Going Out on a High

Wednesday night brought an end to the Lloydminster Bobcats 2019-20 season, with the Olds Grizzlys in town for the final showdown of the season.  It was Lloydminster and District Co-Op pink in the rink night, the Cats were looking for their 4th win in their final 7 games to close out the season, and for Cats assistant captain Chance Adrian, the team’s lone 20 year old, it was an opportunity to go out on a high note.

 

The Cats came out flying and ended up out shooting the Grizzlys 17-12 in the opening frame, but it would be the Grizzlys who emerged with a 1-0 lead as with just 14 a point shot from Josh McNeil found the back of the net.

 

It’s always a concern when you outplay your opponent in a period and they come out with the lead, especially when it’s a goal in the final minute that is from a fortunate bounce as the McNeil goal was, those are normally backbreakers.  Especially for a young team.  But it was another sign of how far the Bobcats have come this season as they shook it off, and at 6:20 of the 2nd, Mack Stewart would keep the puck on a 2 on 1 and beat Grizzlys starter Ty Marcinkowski to tie the game.  They didn’t stop there as just 2:23 later it would be Cam Aucoin making a pretty centring pass to Alex Danis who was driving the net and was able to redirect the Aucoin pass into the back of the net and it was 2-1.  Then just 1:25 after that, on the power-play, it would be Chance Adrian in his final game in a Bobcats uniform sending a backhander towards the net that Nolen Coventry was able to tip in.  3 goals in 3:48 and the Bobcats were in control.  The Grizzlys would get one back as former Bobcat Logan Bromhead made a great feed to Daine Milgate and Bobcats netminder Josh Dias had no chance as Milgate tipped it in.  3-2 Cats after 40.

 

You had to wonder if the Bobcats were going to have one of those nights where no matter how much they did right, things weren’t going to bounce there way as 5:08 into the 3rd the Grizzlys tied the game off the stick of Brendan McBride got a weird one past Dias.  Once again though, the Cats showed how resilient of a team they had become throughout the season and continued to tilt the ice in their favour.  Finally at 13:40, Ty Mosimann would steal the puck and rip one far side on Marcinkowski to make it 4-3.  The Grizzlys would push in the final minute, but the Cats held strong and to cap off the regular season, Jayvon Leslie made a great play to get the puck up to Cam Aucoin who would seal it right at the end of the game (19:59 officially, but it turned out to be the final play of the game and the season).  The Bobcats go out on a high with a 5-3 victory.

 

After the game I caught up with Bobcats head coach Nigel Dube who had these thoughts on the game.  “Awesome way to finish off the year.  Through the last 11 we’re 4-5-2, a lot of people are probably looking at that and looking at our growth over the year.  What a crowd tonight too.  Hats off to the Lloydminster and District Co-Op for the kindness wins pink in the rink…it was just awesome.  Exclamation point on the month.  And credit to this group in there.  It was a special group that I think is going to be looked back on with the foundation they’ve laid here for the Bobcats.”  I couldn’t interview Dube this time around without getting his thoughts on Chance Adrian after wrapping up his AJHL career.  “Chance is a special person, a special player.  What he brings to the organization or any organization every day with his heart and his passion is amazing.  When we brought in Tegan Skehar as a 16 year old, we put Tegan with Chance to lead him and teach him the right ways, that demonstrated exactly what he is and what he means to this organization.  I saw the 113 games he’s played here, he’s a bright spot and wears his heart on his sleeve.  I could go on for hours about what a great kid he is.”  Finally, I asked Dube about how bright the future is for the organization with all but one player eligible to return in the fall.  “The biggest part when we go back and talked about what needed to be done this season was to establish a foundation.  And that kind of phrase maybe got lost a little along the way when you have your tough weeks or your tough games when people ask what’s going on, but I don’t think within the organization that was ever lost and that was the path we continued on.  We went young, we stayed young, and we matured throughout the year and we grew as it went on.  And credit to the 22 guys in the dressing room.  It wasn’t easy for them, and yet the work ethic that they brought everyday whether it was in the room, on the ice, in the gym, or in the community being the spectacular role models they were.  They performed every day with a smile on, and it speaks to their character.”

