Photo credit: Xander Holcomb, Renegades Photography
Blackfalds and Bonnyville went into their last weekend of preseason play staring down the barrel of a travel-heavy home-and-home series on Friday and Saturday nights. It has felt like a long time since the two teams had seen each other, with both games in the 2022-23 season coming prior to the start of December, the last of which seeing Blackfalds’ Brett Meerman scoring twice en route to a 5-4 Bulldog win at the EBC.
In game one, Blackfalds, unfortunately, did not start the series on a positive note, with Bonnyville’s Brent Hoshowski scoring two of his teams’ four first-period goals, putting the Bulldogs in an unassailable hole after the opening twenty minutes. The 4-0 deficit was cut in half in the second period, with Connor Dick and Brendan Ross each scoring off two-on-one rushes to get the Bulldogs back into the contest. Bonnyville started the third period determined to protect their lead and scarcely looked defensively vulnerable in their effort to that end, keeping Blackfalds’ offensive pressure at bay. The Bulldogs struggled to force the puck into high-danger areas, with Bonnyville holding on long enough for Tyler Blocha to seal the Pontiac victory into an empty net. The 5-2 Bonnyville win maintained their perfect preseason record, winning their fourth of a total of five preseason games.
The following day, it was the Pontiacs who made the journey south, with a 6:00 start time at the Eagle Builders Centre representing the final opportunity for both teams to get some action in before the start of the regular season. As was the case the previous night, Bonnyville’s first-period offensive production gave them a strong foundation to build a victory on, with three goals from Tobias Iantorno, Max Seguin, and Ludovik Tardif responded to only once from Tanner Willick, giving the Pontiacs a 3-1 lead through 20 minutes.
Brendan Ross deflected home a Connor Dick snapshot late in the second to give the Bulldogs a road map to a third-period push to tie the game, but just as was the case Friday in Bonnyville, the Pontiacs kept their head above water, and a goal from Ethan Look put the game out of Blackfalds’ hands.
Despite a pair of losses to end the preseason, Bulldogs Associate Coach Ryan Tobler was optimistic about what he saw from his team as a whole.
“We weren’t interested in going 6-0 in the preseason, it wasn’t about that for us. It was about evaluating players and putting guys in (different) spots,” said Tobler. “There’s a lot of positives, we’re very happy with the details. Our young guys picked it up quickly, the way we want to play; fast, moving the puck, forechecking. I think we’re very pleased as a staff.”
Blackfalds’ first regular season game goes Friday night in Olds, with a game against the Grizzlys predating the home opener against the Drayton Valley Thunder Saturday night at the Eagle Builders Centre.