That game wouldn’t have happened in September. That game likely wouldn’t have happened in October. But in the Bobcats last home game of the month of November, it happened. “It” being a 3-2 OT victory after a being down 2-0 early in the hockey game. The Cats could have just folded their tent and went home, but they managed to dig deep and pull out the 2 points.
Just 0:50 into the game it was the Storm’s Jackson Wozniak getting a hold of a rebound and riffling it past Cats goaltender Garrett Larsen, and quickly it was 1-0. Then, just as the Cats had killed off their first penalty of the game, William Schimek made it 2-0 Storm at 8:02 with a shot from the point that Larsen didn’t see. 2-0 and not even 10 minutes in, just a night after a real solid effort where nothing went right, those are the ingredients to say “oh woe is me” and drag your feet the rest of the night. “You go down by 2, but there is a ton of hockey left. And for this leadership group to rally the troops on the bench and to understand that with composure they can crawl their way back into it” said Bobcats head coach Nigel Dube after the game.
The Cats began that crawl at the 11:15 mark of the 1st as on the power play Chance Adrian showed good vision finding Brendan Morrow in the high slot. He was denied, but Ty Mosimann was there to put home the rebound and allow the teddy bears to begin covering the ice. Storm took that 2-1 lead into the room, but the momentum was in the Bobcats favour.
And it carried over to the 2nd frame as at 8:46, once again on the power play and after some very good puck movement throughout, the puck would end up on the stick of Mosimann who this time found Mack Stewart in the slot for the redirection and the game was tied at 2 and would go to the intermission with that same score.
As the 3rd moved on, the Cats began to really take over the hockey game. Twice late in the period, Brendan Morrow made great plays attacking the net and forcing the Storm to haul him down resulting in power plays. If not for the play of Kaeden Lane late in the game, the Storm would not have left the Civic Centre with a point. He held the fort for them however, and we would go to OT, still 2 apiece.
The Cats simply weren’t going to be denied on Saturday as by the time overtime hit, they had imposed their will on the Storm and taken control of the game. After controlling the play and a few good chances, Mosimann gained the zone and then found Adrian the trailer in the high slot and he ripped a wrist shot past Lane to give the Cats the 3-2 victory. Without a doubt this was a character building win for a club that is starting to really grow the past few weeks.
Mosimann and Adrian were the offensive stars for the Cats, but it was a big night for the Cats defensive star of the game which was Garrett Larsen. The native of Waukesha, Wisconsin got his first win in the AJHL and was full value for it with 29 stops. “A big win for him to get his first junior hockey win and the quality of our tandem is a big part of this team” Dube said. Things may not have started right for him, but like his teammates Larsen stuck with it and throughout the game you could see his confidence growing.
Opportunity now knocks for the Cats. Currently 8 points back of the Fort McMurray Oil Barons in the standings, but they own a game in hand, and they travel to the Casman Centre for a back to back Friday and Saturday. There isn’t just 4 points to be had, it’s a possible 4 points to be gained and all while maintaining that game in hand. Taylor Pope will have the call of both those games on Hockey TV, and you’ll be stuck with me for the next Bobcats home game with Shane Tomayer away on business, I’ll have the call on the December 4th game at home vs the Spruce Grove Saints. So perhaps even more reason to make it down to the rink, but if you cannot then check out my first ever play by play call on Hockey TV, or the MixLR app.
After a 10 day layoff, the Bobcats were finally back in action Friday night at the Centennial Civic Centre for the first of two this weekend against the Grand Prairie Storm. The Cats were looking to continue their strong play on home ice of late as they’d taken 5 of a possible 8 points in their last four at home, and at least a 2 goal lead in each of those four games. Unfortunately though, last night’s very strong effort went unrewarded as the Storm took it 4-1.
It was a strong start for the Cats as Alex Danis opened the scoring for his first in the AJHL with a beautiful snipe off a 2 on 1 break. The snipe was great, the celebration was better as I’m sure it was mix of excitement and relief for Danis who has been coming on strong of late and just been a little snake bit. “All week in practice he said this weekend’s his weekend for it, and I think he went through about 3 celebration’s and pulled the monkey off his back” head coach Nigel Dube said after the game. “The kid is dedicated and works hard so it’s good to see.” The Storm tied it just 3:44 later as Jackson Savoie made a great pass to send Carter Myrol in and even though he failed to literally light the lamp, he did get the puck past Cats starter Josh Dias.
In the 2nd the Cats just couldn’t catch a break. Devin Sutton would put the Strom up 2-1 at the 3:58 mark as he tipped in a Brody Dale point shot, and then after about 3 different players fanned on a puck on its way to the slot, Lukas Jirousek was the one who finally found it and he made no mistake firing it past Dias to make it 3-1 Storm and it remained that way through 2 periods of play.
The Cats never said die all night. Would have been real easy to sulk after a 2nd period where they outshot the Storm 15-10, yet gave up the only 2 of the period, but they kept coming. A few adjustments made in the intermission resulted in cleaner zone exits and more speed through the neutral zone, but despite the effort they just couldn’t cash. Brody Dale would officially ice it with an empty netter right before the final buzzer to make it a 4-1 final in favour of the Storm. Final shots on goal were also in favour of the Storm 36-31.
After a solid effort by the Cats that went unrewarded, understandably coach Dube was a bit disheartened about how things went. “After 10 days off, there was a little bit of hot potato with the puck early on, but we held on. And then in the 2nd period we controlled the better parts of the play and outshoot them 15-10, but a puck goes in off one of our shin pads, and one off the back boards and we over skate a puck and they bury on it, and now we’re chasing the game. But there was no quit in our game. Until they got the empty netter with 4 seconds left there was no quit in our game. There were definitely some positives to take out of the game.”
