It was over almost nearly as soon as the puck was dropped, making for a rather anti-climatic progression into the provincial championship.
The Ponoka Atom McDonalds squad cruised to a 18-0 win over Thorsby on Saturday, Feb. 27 at the Ponoka Culture and Recreation Complex in what was the only game in the two-game, total goal series to determine the Zone 4 representative at the Atom C Provincial Championship that will run March 17 to 20 in Grimshaw.
It only took one minute and 36 seconds for Ponoka to get the winner courtesy Trace Tonneson, who had a hat trick on the day. Jacub Palechek and Luke Simanton each scored four, while Daylan Owen added three, Ezekiel Pambrun notched a pair plus Jaiden Bandet and Brock Auclair each scored once in the rout.
Head coach Chris Palechek was proud of the boys effort throughout the provincial playoff round.
“They’ve worked really hard to get where we are,” he said following the game.
“We expect the competition to be tough (at provincials), but we are definitely going to be up to the challenge and look forward to representing Ponoka Minor Hockey and our town.”
They join the only other local team – the Lacoka Bantam girls – to make it to the provincial championship tournament this year.
North Central playoffs
The Atom McDonalds squad did double duty last week, qualifying for the second round of the Tier 2 Atom playoffs in the North Central Minor Hockey League by defeating Clive 14-7 in the two-game, total goal series.
The first contest ended in a 4-4 tie in Ponoka on Wednesday, Feb. 24 before Ponoka poured it on in Clive the next night to post a 10-4 win. Ponoka will now take on Battle River in a best-of-three semifinal series this weekend. The other semifinal features Blackfalds and Delburne.
The other Ponoka Atom squad, Calnash Trucking, earned a bye into Tier 5 semifinal and will face Sylvan Lake in a best-of-three series this week. The first game has been tentatively set for tonight (Wednesday, March 2) in Ponoka at 6:15 p.m. with the other games to be determined.
Meanwhile, the Ponoka Quality Paint & Collision PeeWee club will take on Rocky Mountain House in a tw0-game, total goal series this weekend in a Tier 5 quarter-final match.
And, the Fountain Tire Midgets remain in the hunt after knocking out Lacombe in Tier 2 playoffs two games to none over the weekend.
Ponoka took the first game in Lacombe on Tuesday, Feb. 23 by a 4-3 score on two goals by Cooper Jones plus one each off the sticks of Justin Hall and Pierce Clemmer. Game two in Ponoka on Friday, Feb. 26 wasn’t close from the start as Ponoka took it 7-0 on goals from Jayden Hagemann with a hat trick and singles from Jones, Braeden Korchinski, Lewis McDowell and Rylee DeJonge.
The Midgets will now take on Viking in the best-of-three quarter-final series this weekend with Ponoka set to host the second game on Saturday. Puck drop will be at 7:30 p.m. at the Ponoka Culture and Rec Complex.
The Ponoka Peewee Elks became the first local team knocked out of the league playoffs, losing a one-game play-in game in Sundre on Sunday by a count of 6-3 after giving up four straight goals in the third period.
As for the Bantam Moose, their playoff hopes came to a crashing end on the weekend. The Moose faced Delburne in the best-of-three Tier 2 quarter-final and lost the opening game on the road 4-2. Hunter Busat got a shorthanded goal early in the first and then Triston Johnson scored to give Ponoka a 2-1 lead on the only marker in the middle stanza. However, Delburne would tie it a minute and 32 seconds into the third, then get the lead on a powerplay goal with less than seven minutes remaining and salt the game away with an empty-netter with 43 seconds on the clock.
However, the Moose would remain resolute in Game 2 at home Saturday, Feb. 27 and earn a 5-4 overtime win on a goal by Luke Bonnett, who pounced on a loose puck after a scramble with just 44 seconds left in the first extra period. Busat, Seth Gratrix, Cyle Laing and Jake Simanton had the other goals for Ponoka, who gave up a 3-1 lead after two periods.
Game 3 on Sunday, Feb. 28 back in Delburne was yet another barnburner, with Ponoka again building up a second period lead – this time only up 4-3 – only to have to make a comeback of their own to force extra time. Simanton tied the game at 5-5 with 1:16 left in the third to give Ponoka a shot, but unfortunately this time it wasn’t to be as Delburne took advantage and notched the overtime, and series clincher, just over half way through the extra frame. Getting the other Ponoka goals were Eric Taylor, Ethan Little, Braeden Toporowski and Gratrix.