Alex Pernitsky scored 38 seconds into overtime as the visiting Lloydminster Bobcats stunned the Bonnyville Jr. A Pontiacs on Wednesday night.
The 19-year-old Unity, SK native tipped a pass from Troy Van Tetering past goaltender Olivier Charest to give the Bobcats a 3-2 victory and quiet the 798 in attendance at the RJ Lalonde Arena.
Even though the Pontiacs came out on the losing side, the players and coaches were pleased with the team’s performance.
“We battled really hard tonight. We all know we deserved to win that game,” said Bonnyville defenceman Brinson Pasichnuk. “It was just little mistakes, like on the second goal, losing a man and causing a defensive breakdown. If we can fix that we are going to own those guys in the playoffs.”
The scoring started early in the first when Van Tetering whacked the rebound of a Greg Moro shot past the outstretched pad of Charest into the empty cage 1:55 into the game.
Brandon Whistle, who was back in the Bonnyville lineup after being sidelined five games with an injury, tied the game up at 11:35 shoveling a loose puck past Alex Leclerc from the top of the blue paint.
“You can tell (Whistle’s) conditioning maybe isn’t where it needs to be, but we have nine games to get him there,” said Bonnyville Head Coach and GM Rick Swan. “He is an elite player and he is going to be great for us.”
Fifty-four seconds later the Bobcats were back on top courtesy of Brett Smythe, who was acquired in a Nov. 27 trade with Drayton Valley. The St. Albert native’s 12th of the year and sixth goal with Lloydminster allowed the visitors to take a 2-1 lead into the first intermission.
While there was no scoring in the middle period the Bobcats came awfully close to beating Charest. The Bonnyville netminder was left scrambling after a net front play pushed him out of his crease. The puck slid its way into the blue paint, coming dangerously close to the goal line of a wide open net, as Charest, Lloydminster’s Kevin Darrar and Bonnyville’s Erik Donald battled and eventually dislodged the net.
“We did good things in the third period,” said Pontiacs Head Coach and GM Rick Swan. “We stuck to our identity. We stuck to our structure and we got rewarded. We tied this hockey game up and forced overtime.”
At 14:24 of the third period Lloydminster’s Connor Odelein was sent off for tripping. Bonnyville was able to capitalize 1:41 later when Kyler Hehn fed a perfect pass from the back of the goal to Bobby McMann who rifled a wrist shot past Leclerc.
McMann’s 29th goal of the season would tie the game with 3:55 remaining, force overtime, and clinch a point for the Pontiacs.
Their hopes of grabbing the second point where dashed by Pernitsky early into the extra period.
Although Bonnyville suffered a tough loss at the hands of their rivals, the clubs play against Lloydminster had Swan optimistic about the future.
“We know (Lloydminster) is stacked. They are an RBC Cup built team. They have made all the right trades to try and give them an opportunity at the national stage,” said Swan. “As an organization we respect our opponents but certainly we don’t have anything to fear with Lloydminster, Spruce Grove and Whitecourt. We think we are right there with all of those teams.”
The Pontiacs (32-11-8) were idle over the weekend. Whitecourt (37-8-5) beat Lloydminster (37-12-2) twice, winning on Friday and Saturday night. Bonnyville, 72 points, sits four points back of the Bobcats and seven points behind the Wolverines.
Bonnyville has been on quite the run of late posting an 18-3-4 record over their last 25 games.
The Pontiacs will be back in action on Feb. 10 when the Drayton Valley Thunder (19-24-4) come to town.