Cats get a chance at redemption tonight as they’ll have a rematch with the Storm again at the Civic Centre. 7:30 puck drop, and don’t forget that it’s Teddy Bear toss night! So make sure you make it down to the Civic Centre and after the Bobcats first goal we want to see that ice covered in teddy bears! However, if you hate fun, or simply can’t make it down, as always Shane Tomayer and myself will have the action HOPEFULLY on Hockey TV (been a lot of technical issues getting the games on their lately), or on the MixLR app.
Saturday afternoon, Oilers alumni will take on Flames alumni as the Boundary Battle of Alberta will take place and the Lloydminster Centennial Civic Centre. The 3 PM game is sold out and has been for months now. However, the noon game was added and there are in fact still tickets available for it. Just go to http://lrhf.ca/bboa or go to Boundary Ford to pick yours up in person. Proceeds for this game are going to the mental health initiative Project Sunrise. For me, that’s the big seller. I’m a guy who has fought with ADHD, anxiety, and depression. I hit the trifecta some might say! But it’s nothing to make light of and I know what I’ve gone through and don’t wish it on anyone. It’s constantly on my mind. I never want to make people feel the way that I do when I’m at my lowest. So that is near and dear to me. But for a lot of people, they want to know what exactly they’re going to spend $25.00 a ticket on. Well, thankfully I’m here for you! Allow me to lay out exactly who will be taking the ice this Saturday in Lloydminster.
The only man in the game who didn’t play for either team, however, Brown likely sees himself as an Oiler these days as an in-game analyst on 630 CHED broadcasts. Brown had his breakout season in 88-89 as he put up an eye-popping 49 goals and 115 points in just 68 games.
The local boy doesn’t get the recognition he perhaps should for etching out the career he did. The 1st overall pick of the 1992 supplemental draft went onto play 659 games in the NHL, 113 of them with the Oilers. Perhaps the highlight of his career was this massive OT goal playing for the Leafs against Wade Redden’s Sens at the height of the battle of Ontario.
Debrusk came to the Oilers in the fall of 1991 in one of the most famous deals in team history which saw Mark Messier shipped to the New York Rangers. One of the most feared players in the mid-late 90’s, DeBrusk played 401 NHL games in his career, 228 of them with the Oilers. He remains a fan favourite today doing a terrific job as the colour analyst for the team’s TV broadcasts on Sportsnet West.
The top pick of the 2nd round in the 2002 NHL draft, the man known to Oilers fans as JDD first came on the scene early in the 08-09 season as he put on a show in back to back starts against the Devils and Rangers stopping 77 of 80 shots against in those two games. JDD also got 48 starts during the 09-10 campaign.
A 1st round pick of the Dallas Stars in the 2004 NHL draft, Fistric was dealt to his hometown Oilers right before the start of the lockout shortened 2013 season. Fistric got into 25 games with the Oilers that season, 325 in his NHL career.
Cold Lake’s own was the 6th overall pick in the 1974 NHL draft by the Minnesota North Stars. Hicks played in 561 games during his NHL career, 186 of them with the Oilers. In fact, Hicks best statistical season came with the Oilers in their first season in the NHL as Hicks had 9 goals and 40 points in 78 games.
Big Georges remains one of the most popular Oilers not named Gretzky, Messier or McDavid. Perhaps the top enforcer in the NHL during his time with the club, Laraque was the 31st pick in the 1995 draft and as it turned out he was far and away the top player of that draft for the Oilers. 695 NHL games in his career, 490 of them with the Oilers.
When Moreau was named the captain of the team prior to the 07-08 season, I don’t recall any debate about it. It was as if the fan base just collectively said “he better be”. Moreau was a warrior for the organization. The 14th overall pick of the 1994 draft, Moreau came to the Oilers the morning of March 20th, 1999 in a blockbuster deal that saw Boris Mironov go to Chicago. 928 games in the NHL, 653 of them with the Oilers. As I mentioned, he was named captain of the team prior to the 07-08 season, which ironically may have been the most difficult stretch of his career. Just seven games into the 06-07 season, Moreau needed to have reconstructive surgery on his shoulder. Then in the 07-08 pre-season, he fractured his tibia blocking a shot, which forced him to miss the first 48 games of that season. He then returned for 25 games, until yet another set back as he broke his leg and was done for the season again. Some might hang up their skates after such an awful stretch. Moreau however played nearly a full season in 08-09 for the Oilers and in doing so received the King Clancy Award for best exemplifying leadership qualities on and off the ice and by also making significant humanitarian contributions to the Oilers Community Foundation.
If you’re an Oilers fan, then without a doubt your fondest memories of the club in the last 25 seasons came in the spring of 2006. That entire season was special as it finally felt as though the Oilers could legitimately compete with the rest of the league thanks to the salary cap. But after a bit of a disappointing regular season that saw the club really struggle to get in the playoffs, they went on an amazing run. And right at the forefront of that run was Fernando Pisani with his unbelievable 14 goal performance. The Edmonton kid was an 8th round pick of the club in the 1996 draft and clawed his way up the ranks before finally getting his shot during the 02-03 season and once he got his spot he never gave it up. He played 462 NHL games, 402 of them with the Oilers.
I didn’t realize before writing this that there is a big backstory to Hunter already posted here which is awesome so I don’t feel the need to make something up!
