Canmore Eagles head coach and general manager Andrew Milne is fond of saying his team needs to play a full 60 minutes to win at the AJHL level. It’s good advice, and he’s often right. But the Eagles squeezed by with a 4-3 overtime win over the Bonnyville Pontiacs despite playing arguably only 40 minutes of good hockey. Quinton Ong scored twice to give Canmore the win at Fenlands Arena in Banff. The win is the second in a row for the Eagles, which opened the month with six losses in a row.
Ong opened scoring in the first after picking up a pass from Travis Verveda, reaching full speed and firing a laser beam wrist shot that snuck through Bonnyville goaltender Sandro Silvestre’s five hole. The goal lit a fire under the Pontiacs, which proceeded to outshoot the Eagles 18-3 in the period, peppering Eagles goaltender Logan Dyck with a barrage of high quality shots.
Bonnyville tied the game at the 12-minute mark of the first on a rebound, and took the lead two minutes into the third period.
Local favourite Adamu Tanaka, who always elevates his game in Banff, tied the game midway through the third period, pouncing on a loose puck at the side of the net. Colton Young gave the Eagles the lead once again two minutes later, cashing in on some hard work by Coy Prevost.
Bonnyville scored again on a rebound in a wide open third period, setting up a wild overtime period. Ong went on a mission, and was stopped on a breakaway before cashing in his second effort, once again slipping it through Silvestre’s legs. Alex Young and Tanaka picked up assists. Milne said the team was lucky to escape the first period tied 1-1.
“We were sloppy. I knew we weren’t our best. I like our character because we responded with a good second and third,” Milne said. “We didn’t play well enough in the first, so I knew we had energy to play well in the third.”
Dyck was the star of the first period. He stymied the Pontiacs with ease and acted as a calming influence on the back end. The backup goaltender is getting more ice time as the season progresses, and improved his record to 3-2-1 on the season.
“Logan was good tonight again. He’s been calm under pressure; he’s feeling good. The goals he got beat on were good goals,” Milne said.
Ong was the offensive hero, as he used his speed and incredible shot to pick apart the Pontiacs’ defence and goaltender. It was a breakout game for the first year player, who appears to have a bright future with the club.
“Ong has struggled a bit in the past few weeks and he knows it. I’m happy for him, and to see him rewarded with two goals is great. He’s done a better job in practice, he’s done a better job in the Brooks games,” Milne said.
“November is a tough month for first year players. I don’t care how old you are. Midget players play 30 games a season, and we’ve already played 26.”
The Eagles will lean heavily on Ong if they are to have success this year. Milne is implementing a trial by fire plan for his younger players.
“We haven’t laid off on Ong. He’s played on the power play. He’s played five on five against the other team’s top lines. We are accelerating the learning curve for some of these top guys, like Ong, Tian Rask and Alex Young. We have to. Quenton is a guy who will figure it out quickly,” Milne said.
For his part, Ong was relieved to pot two goals after a tough November schedule. He now has 17 points in 25 games.
“It was nice to put that one away for the boys. It was a fun game to play in,” Ong said. “It felt good to get the monkey off the back.”
Ong wants to be a key player for the Eagles and is learning that role every day.
“I want to keep improving every game and be confident as a go-to guy. I thrive in pressure environments,” Ong said.
The Eagles are at home Friday (Nov. 24) against the Whitecourt Wolverines, as they push to extend their win streak to three games.
In other Eagles news, Canmore shipped forward Mitch Zambon to the La Ronge Ice Wolves of the SJHL for future considerations. Zambon payed 69 games with the Eagles, scoring 7 goals with 11 assists.
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Photos by Aryn Toombs