Local talent thrives on Pontiacs
Bonnyville Pontiacs captain and St. Paul native Locke Muller followed up Friday’s series tying 4-3 loss to the Whitecourt Wolverines by saying he will need to be the most physical player on the ice in order to regain the edge in the series.
“I think today I kind of got away from it, but obviously I need to be the most physical player in this series on both teams,” Muller said following Game 2. “I think I can set the tone for our team and kind of back (Whitecourt) off a bit.”
As of the Journal’s press deadline, the Pontiacs and Wolverines were tied 1-1 in the best-of-seven AJHL semifinal series, with Game 3 held in Whitecourt on Monday night.
Muller has put up one goal and three assists through six games played this post season, notching a goal and an assist in a highly physical Game 1 effort against Whitecourt last Thursday.
“Locke plays the way Locke plays night in and night out, and that’s why he’s our captain,” said Pontiacs head coach Chad Mercier. “He’s got a lot of experience underneath his belt and he’s certainly been a great addition to our hockey club this year.”
While Game 2 looked promising for the Pontiacs as they entered the third period leading 3-2, the team failed to take advantage of a number of power play opportunities and Whitecourt battled back in the third period and grabbed a 4-3 victory on a shorthanded goal from Trace Elson.
“Our power play hasn’t been very good,” said Mercier, noting that the Pontiacs were one for 18 on the man advantage in Game 2. “We knew it was going to be difficult and we’ve got to be ready to be a little bit harder going into Whitecourt.”
Wolverines goaltender Tanner Kovacs was a large influence in both Whitecourt’s victory and the Pontiacs power play woes, and Muller said they will need to put a lot more traffic in front of the strong net-minder in order to get the best of him.
“I think we need to bear down and simplify things and get more shots, I think we’re too perimeter (based). I think if we get traffic in front and we can get those point shots, Kovacs won’t see it,” said Muller, who was recently named the Pontiacs best defensive forward. “The simpler we are, I think the more chances we’re going to get offensively.”
The Pontiacs other St. Paul-area native, Marc Dubeau, was a healthy scratch in Game 2, but Mercier says his return to the lineup may be possible as the series progresses.
“We’ll watch video and re-evaluate our lineup,” Mercier said. “(Dubeau’s) got a tremendous upside and he’s done a great job despite a real culture shock, I think, for him. He’s had to make a big jump from Midget AA and at times has handled it tremendously.”
Dubeau was recently named the Pontiacs’ most improved player of the year, and says it’s nice to be recognized for the hard work he put into his transition from Midget AA to Junior A Pontiacs hockey.
“Coming from where I did, playing AA last year, it was a big step,” Dubeau said. “To be recognized coming from there and to improve as much as I did, it’s always nice, but I had a great time and a great coach so that helps out a lot.”
Mercier said Dubeau’s big-body presence and determination on the ice has been a key factor for the Pontiacs throughout the season.
“He just keeps working,” Mercier said. “He’s a great teammate, he’s well liked and if he keeps his nose to the grindstone and stays with it he has the chance to be one heck of a hockey player.”
In order to post comments on our web site, you must validate your email address. An email was sent to you when you registered that included an activation link. If you have not yet done so, please click on the link to activate your account.
If you did not receive your activation email, please click here to have it resent.