Considering their last season, the Bonnyville Sr. Pontiacs are probably a little unaccustomed to losing. They’re more used to it now.
The Whitehorse Huskies downed the Pontiacs in back-to-back games to start the season over the weekend at Takhini Arena.
The Huskies won 9-1 Saturday and 7-6 Sunday against the Pontiacs, who last season won their division with a 15-1 record and went undefeated in 21 consecutive games in Alberta’s North Central Senior Hockey League.
“Obviously starting 2-0 makes us pretty happy,” said Huskies head coach Michael Tuton. “The coaching staff saw a lot of positive things out there. The special teams were a little bit different today than they were yesterday, but we’ve got time to work on that stuff. Basically we wanted to make sure we came out and set the pace and we dictated the style of play.”
As scores indicate, it was a dichotic series. There was the blowout full of fisticuffs one day, with the Huskies scoring a club record of nine straight goals. Then came a more disciplined effort by both teams with the Huskies logging a sizeable comeback, taking the win in a shootout.
“(Saturday) was a bit of a strange game, that’s for sure,” said Huskies captain Evan Campbell. “It was a bit rough, but I’m glad they cleaned it up, as well as we cleaned it up, and gave the fans a better showing today. (Saturday) dragged out a little bit.
“We were a little sloppier today I thought, but we were down 4-1 and it’s good to see some resilience and came back, showed some character.”
Saturday’s second period can be summed up concisely: the Pontiacs were dropping gloves and the Huskies were scoring goals. Whitehorse knocked in four goals — two on two-man advantages — to take a 6-1 lead as Bonnyville took 10 penalties, including a game misconduct. The game saw a total of 75 minutes of penalties, and two game misconducts, between the teams.
“The first night they had tired legs and looked more interested in gooning it up; had a couple of their clowns out on the ice doing what they do,” said Tuton. “One thing that impressed me was how our guys responded to it — didn’t get sucked in. It could have been a night with a lot of guys heading to the box. Our guys were more interested in playing hockey.”
Things were cleaned up in Sunday’s game but the outcome was the same. The Huskies fought back from three goals down to win it in a shootout with Campbell and newly recruited goalie Jon Olthuis shining bright.
Olthuis, who lives in Calgary with four years of pro in the U.S. under his belt, stopped all five Bonnyville shooters while Campbell scored at the other end of the ice to clinch it.
Despite the two losses, it was worth the trip to Whitehorse, said Pontiacs head coach Chad Milnthorp.
“We had a blast. Thanks for the invite — would love to do it again if we get another one,” he said.
On Saturday “we ended up with a few injuries and today we were quite shorthanded and the guys pulled it out from the bottom of the tank and did everything they could.”
Campbell, who also scored the Huskies’ first goal of the series, finished the weekend with four goals and an assist. The bad news is the series will likely be the 26-year-old’s only of the season as he undergoes surgery this week to fix nagging shoulder damage.
“I was lucky enough to get one series in,” said Campbell. “I was supposed to be notified earlier but three weeks ago I was notified I got in with a specialist.
“I have ligaments that keep my shoulder in place and they’re all torn, so they put anchors in your shoulder blade and tie them all up.”
Over the two games Huskies assistant captains Derek Klassen and Jared Tuton each had two goals and two assists. Forward Ted Stephens had three goals and brother Burt a goal and assist. Forward Rob Warner had a goal and two assists.
Two returning forwards, who each played a couple of games when the Huskies were resurrected as a AA team two years ago, helped the effort. Andrew Pettitt racked up a goal and four assists and Tyrell Hope notched two goals — including the game-winner on Saturday — and two assists.
“It was a fun weekend. For me personally it was tough to get back into the swing of things. Being in hockey shape versus regular shape is a lot different and I sure felt it this weekend,” said Pettitt. “I was pretty tired out there and a little rusty in some areas, but it was good to be back on the ice and it was a fun weekend with the guys.”
“Getting Pettitt back into the lineup really changed the (team’s) complexion,” said Michael Tuton. “With him coming in and Hope playing the way he did really changed us and gave us a lot more depth of three lines.”
A series scheduled for this coming weekend between the Huskies and Alberta’s Whitecourt Wild has been scrubbed due to a lack of Whitecourt players able to make the trip. The next series for the Huskies is tentatively planned for Dec. 9 and 10 against the Kelowna Sparta.
The Huskies will host the 2017 Coy Cup next March, B.C. Hockey recently announced. As the host team the Huskies will receive direct entry into the tournament — the B.C. AA senior men’s championship.
“We’ll see how my recovery goes,” said Campbell. “I could be quicker than normal and that is a long ways away. So we’ll see how I feel and obviously I want to be cleared to play. The last thing I want to do is rush it.”
Contact Tom Patrick at firstname.lastname@example.org