 

So that’s a wrap on the 2019-20 season for the Lloydminster Bobcats.  It was a rebuilding season where we saw the Bobcats truly grow.  When organizations go through rebuilding phases at any level, there is always going to be pain, and not necessarily growth.  And this season had its pain.  But throughout the season, the games got tighter, the wins became more frequent, and by the end they had managed to get wins against two of the best teams not only in the AJHL but in the CJHL (which were the top ranked teams in the country at the time of the wins by the Cats).  By the end of the season, people were going to the rink expecting the Cats to win as opposed to hoping they’d win.  The future is extremely bright for this organization, and it’s going to be an exciting 20-21 season!  See you in the fall!

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Grand Larseny! Bobcats Netminder Leads them to an Upset Win Over the Top Team in the Nation

Back on January 17th, the Bobcats hosted the then number 1 ranked team in the CJHL, the Brooks Bandits. The Bobcats came out on top of that one for their biggest win of the season by a score of 4-3. 27 days later, they once again played host to the top ranked team in the CJHL, but this time it was the Sherwood Park Crusaders, a team that had beat up on the Bobcats the last time they were in town by a score of 8-1. But this was not the same Bobcats team that the Crusaders faced back on December 22nd.

Alex Danis got things started for the Cats at 13:06 of the 1st period…sort of. Former Crusader Cam Aucoin gained the zone and dished off to Brendan Morrow who put the puck on goal. Danis in front got a stick on it, the save was made by Crusaders starter Jordan Frey, but then deflected off Will Zapernick and into his own net. It doesn’t matter how, it’s how many and the Bobcats had 1. They got a 2nd just before the 1st period ended as Ty Mosimann sent a pass over to Aucoin and he found the back of the net from the slot and the Cats went to the dressing room with a big 2-0 lead.

The Bobcats momentum would carry over to the 2nd period as just 1:54 into the frame as Frey would rob Sam Carper with the initial scoring chance, but then Jared Miller was able to find the rebound and put it in for a 3-0 lead. That would be the end of the night for Jordan Frey who was the recipient of some very bad bounces, and the Crusaders would turn to Carter Gylander for the rest of the night. But it would be the starting netminder at the other end of the ice who was the story in this game, and at 3-0 the game turned into the Garrett Larsen show. Larsen, who was rewarded with his 2nd straight start after one of his finest performances of the season in the Cats win on Saturday, was even better on this night making several tremendous stops to keep it a 3-0 game. Before the period was done, Brendan Morrow would make it a 4-0 game as Gylander had trouble with the Tegan Skehar point shot, and Morrow was there to put it in. 4-0 Cats after 40 minutes, and Larsen was up to 36 saves on the evening.

Even at 4-0, I don’t believe that anyone on the Cats bench assumed the game was done facing the top team in the nation, and as expected the Crusaders came at the Cats hard. It wasn’t until 12:50 of the period, their 45th shot, Gylander out and the Crusaders on the power-play that the Crusaders finally broke through on Larsen as Reid Irwin put in a rebound. Sherwood Park got another quick one off the stick of the leading scorer in the AJHL Arjun Atwal to make it 4-2. The Crusaders continued to put the pressure on, but the Bobcats did a good job from that point defending the 2 goal lead and finally at 18:19 it would be Tanner Mack putting it into the empty net for the Bobcats and putting the game on ice. The Crusaders ended up putting 53 shots on Garrett Larsen by the end of the night, but they could only get two of those pucks past the Wisconsin native, who needless to say was spectacular for the Cats this evening.

I caught up with Bobcats head coach after the game who had these thoughts on his teams performance. “I thought that our guys came prepared to work, and it continued on from last week. I thought we got out shot at the start, but we didn’t give up great chances and we stuck with it. And we’ve talked a lot about throwing pucks towards the net, and we did that and we found ways to convert on their turnovers and score some goals.” I asked Dube specifically about Larsen’s performance. “The tandem that we have back there with JD and Larss is huge, and for Larss to come in again was a big test to go back to back and he came through. Both goalies have everyone’s confidence throughout the room. Tonight Larss came up with some big saves at big times and guys rallied around that.”

The Bobcats will go for their 3rd straight win this Saturday as they head up to Fort McMurray to take on the Oil Barons. Puck drop for that one at the Casman Centre will be 7:30 and you can catch all the action on Hockey TV as Taylor Pope will have the call on that one. The Cats are only in action one more time at home for the 2019-2020 season, that being on Wednesday February 26th as they play host to the Olds Grizzlys. That one will get underway at 7:30, however if you are unable to make it down to the Civic Centre, Shane Tomayer and myself will have the call for you both on Hockey TV, and on the MixLR app!