#PackYourShit and get out to see this guy on Saturday (see what I did there?!)…Commodore only played 18 regular season games in his career with the Flames, but it was where he broke through as a full-time NHL player, and he actually played more playoff games with the Flames (20) than regular season as he was a key contributor for the Flames during their amazing playoff run in 2004. Following the 2005 lockout, Commodore would capture a Stanley Cup with the Carolina Hurricanes. He ended up playing 484 NHL games and has stated on numerous occasions how Mike Babcock was his all-time favourite coach to play for…well…maybe that’s incorrect…
If you don’t know this man’s incredible story by now, I’m not sure what you’re doing. In 2009 he released his best selling autobiography Playing with Fire which is an absolute must read if you haven’t already. Fleury was a rookie when he won the Cup with the Flames in 1989. Six times he led the Flames in scoring. He currently sits 5th for the Flames all-time in games played (791), 2nd in goals (364), 3rd in assists (466), and 2nd in points (830). He represented Canada in the 1996 World Cup of Hockey, the 1998 Olympics, and the 2002 Olympics where he helped Canada win their first gold medal in 50 years. Fleury played in 1,084 games in his entire career, and finished over a PPG (1,088 points). The numbers are there to someday be enshrined in the hockey Hall of Fame. And of course we can’t be talking about the battle of Alberta without mentioning that he scored one of the most famous goals in the history of the rivalry.
Another key member of the 1989 Stanley Cup champion Flames team. Macoun was one of the Flames top shutdown defencemen on a team that was one of the best in the league during the mid to late 1980’s. Macoun played 586 of his incredible 1,128 career games with the Flames. On January 1st, 1992 Macoun was involved in the biggest trade in NHL history, more famously known as the Doug Gilmour deal, and would go on to play a big role in the Maple Leafs revival as a franchise in the mid 90’s, before moving onto Detroit at the 1998 trade deadline where he would capture a 2nd Stanley Cup championship.
The 3rd of the Flames alumni to play on the Flames 1989 Cup winning team. The Calgary born Murzyn was initially the 5th overall pick by the Hartford Whalers in the 1985 NHL draft. Murzyn was dealt to the Flames midway through the 87-88 season, Murzyn appeared in 21 of the Flames 22 playoff games during their run in 1989. He would be dealt to Vancouver in March of 1991 and was a big part of the Canucks success in the early to mid 90’s as they would go onto win back to back Smythe division titles, followed by a trip to game seven of the Stanley Cup final in 1994 (though Murzyn had his run cut short due to injury in those playoffs). He wrapped up his career in 1999, finishing with 838 career games.
The former Camrose Kodiak and Calgary native came up with the Vancouver Canucks during the 07-08 season and was a key contributor for the Canucks on their 10-11 squad which went to game seven of the Stanley Cup final. After a season in Toronto, Raymond would sign with the home town Flames for the 14-15 season, a team which was expected to be near the bottom of the league. Not only were they not near the bottom, they shocked everyone in the hockey world as they snuck into the playoffs and knocked off his former team the Canucks in the 1st round. The speedy Raymond would finish his career with 546 games played.
Selected by the Leafs with the 57th pick of the 2002 NHL draft, he was dealt to the Flames during the 09-10 season. Like Raymond, Stajan was a key member of that amazing 14-15 Flames squad, and scored one of the most important goals of their run in game six vs the Canucks. The game was tied with under five minutes to play and it was Stajan who stepped up with game-winner as the Flames won their first playoff series since the 03-04 playoffs. Stajan would go onto play 1,003 NHL games in his career, 558 of them with the Flames.
Harvey the Hound
Much like Hunter, I can’t do Harvey the Hound justice quite like the write up that can be found here, although we can’t talk BOA and Harvey the Hound without re-living the time Mac T got his tongue.
These are two great rosters which have been assembled. It is pretty rare to see this kind of talent take the ice in Lloydminster. More importantly, the money that will be raised for such a tremendous cause. It is an absolute win-win. Again, go to http://lrhf.ca/bboa or to Boundary Ford to pick yours up in person.
The Lloydminster Bobcats knew they faced an extremely difficult task opening the season with a home and home against the defending regular season AJHL North division champion Sherwood Park Crusaders, followed by a game against the defending post season AJHL North division champion Spruce Grove Saints. And while the battle level was there again for the Cats last night, the results were not as they fell at home to a very talented Saints team by a 6-1 score.
After a 1st period where not much happened and the game really lacked flow, things picked up in the 2nd as the Bobcats Cam Aucoin opened the scoring at the 2:32 mark, going top corner short side on Saints starting goaltender Max Duchesne. A bit of a controversial goal tied the game for the Saints as Stanley Cooley hit Nathan Edwards in stride, very close to being offside but nevertheless, the Michigan commit made no mistake as he went top shelf with a backhand up over Bobcats netminder Garrett Larsen to tie the game. Saints took the lead later on in the period on the power play as right off the face-off Stanley Cooley again the playmaker, this time spotting Cam Mitchell high in the slot for a perfect redirect, and the Saints went into the 2nd intermission holding a 2-1 advantage. The Saints managed to get the jump on the Cats just 0:24 seconds into the 3rd as again it was Mitchell as the Nebraska-Omaha commit was able to walk into the Cats zone and let go a bullet top corner on Larsen for his 4th on the season. Then just 0:55 seconds after that it was WHL alum Ryan Peckford scoring his 3rd goal in as many games to make it 4-1. Jordan Biro would get in on the action at the 6:55 mark with an excellent tip off a shot that it looked as though Jaxsen Wyatt may have fanned on extending the Saints lead to 5-1. Finally, Brett Trentham would pour a little more salt in the wound for the Cats with a late power play goal to close out the scoring. Final shots on goal in the game were 40-13 in favour of the Saints.
