Sr. Pontiacs, North Stars tied in battle for NCHL title

After a shocking 7-4 loss in Game 1, the Bonnyville Sr. Pontiacs bounced back with a 6-3 Game 2 victory to even their series with the Daysland North Stars at one game apiece.

“Good teams need to know how to lose. In the end I think it will be a positive for us,” said coach Neil Langride, after the Pontiacs suffered their first loss since Oct. 17. “I think it was a wakeup call for us. We realize the Bonnyville Pontiacs are not going to be getting by the Daysland North Stars with ease.”

Daysland came into the RJ Lalonde Arena on Saturday night and stunned the hometown Pontiacs, erasing a 4-2 third period deficit with five goals in just 12:16.

Mitchell Gartner snuck a point shot past Bonnyville goaltender Josh Paul 5:45 into the third, before Tanner Erickson found the back of the net at 12:04. Scott Aucoin, the North Central Hockey League’s playoff points leader, snapped his fourth goal of the postseason home just 1:21 later to give the Stars their first lead of the game. Three minutes after that Derek Wolbeck caught the Pontiacs pinching for the equalizer and was able to find a wide-open Zachary Soprovich, who broke in alone and slid a backhand five-hole on Paul. An empty net goal by Brad Trautman with 1:59 capped off a 7-4 Daysland victory.

Bonnyvile netminder Josh Paul
Bonnyvile netminder Josh Paul

“Being up 4-2 going into the third and coming out with a 7-4 loss; it sits with you a little heavy and you try to realize what you did wrong,” said Bonnyville forward Dallas Ansell. “You need to keep your finger on the pulse for the entire sixty minutes and not just go through the motions expecting to win.”

Although Bonnyville had less than 24 hours to regroup from their first loss in 21 games, the Pontiacs put in a solid performance on Sunday afternoon and came away with a 6-3 win.

“We knew we needed a big game,” said Langridge.

It was a feisty, intense, physical contest right from the drop of the puck. The officials weren’t letting anything go, calling both teams for everything they deemed illegal, which let to a ton of five-on-three man advantages for both teams.

After the Pontiacs failed to convert on an extended two-man advantage, they found themselves killing off a penalty and surprisingly managed to catch a break. Lucas Isley snuck behind the Daysland defence, caught a pass just outside the blueline and had a clear cut breakaway in on goal. A perfectly placed wrist shot over top of the flailing glove of Andy Sinclair into the top right corner gave Bonnyville with 1-0 lead with 4:56 remaining in the first period.

Lucas Isley busts in on goal during second period action in Game 2.
Lucas Isley busts in on goal during second period action in Game 2.

Daysland answered back just 32 seconds into the middle period, sliding a rebound past Bonnyville’s Michael Muir to even the game 1-1.

Denis Cadrin didn’t let the game stay tied for too long, making a nice pass to Micheal Desjarlais wide open at the left post for an easy tap-in just minutes later.

With a 2-1 lead and momentum in their favour, the Pontiacs lost their cool and opened the door for a Stars comeback. Another five-on-three advantage for Daysland quickly resulted in a rebound being whacked past a helpless Muir.

The back-and-forth game continued, as Bonnyville responded with another goal to retake the lead. Tyler Kress teed up a shot from the point and beat Sinclair who was struggling to see through a crowded net front.

Again Daysland found the equalizer, and just like before it was after several undisciplined penalties from the Pontiacs.

“I felt for two periods we played very undisciplined hockey. We were to blame as they scored all three of their goals on the power play,” said Langridge.

With seconds ticking down in the second period the Pontiacs caught a break, Devon Kalinski busted down the right wing, cut to the goal and stuffed the puck past Sinclair for his 5th of the postseason and a 4-3 lead.

Devon Kalinski scored the game winning goal with 54 seconds left in period two.
Devon Kalinski scored the game winning goal with 54 seconds left in period two.

“After the second period we realized that to win this game we were going to have to play even strength,” said Langridge. “Some calls didn’t go our way but at the end of the day it is on us. We stayed our of the penalty box, had a good third period and won the hockey game.”

Bonnyville tacked on two insurance goals on the third period including a beautiful goal from Logan Isley, who made a great diving play to redirect a pass from brother Lucas Isley up into the top right corner. Troy Dumais added an empty net goal with seconds left and Bonnyville walked away having evened the series.

The series will shift to Daysland for Game 3 and 4 on March 12 and 13. The focus for the Pontiacs will be to stay out of the penalty box.

“Discipline is going to be a big thing for us,” said Ansell.
“I think we have a tendency to be a little cleaner on the road. I don’t know if it’s the emotions in front of the home crowd, but we tend to get a little excited on home ice. We will be able to focus on the little things and try to stay disciplined (in Daysland).”

Game 5, if necessary, will be back in Bonnyville on March 19.

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