiacs hosted Lloydminster for their first home exhibition match-up of the season. The puck dropped at the New Horizons Arena in Frog Lake on Thursday, Aug. 30. Bonnyville fell to Lloydminster 3-1.
The first period ended with neither team finding the back of the net, but the rookie Pontiac roster refused to back down.
Pontiac left-winger Garin Butler was removed at the end of the first frame after a cross-check resulted in a pinched nerve in his right arm.
“I don’t think I was physical enough, we probably could have been a bit more physical. Our communication was down, but after the first period I think we really picked it up,” he expressed.
It was Noah Westgate who managed to score the Pontiacs first goal of the night, with less than 10 minutes left in the second.
The Bobcats quickly followed suit, scoring twice in the second frame and once more in the third, resulting in the Pontiacs first loss of the exhibition season.
Head coach Rick Swan said exhibition teams are often made-up of rookie players in order to help coaching staff narrow down who will make the final cut. The Pontiacs can only select two of the seven 16-year-olds to join the team this season.
“I really think that the two games that our young guys played really allowed us as a coaching staff to get what we really need to: number one, see who can move on in the process, and number two to give us information to be able to provide for them with the right feedback as to what they need to become Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL) players,” he explained.
The Pontiacs who played were a little younger than the rookies on the other side of the ice, but that didn’t slow them down when it was time to play.
Swan said, “We’ve got a group of five that really showed well. We’ve got local Bonnyville player, A.J. Macaulay, who we think is going to be a terrific player.. We also like young number six, who’s a 16-year-old from Edmonton, his name’s Ryan Koebel. We also like Ethan Leyer, he’s got great speed and great skill. The two St. Albert kids, Dylan McFatridge and Ethan McKinley. We think that those five are going to be great players, and we think we better do our due diligence and make sure we create great relationships with them.”
The Pontiacs were back on the ice in Frog Lake on Saturday, Sept. 1, when they hosted the Battlefords North Stars. Bonnyville won with a final score of 4-2. They were back in action the following day, when they beat the North Stars 7-3.
Their final exhibition game is set for Wednesday, Sept. 5 in Frog Lake against the Lloydminster Bobcats.