The outcome looked the same as Saturday night, but I felt the Bobcats actually played a much stronger game in a lot of area’s. For large stretches of the game they were very solid on the defensive side of the puck, Garrett Larsen made some really big stops and was both tracking the puck and staying square to the shooters all evening, I felt Ryley Hogan bounced back with a good assertive game tonight for the Cats as well. It is a very young team, they haven’t played much hockey together as of yet, and their first three games of the season are against what very easily could be the two best teams in the league this season. A very difficult task for any team in the league.
I asked Cats head coach Nigel Dube for his thoughts after the game. “I thought for us, after the media timeout in the first period that we came out and pushed back. And we probably had a 25 minute slot in there where we did good things, leaned on their D-men and got things going that way. At times when we got away from the game plan and put pucks into the walls and off the area’s that we were targeting on the ice, they’re a team with speed, had momentum coming North on us and we gave them opportunities. But we just need to regroup and go get them on Friday”. Dube would like to see more discipline shown from his team next game. “We took hooking, slashing, holding and high sticking. Four penalties, two in the offensive zone, sending us to the penalty kill when we really don’t need to. The penalty ratio was really off-set, and some of those we were deserving of tonight. It’s something to work on.” As the Cats move onto Grand Prairie for a set this weekend, Dube is looking forward to the challenge. “You look at our first three, Sherwood Park, Sherwood Park, and Spruce Grove, now we’re playing hockey. We come to the rink tomorrow, we’ll touch on a few things in video, and get on the bus to go to GP. They’re a young team as well. It’s their home opener so we have to be prepared for that. But for us, we need to start shooting pucks and get back to our 10 shots a period minimum. No matter where they’re coming from, we need to find a way to start being shooters.”
Puck drop in Grand Prairie both tomorrow and Saturday night is set for 7:30 PM, and you can catch all the action on Hockey TV. Cats next home game will be Friday, October 4th as they take on Hayden Clayton and the Whitecourt Wolverines. Puck drop for that game will be 7:30, and if you can’t make it down to the Civic Centre then you can check out Shane Tomayer and myself as we’ll have the call on Hockey TV, and on MixLR.
On any given day, you can start off with the best intentions, work as hard as you can, set out to do everything the correct way, yet everything still conspires against you. We’ve all had days like that. Last night, that happened to the Lloydminster Bobcats. After a very promising showing in Sherwood Park Friday night, the Bobcats simply could never get their game on track in the return bout Saturday night at the Centennial Civic Centre as a very talented Crusaders squad took it to them all night, defeating the Bobcats by a score of 6-0.
It was an uphill battle for the Cats right from the get-go as just 11 seconds into the game a costly turnover led to a Kaden Bryant goal. Then at the 12:16 mark Bryant put home his second of the game on a shot that Bobcats goaltender Cale Elder got a piece of, but not enough and it was 2-0 Crusaders after one. Bobcats head coach Nigel Dube turned to Garrett Larsen to start the 2nd frame, however it was more of the same as the Crusaders put the pressure on and at the 5:14 mark Jacob Franczak made a beautiful stretch pass to Jarred White who had cheated into the neutral zone and he made no mistake going top shelf on the backhand which put the Crusaders up 3-0 and it would remain that score after 40 minutes of play. The Bobcats entered the 3rd with a 35 second five on three power play, and despite not being able to capitalize on it, they were finally gaining a little momentum before Ty Mueller abruptly ended that as he fired a laser past Larsen to make it 4-0. That goal seemed to really suck the life out of the building, as that goal was followed by goals from Franczak and Bryce Bader. Three goals in 59 seconds from the Crusaders and it would remain that way as the Crusaders walked away with an impressive victory.
It felt from the broadcast booth that the Bobcats were badly gripping their sticks all night long. Nothing was coming easy for the club. Full credit to the Crusaders who have one of the best teams in the AJHL and will do what they did to the Bobcats to many teams in the league this season. But the game the team played Friday night in Sherwood Park was impressive. They weren’t intimidated by the Crusaders, they played loose, they showed they could take a punch and get right back up and keep fighting. Saturday night, the effort level was still there, but the execution was far different. They were two very different games.
After the game, Bobcats head coach Nigel Dube was taking the blame for the loss. “As a coaching staff we’re six games in including pre-season and that’s on us to find a way to get these guys ready. Tonight, we were off. And when you play a team like Sherwood Park who is picked to probably win the league, you can’t be off, and as a coaching staff that’s on us.” Dube went onto say “we had a little hiccup here in a couple area’s but we’ll be back to it tomorrow. We’ll find ways to continue to grow. 19 new bodies and I can’t say that forever, but out of the gate here we’re going to have to learn and as a coaching staff we have to learn and execute what it takes to get these guys prepared every day.” The schedule doesn’t lighten up at all either, as the defending North division champion Spruce Grove Saints are up next. “For us, now we got to find the on. We have a few days here, our practice on Monday and Tuesday will be structured a little bit different and we’ll look at it as game one on Tuesday and we’ll be good. For us we can’t have being on and then being off. Onus is on the coaching staff to sit down tonight, sit down tomorrow and execute a plan that’s going to help our guys and give them the resources to be better the next day. That’s on us.” It would have been VERY easy for Dube to point fingers after a disappointing home opener, but he showed great leadership with how he handled things.
The Saints roll into town Wednesday with a 2-0 record after sweeping their home and home this weekend against Drayton Valley, game time is 7:30. If you can’t make it to the Centennial Civic Centre, then Shane Tomayer and myself will have the call on Hockey TV and on MixLR.
