A hat trick from forward Nicolas Correale propelled the Spruce Grove Saints to a 5-4 victory over the Bonnyville Jr. A Pontiacs on Friday night.
An undermanned, injured Pontiacs squad entered the Grant Fuhr Arena with five key players out of the lineup.
Forwards Zach Mills, Ryan Symington and Brandon Whistle were sidelined with injuries, while defencemen Brinson Pasichnuk and Ben Mack each served one-game suspensions resulting from fighting majors against Camrose on Jan. 16.
Even though the Pontiacs were missing a large chunk of their leadership group, the team still managed to give the AJHL-leading Saints all they could handle.
“Honestly, as a coach I am frustrated because I feel we handed them two points,” said Bonnyville head coach and GM Rick Swan. “If we play Pontiac hockey, we don’t allow those mistakes to come back and haunt us.”
Correale got the home side off to a great start notching the only two goals of the opening period. The 18-year-old Edmonton native snapped his 12th and 13th goals of the season past Olivier Charest at 6:21 and 17:43 of the first to jump Spruce Grove out to a 2-0 lead.
Ryan Piche and Derek Brown answered right back for Bonnyville scoring goals 6:24 apart in the first eight minutes of period two.
The tie game lasted just over six minutes before Correale beat Charest on the powerplay to cap off his hat trick and give the Saints the 3-2 lead.
Again Bonnyville would fight back and tie the game, with their third goal coming from an unlikely source.
Defenceman Gen Bryshun snuck a shot by Saints goaltender Matthew Murray, his third goal of the season and fifth of his Jr. A career, with just one second left in the middle frame.
Josh Borynec would give the Pontiacs their first lead of the hockey game striking 8:16 into the third period.
“We had some great performances,” said Swan. “Alden Dupuis was working hard, standing up to their big players and was in the hard areas all the time. Steenn Pasichnuk was gritting it out. Bobby McMann had a good game. Our best players were our best players tonight and that is what I loved.”
Unfortunately the Pontiacs weren’t able to hold off the Saints in the final 12 minutes of the game.
Just four minutes after Borynec gave Bonnyville the 4-3 lead, Riley Simpson and Brandon Biro would strike in a span of 39 seconds to put the Saints up 5-4.
Spruce Grove would hold on to the lead and slip by the Pontiacs with another one goal victory.
“We are going to look at the glass as being half full,” said Swan. “We are going to make sure that when we get back to the drawing board we move forward with this in a positive way.”
Bonnyville will be back at the RJ Lalonde Arena for a pair of home games this weekend. The Olds Grizzlys will be in town Friday night and the Okotoks Oilers down for a Sunday afternoon tilt.