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The Come Back Cats: Bobcats Rally to Down Drayton Valley

There was 8:52 to play in the 3rd period when Brendan Morrow gained the zone on Saturday night at the Centennial Civic Centre against the Drayton Valley Thunder.  The Thunder had a 2-0 lead.  Shots were 39-24, also in favour of the Thunder.  And Morrow was on his own as the rest of his line-mates were making a change, so he was 1 on 4.  This game simply had a feeling that it just wasn’t going to be the Bobcats night…

 

After a fast paced 1st period between the two teams produced zero’s on the scoreboard, the Thunder got it rolling in the 2nd.  Colson Gegenbach, after hitting the crossbar early in his shift, and then getting stopped point blank by Cats starter Garrett Larsen, refused to be denied as he one-timed a puck that bounced off the boards perfectly for him to hammer home and the Thunder had a 1-0 lead.  The Thunder continued to tilt the ice and finally were rewarded with their 2nd goal of the frame as Bailey Tomminga drilled one past Larsen from the right dot that was in off the back crossbar, wouldn’t be shocked if it made a dent, and the Thunder not only had a 2-0 lead but were all over the Cats.  Shots in the 2nd were 19-9 for the Thunder in the period, and the scoring chances were likely more lopsided than that for Drayton Valley.  Following the game Bobcats head coach Nigel Dube said of the period “I thought in the 2nd period we were awful, and there’s no other way to put it.  We didn’t compete hard, we cheated the game, and they got 2.”

 

As things got going in the 3rd, the Bobcats weren’t able to generate much.  They were executing better, but the ice was still tilted in Drayton Valley’s favour as Larsen was doing everything he could to keep it a 2-0 game, and he did just that making two or three excellent saves, and finished the evening with an outstanding 38 saves on 40 shots sent his way by the Thunder.  Then came that Morrow zone entry…

 

As I said, 1 on 4 didn’t give Morrow many options and the Thunder were able to corral the puck, but couldn’t get it out past Cats defenceman Cole Jungwirth who threw the puck to the slot.  With Morrow having worked his way into the slot, he had the presence of mind to find Chance Adrian, fresh off the bench and all alone behind him in the slot and Adrian buried it to not only make it a 2-1 game but completely ignite his hockey team.  I asked Dube after the game about the impact that goal had on the team.  “I think you would have felt like the game could have been a 4 or 5-0 game before that goal, and then when you cut the lead in half it revives everyone and that was what we said at the media time out.  And then a big power-play.”  That big power-play Dube referenced came with 6:37 to play as the Cats, already with a 5 on 4 advantage caught a break when Drayton Valley got caught with too many men on the ice.  It didn’t take the Cats long as Ty Mosimann cashed on the 5 on 3 and all of a sudden it was a tied game.  But the Cats weren’t done there as just 3:12 later and with only 3:00 to play the Cats won a big draw in the Thunder zone and it would be a shot from the point off the stick of Gunner Kinniburgh finding the back of the net, and the comeback was complete.  The Cats locked things down in the final 2:55 after the Kinniburgh goal and walk out of the Centennial Civic Centre a VERY happy group after the 3-2 victory.

 

“I was proud of our effort and what we did to come back in the 3rd period.  We persevered, and found a way.  It was a gutsy effort and proud of how they responded to the 2nd, and the effort throughout this week was pretty good” Dube said following the game.  1-1-1 record against 3 of the top 5 teams in the AJHL North absolutely is a heck of an effort by the Bobcats.  And not only a good effort, but the one thing that has become very noticeable with this hockey club as the season has moved along is the resiliency.  Early in the season, I don’t believe they come back from a 4-1 deficit in Bonnyville as they did Wednesday night.  Early in the season, I don’t believe they give the Spruce Grove Saints the fits that they did on Friday night.  And early in the season, I don’t believe they fight back from the 2nd period that they had Saturday night to pull out a victory.  They’re really starting to grow as a group.

 

The next time you have the chance to see that growth will be Wednesday night at the Civic Centre when the number one ranked team in the CJHL, the Sherwood Park Crusaders come to town to take on the Bobcats.  The last time the Bobcats took on the number one ranked team in the CJHL was just a little over 3 weeks ago when they defeated the Brooks Bandits by a score of 4-3.  Will history repeat itself?  Puck drop at the Civic Centre will be 7:30 PM, and of course if you can’t make it down to the arena, Shane Tomayer and myself will have all the action for you on Hockey TV, and on the MixLR app!

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