I believe the last blog that I did for this site specifically, I talked about my love for badonkadonks on beautiful women and how summer sucks/fall is awesome. Real Pulitzer Prize winner stuff, I know. But now we’re REALLY into fall, because hockey is getting fired up! NHL camps have opened, and junior hockey is getting underway! I got a couple of nephews debuting in Flin Flon tonight for the Bombers as they make the move from the AJHL to the SJHL (good luck tonight boys!!), and the AJHL season also gets underway, specifically the Lloydminster Bobcats who’ll start off with a home and home against perhaps the favourite’s in the AJHL North this season, the Sherwood Park Crusaders.
Before I get rolling on the Cats and what the 19-20 season could look like, let’s talk about more local hockey action that will be seen at the CCC this season and that is the Boundary Battle of Alberta. As you can see from the banner, the lineups are really coming together nicely. At this point and time I’d give the advantage to the Oilers both in numbers, and the Flames lack of a goaltender at this point. Trevor Kidd? Fred Brathwaite? TSN personality Jamie “noodles” McLennan? Joey McDonald who wore some of the most deadly gear of his generation? It remains to be seen! But in reality, we are well aware that nobody is worried about the on-ice result. The big thing is supporting Project Sunrise, a mental health initiative which the proceeds are going towards. I’ve had my struggles with mental health, plenty others in my life have, it affects us all greatly and we need to do what we can to battle it. Just $25 bucks a ticket gets you a great afternoon of hockey and goes towards a great cause. If haven’t got your tickets yet, what’s the wait?
Back to the Bobcats…
The tale of the 2018-19 Lloydminster Bobcats is a pretty simple one to tell: what could go wrong, did go wrong. After a 5-13-1 start, head coach Travis Clayton was let go, and new head coach Nigel Dube was brought into a scenario where they were already looking towards the 19-20 season. It quite frankly wasn’t a lot of fun to go watch the Cats last season. They hit rock bottom, ending up with a 9-49-1-1 record.
But now they have a completely fresh start. Being around the team the last few weeks, the big thing that stands out is what they appear to have in head coach Nigel Dube. Dube is not only determined to build a proper foundation with the Cats, but he has tremendous attention to detail. The type of talent he has assembled, the structure he is implementing, the environment he has created both with the staff and in the dressing room, it is all very carefully orchestrated.
Maybe the most exciting part about the Bobcats going into this season isn’t that they have the makings of a team that can really compete. Obviously that’s never going to be bad, but it is the bonus. This team is really set up well. I believe it is at 13 kids with at least three more seasons of junior eligibility starting the season with the club. Through camp, it looks like a team with more talent, more structure, but one that can be sustained which has been a big problem for the organization throughout it’s history.
If you just go by their goal total in the pre-season, you might think that they’re going to lack offensive firepower this season, scoring six goals in four games. But watching them (especially on Saturday), I’m actually really excited for what they have. To my eye, Dube is going to have a lot of firepower up front, it’s just a matter of how he wants to use his talent. Chance Adrian, Tanner Mack, Nolan Coventry, Alex Danis, Ty Mosimann, and Tyler Schendel all are kids who stood out in my opinion as players who are capable of putting points on the board, and it’ll just be a matter of how Dube wishes to run his lines. Load up the top six, or spread it out through the top nine? He also appears to have the makings of a very good shutdown unit with Cam Aucoin, Mason Hendrickson and Chad MacLean if he so chooses to run one. Safe to say Dube is still mixing and matching a bit himself at this point, but I like the options available to him.
The best way to describe the blueline is that its old school. Not in the sense that they’re a bunch of coke machines who can’t skate, but old school in that they really know how to defend and play without the puck. I’ve said this a million times before and won’t ever stop saying it: hockey is not played three on two. If a team is bad defensively, it is not solely on the defence. Having said that, you want your defencemen to be strong in their own zone. There will be nights where the Bobcats are out skilled, nobody is going to claim otherwise. So you HAVE to know what to do when teams start dominating possession. In the pre-season, we saw this. In the two games I saw, the team didn’t give up much five on five. It’s all anchored by 19 year old Gunner Kinniburgh. He is going to be heavily leaned on by Dube this season and likely to see a ton of tough matchups, but he appears ready for the challenge. He won’t be alone though as Ryley Hogan (the teams “elder statesman” at 19 years, six months and 29 days…) and the very recently acquired Kaeden Tenkoppel will also be required to do some of the heavy lifting. It is my understanding that Tenkoppel should really fit the Bobcats well both on the ice and in the room as he is a very smooth skater and a terrific kid off the ice.
It is very possible that the strength of the club is right where you’d like it, which is between the pipes. Dube is going to have two great options between the pipes with the returning Cale Elder, and newcomer Garrett Larsen. Elder has the pedigree, and is very capable of being a number one goaltender. But the Waukesha, Wisconsin native Larsen has put on a show thus far in camp and the pre-season. A diminutive goalie, listed at a likely generous 5’10, it is the only hole that I have seen in the kids game to this point. Last Saturday I couldn’t shut up about how terrific he was in the Cats crease as he ended up with a 36 save shutout in their 3-0 win against the North Battleford North Stars. I said it on the broadcast during the pre-game show that he was perhaps who I was looking forward to seeing play the most that evening, and he managed to exceed those expectations. If his play continues, and Elder plays up to his capability, there won’t be a night this season where the Bobcats have to worry about who is in goal.
Last season is done, and things can only go up from here. Should anyone be planning a trip to the RBC Cup in May? No, but I like the chances this squad has of being a good competitive squad this season. It could be the start of some damn good AJHL hockey in town for years to come. Tonight’s game against the Crusaders will be on Hockey TV starting at 7PM MST with Crusaders play by play man Brendan Escott on the call, then tomorrow night the two teams clash at the CCC. If you can’t make it down to the game, Shane Tomayer and myself will have the call on Hockey TV and also on Mixlr.com and the Mixlr app.
