The Wolverines opened up their 2020-21 season on the road with the first of a two game set against the Bonnyville Pontiacs.
It’s the Pontiacs who have the early jump putting up two quality chances on Wolverines starting goaltender Isaac Poulter. Whitecourt settles in to the period and its the newly appointed captain Bryce Osepchuk who buries a beautiful feed from second year Wolverine Ryan Wallz. Bonnyville responds with an outpouring of shots, outshooting the Wolverines 18-8 but still trailing 1-0.
Head Coach Shawn Martin had this to say about the slow start to the victory “Bonnyville jumped on a team that hasn’t played a game in a month but the team did a good job of weathering the storm to keep us in the game.”
The 2nd period starts with a play made in the Wolverines defensive zone by rookie defenceman Caleb MacDonald, outmuscling a Pontiacs forward before starting the breakout. He puts a pass on the stick of Ethan Leyer who takes a hit to get the puck to Kaleb Ergang who scores a beautiful short-side goal on Pontiacs starter Easton Hesse.
Physicality picks up and both Trey Funk of Bonnyville and Jake Lee of Whitecourt head to the box with minor penalties, the Pontiacs would go shorthanded a total of 5 times in the period.
Bonnyville would answer halfway through the second when Wolverines defenceman Jake Lee trips at the blueline leaving the Pontiacs Chayce Schmidt with a shorthanded breakaway from the centre ice, he would beat Isaac Poulter for the fist time on the night.
The third period is highly contested, the Wolverines would lock down defensively holding Bonnyville to only 9 shots. The stalemate would continue all the way into the final 5 minutes of the period when on their 6th powerplayof the night forward Eric Perneel would pick off a Pontiacs clearing attempt and moments later would beat Easton Hesse shortside.
Down but not out Bonnyville would cut into the deficit with 2:14 left in the period, Sebastian Tamburro finishing off a pass from Kash Rasmussen.
Poulter would see a flurry off shots thrown his way in desperation as the Pontaics would pull their goalie looking for the equalizer. In the end the Wolverines would hold on for the win in their season opener.
In total 9 players made their AJHL debut friday, asked about their performance Head Coach Shawn Martin had this to say ” I thought a lot of the new players struggled which again isn’t a surprise as we have had five practices in the last 5 weeks. The more familiar they get with our style of hockey, they will settle in.”
As for the powerplay which went 1/6 and gave up a shorthanded goal, Shawn gives props to the Pontiacs game planning. “Credit Bonnyville for putting pressure on a group that hasn’t had a lot of reps in practice. We will make some minor adjustments but the key to special teams is to stick to the game plan but improve our execution of the designed game plan.”
The Wolverines are back in action tonight, once again on the road against the Bonnyville Pontiacs, 7pm.