The Lloydminster Bobcats wrapped up their pre-season in style on Saturday night with a 3-0 victory over the defending SJHL champion North Battleford North Stars. The Bobcats were firing on all cylinders as they went a perfect 4 for 4 on the penalty kill, clicked on their first power play of the game, put 35 shots on goal, played very solid in their own zone, and if that weren’t enough they got a terrific performance from netminder Garrett Larsen who went the full 60 minutes between the pipes, earning a 36 save shutout.
Tyler Schendel opened the scoring on the power play midway through the first as he fired a one-timer home off a beautiful feed by Tanner Mack. The Cats extended their lead late in the 2nd as defencemen Gunner Kinniburgh took a hit to make a nice neutral zone pass to Alex Danis who then proceeded to do the rest as he gained the zone, toe dragged the defenceman and put home a pretty backhand from the slot. The setups by both Mack and Kinniburgh were nice plays, but they wouldn’t have been the “Soups on Hockey feed of the night”…if there were such a thing. No, that would have gone to Ty Mosimann as he walked into the slot on his backhand and showed off the eyes he has in the back of his head as he dropped the puck to Kris Bladen who had an easy tap in for the third and final goal of the night.
As well as everyone played however, the star of the game was Larsen. The native of Waukesha, Wisconsin was brilliant. He was square to every shot, moving fluently, tracking the puck extremely well, the North Stars just couldn’t find a hole all night long. Larsen also loves to play the puck, and when he needs to he has more than enough athleticism to come up with a five star save. The kid is a lot of fun to watch play.
Bobcats head coach Nigel Dube was very happy with what he saw from his club. “I thought we played a strong 60, I think the biggest thing for us is that I thought we had energy and played with emotion right from the puck drop and seeing the brotherhood between the group out there was a big part of it. All around I was very pleased with the effort tonight.” With this game putting an end to the pre-season, I asked Dube for his thoughts on how training camp went and if there were any pleasant surprises from either a team or individual standpoint. “I think the quick connection that our guys had off the ice and just being a good team from day one with a lot of turnovers as we only have five guys back from last year and that was the big thing is how are the guys going to mesh together and I think that’s been a pleasant surprise as how that’s happened. I don’t think I could pick out one or two guys, but just the pleasant surprise overall by our efforts from our guys on a day to day basis who may not be used to that junior schedule.” Of course, the focus now moves to the regular season, and the Cats will open with a home and home set against what is expected to be one of the top teams in the AJHL North, the Sherwood Park Crusaders. “It’ll be a good test for our guys. I’m excited for it. All the praise is going to them right now and for us to be able to go in there and see where we’re at, I think that’s the big thing. And the exciting part is that they count now.”
That is the exciting part. Friday night against Michael Benning and the Crusaders. That game can be seen on Hockey TV at 7PM, with Crusaders play by play man Brendan Escott on the call. Then Saturday is the Bobcats home opener with the Crusaders coming to town. If by chance you can’t make it down to the Centennial Civic Centre that night, make sure you check out the broadcast on Hockey TV with Shane Tomayer and myself on the call. Puck drop is at 7:30.
Not a ton to cover this week, but some pretty obvious topics. Memorial Cup just wrapped up last night in Regina, the Oilers have rolled out their new coaching staff, of course the Stanley Cup final begins in Las Vegas tonight, and for me personally I got to play in a game that meant a lot to me. So I’ll start with my Saturday night and the Jeff Torry Memorial Cup.
People were watching me play hockey, which made me dread going to the rink that night knowing people would know my great shame, which is that after going 14 years as an unsigned UFA, and three more years of trying to get my game back…I haven’t! Well, I’m not sure how much I ever really had, but I know I’d be a hell of a lot better now had I been playing all these years. Anyway, while dreading it a bit from that perspective, I was doing this for Torro. And the rest of the boys were there for Torro. And everyone who showed up (which I thought it was an AWESOME turn out) was there for Torro. Something everyone needs to know about Jeff is that this was one of the truly and genuinely best people I’ve ever met. I bitch about a lot of people (not an endearing trait), and I can count on my hands the amount of buddies of mine I’ve ever bitched about because they cause me any kind of problems. I can very honestly say that Jeff was one of those few who just simply would go out of his way to make life easy for everyone. There were a lot of people involved with the game who were tighter or more connected to Torro than I was, but he was a good buddy of mine and everyone there loves Torro and misses him a lot. So for everyone who helped organized that event (LRHF), sponsored the jerseys, anyone and everyone who chipped in, I just personally want to say thank you, and I’m sure those thoughts are echoed by a boatload of people. We raised a lot of money for Project Sunrise and had a damn good time while doing it which is what Torro would have wanted.
Not an easy way to transition to other stuff now, so I guess I’ll just jump right to it.
The Memorial Cup final didn’t end up being the thriller we all hoped it would be, but what a tournament overall. Final game aside, that was one of the best Memorial Cups I remember seeing. I’m sure there are others that have been better, but I don’t know if I’ve seen them. Every round robin game was exciting, and the intensity the semi-final was played with was terrific. Full marks to the Acadie-Bathurst Titan for the win, they were undoubtedly the best team in the tournament, and they did it with a total team effort. There were no big stand out stars, just a very solid roster top to bottom who played their system perfectly. But just tremendous hockey throughout. Any of those four teams really could have won it. Think about the Swift/Acadie game. Swift was up 3-2. They hold on, how different is the whole tournament?
Before I get to the Cup final preview, a little Oilers talk this week with the new coaching staff being rolled out. On paper, it’s impressive! Glen Gulutzan got the Calgary job from doing such a great job while in Vancouver. Trent Yawney appeared to do a respectable job with the Ducks blueline while in Anaheim, though I put more of that credit towards their drafting and developing. But Yawney’s big thing is going to be the PK. Can he get the Oilers PK up to a top ten type level? He’s done it a few times before. And then you have Manny Viveiros. And I don’t care what Todd McLellan says, I really believe that the pp will be Viveiros’ baby. It is without a doubt THE flaw with the Oilers is their special teams. And yes, personnel helps. Washington’s pp is consistently amazing mainly because they have about as perfect of personnel for a pp as you can find. But the Oilers definitely have the ingredients to be a top ten or even top five pp in the league. So it’s mainly on this coaching staff, and if they don’t get the job done, Todd McLellan’s job is going to be in serious jeopardy.
So before I begin, it didn’t seem to matter where I went Saturday night, EVERYONE had an opinion on my opinion of the Golden Knights one way or another! Partied with a few different groups of people, and I heard it from all angles. Thanks for reading boys! I assumed maybe four people did, but maybe it’s nine! But one thing I’ll say is don’t confuse me not being a fan of the Golden Knights with me not thinking they’re going to win the Cup. I truly believe they’re going to win the Cup. That team just looks as though they have a feeling of invincibility right now, and I won’t be surprised at all if they sweep Washington. And it’s not at all to piss on the Caps. If Vegas sweeps, I believe it’ll be four real tight hockey games. But Vegas wins those games.
Washington can win this series, no doubt. I’m sure there are more reasons than this, but I got four big reasons why or how they can win.
This is the first series where the Golden Knights are facing a team who also feel as though they’ve got zero pressure on them and perhaps this is the first series where the Golden Knights have more pressure on them then their opposition.
The Golden Knights haven’t faced a squad this skilled. The Jets have a better team than the Caps, but the Caps skill level is maybe unmatched.
The Caps just beat two teams in the Lightning and Pens who bring the same kind of speed to the table that the Golden Knights do. The Golden Knights speed shouldn’t be much different for Washington.
Holtby can match Fleury. The dirty little secret of the Jets/Golden Knights series is that Connor Hellebuyck wasn’t good. He was fighting the puck in a lot of those four loses. Holtby on the other hand hasn’t allowed a goal now for eight periods of play, and has been great since entering the playoffs in the third period of game two against Columbus.
But having said all this, I don’t think they will. I believe the Golden Knights will sweep the Caps. I don’t know why you wouldn’t believe the same at this point? They have absolutely everyone committed to playing counter attack hockey, playing 200 feet, they make almost no mistakes, and when they’re getting outplayed Marc-Andre Fleury is just playing on a level that not even guys like J.S. Giguere in 2003 or Jonathan Quick in 2012 played on. It’s funny, some people who are trying to sell me on why Vegas is so wonderful are getting testy about me pointing out that it’s mainly because of Fleury. It’s just a fact though. .947 Sv%. It’s the all time best of anyone who played a minimum of ten playoff games. It’s not taking away from their success, it’s just that he’s been far and away the main reason they’re here and anyone in that organization would say the same.
For me, I just hope its a great series. Seven games, exciting hockey, maybe some OT’s because these playoffs have frankly sucked as a whole. Two game sevens that were both blowouts, not many OT’s, not many high scoring games, not many hard hitting games, it’s bad by playoff hockey standards. So I just hope that I’m craving the series to go to a 5th, 6th and 7th game more than seeing it end so others can join me in draft talk for the next month.
This is just cathartic for me. I’m not doing this one for clicks or in hopes the right people see/read it like I normally do. I’m doing this one because if I don’t write about it right now all I do is refresh twitter hoping/praying for ANY kind of good news on the situation. And so far I’m asking myself why I put the picture up because when I first saw it tonight was Gord Miller posted it on Twitter and I literally just broke down. I was having a tough time with it before the picture, but that just sent me over the edge.
So I hope the nephews don’t get sick of me talking about them on here but I have to tell this story. They got home last night from Whitecourt, and I was on the treadmill, Steph is in Mexico so I’m home alone, headphones on so I can’t hear anything, and all of a sudden they’re walking down my stairs. I’m glad I don’t have heart problems. So they stayed for two or three hours just hanging out shooting the shit. It’s not like I haven’t been talking to them all year, we text usually several times a week. But in person with a lot of time to talk, we can really get into stuff. And it was just non stop stories about the team this season. Not on the ice, off the ice. And you literally couldn’t wipe the smile off my face thinking back to it today, because I know exactly how great those times are. I was pumped for the twins, and it brings back some of my favourite memories. If you don’t play or have never played, you might not get it. But if you have, you do. You literally become a family. There are guys on the team that you probably aren’t going to like. But you get on the ice or you’re in the room or wherever you are and you don’t give that any thought. You go to battle alongside these guys night in, night out. It’s just different. You might think “well I work with people everyday and don’t feel that way”. Right. It’s not the same. I’m not even sure it’s entirely the same in other sports as it is in hockey.
I look at the friendships I have, and I’m lucky because I feel like I have a lot of close friends. And just about all those friends are either guys I’ve gone to battle with, or guys who know EXACTLY what I’m talking about. So the thing I keep coming back to is how close to home this hits, literally and figuratively.
Literally, because it happened just four hours away from me, and I know kids playing in the league, who played in the league in the past, have watched the league in the past, etc.
Figuratively though is what’s rattling me the most in that I can put myself there. They’re on their way to play the biggest game of the season. You’re anxious to get there. You’re likely having a ton of laughs or great conversation with the boys. You’re thinking about getting in the room, getting the music going, stretching out, and getting your gear on.
There is a reason the mid 80’s documentary done on the Edmonton Oilers was titled “The Boys on the Bus”. In that video, something that always stuck with me is what Kevin Lowe says, but it’s not Kevin’s words, but rather Paul Coffey who he quotes. And he says when he gets away from the game it’s not the game itself that he’s going to miss, it’s the 30 minutes or so before taking the ice when everyone is getting ready. And it’s SO DAMN TRUE. I think back to when I was a kid, and we didn’t take buses often to our games, mainly just to provincial games that were a fair distance away. But you loved going on the bus, there was something different about it. And the times you have hanging out with the boys while on the bus, it’s just different.
I’m terrified of the news, and yet I’m on pins and needles waiting for it. I guess you’re optimism is literally fighting your pessimism, at least with me it is, maybe not for others, I’m not all that normal.
Anyway, only reason I put this out there is in hopes of it maybe being as cathartic for anyone to read as it’s been for me to write. Doesn’t make the situation one ounce better, it’s devastating, horrific, I can’t come up with an adjective that feels like it does the situation justice. I have one slight connection to this team, don’t know anyone either on the team or involved with the team, and yet I feel like I know them all. That could have been any team, any league, and I don’t think it would feel any different right now. I got two nephews playing in the neighbouring league, same level of hockey, and that was the first thing their dad said to me tonight is that could have been them, and that’s tough to get out of my head too.
I don’t know how to end this because I want to put a positive spin on it but I just can’t find anyway to do it. “Multiple deaths” is what the police have thus far confirmed, Darren Dreger said “the loss is believed to be staggering”, which just makes me even more sick to my stomach for everyone involved and not want to see what the end result is. Glad to see that Parker Tobin of Stoney Plain sounds like he’s going to be ok as he mom posted about it on Twitter a short time ago. So that’s one of you. Still the rest of the team, the coaching staff, the trainers, the team bus driver, I’m praying I hear more good news on all of you as well in the coming hours. #prayforhumboldt
Why bother to sugar coat this? Fact of the matter is it isn’t the best of times in Lloydminster. Oil prices are horrible, there for a lot of people have either lost their job or are facing a very uncertain near future. Bill 6 has people outraged and looks to be something that would change the face of farming in Alberta. And the government in power both federally and provincially (at least for those on the Alberta side) aren’t what you would call “prairie friendly”. Dark days are here and they look like they’re not going away any time soon.
Not the most uplifting start to this piece is it? Merry Christmas by the way…
But this is a TOUGH f’n town. Where guys who own companies drive the most beat up vehicles, could care less about personal appearances, and put in 16 hour days. Ok, so maybe I can only think of 1 guy who does that (and those who know me know exactly who I’m talking about), but it embodies what the town is all about. Whether you’re in oil, ranching or farming, you have to bust your ass to make a go of it.
So where am I going with all this? Well we have a pretty damn good AJHL team in this city right now in the Lloydminster Bobcats. And they’re at a crossroads in their season, ironically enough at the midway point.
The season started pretty much perfect. They started off 7-0 and even in the 8th game which they lost 4-1 to the defending AJHL champion Spruce Grove Saints. And the Bobcats really dominated that hockey and deserved a better fate that night. They managed to get their revenge 8 days later, in Spruce Grove with an impressive 5-4 win, and just like in September the Bobcats rolled through the month of October.
But November was a completely different story. Back to back home loses to the Sherwood Park Crusaders and the next night to the last place Fort McMurray Oil Barrons. They escaped Sherwood Park with a 2-1 OT win on the 14th, but then fell once again to the Saints a week later. They swept Fort McMurray in the last set of games in the month, but they were a lot closer than expected as they had to come from behind in the 2nd game to pull out a 4-3 OT win.
A flip of the calender didn’t do much good as they dropped one at home to the rival Bonnyville Pontiacs in OT. Now, a 5-4 stretch isn’t anything to get too worried about for most teams. But when you’re hosting the RBC Cup, expectations are sky high.
Some of it without a doubt is transition. Gord Thibodeau is in the process of tweaking his hockey club, and things on the ice obviously aren’t going to be smooth to begin with. It’s been a lot of tweaking too. Since September 15th:
And we still have a month to go until the trade deadline for Thibodeau to continue to make moves to ensure he has the roster he wants heading into the playoffs, and into the RBC.
And so Wednesday night the Bobcats reached that crossroads I talked about earlier. Lose, and people are going to be asking what’s going on with this team which looked like a world beater in the first 2 months of the season. Win, and that gets buried at least for another few days. Oh and wouldn’t you know, it was the defending champs, top team in the league, and number 4 ranked team in the country rolling into town.
Like the last few weeks, it was a bit of a roller coaster for the Cats. A dominant 2nd period left them with a 2-0 lead headed to the 3rd, only to let it slip away as the Saints tied it with under 2 to play.
But they didn’t fold. They stuck with it, got the game to a shootout where they pulled out the 3-2 win. Overall you probably wouldn’t say they played that well, nothing pretty. But it rarely is when you’re looking to break out of a funk. Nevertheless, that’s a huge win under their belt as we head into the 2nd half of the season.
Now they just have to build off of that momentum. That’s what this town is looking for right now. Something to build off of, get that momentum back. It won’t be easy, and there will still be peaks and valleys, but the team just has to stick with it. The talent isn’t going to be the problem, they’re pretty loaded. If they want to win the Gas Drive Cup, and win the RBC Cup, they just have to take the cue from the people of this town. When that momentum isn’t going your way, you just have to grind it out and find ways to win. Eventually it’ll turn.