Category Archives: Lloydminster Area

All hockey from the Lloydminster area including the Jr. A Bobcats, Lloyd minor hockey, and more

Hot Takes – May 28th, 2018

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.  But 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 boat load 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, personal helps.  Washington’s pp is consistently amazing mainly because they have about as perfect of personal 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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

 

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

#prayforHumboldt

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

6 Mitchell Girolami LW * Feb 29, 2000 6′ 175 L Humboldt, SK, Canada
9 Graysen Cameron RW May 3, 1999 6′ 170 R Olds, AB, Canada
11 Jacob Leicht LW * Feb 14, 1999 5’8 155 L Humboldt, SK, Canada
12 Conner Lukan LW Jan 14, 1997 5’10 180 L Slave Lake, AB, Canada
13 Jaxon Joseph C Sep 15, 1997 6’1 201 R Edmonton, AB, Canada
15 Tyler Smith C May 28, 1998 6’1 185 R Leduc, AB, Canada
16 Kaleb Dahlgren RW Jun 10, 1997 5’9 185 R Saskatoon, SK, Canada
17 Evan Thomas RW Sep 6, 1999 5’11 180 L Saskatoon, SK, Canada
18 Logan Hunter RW * Nov 9, 1999 6’3 195 R St. Albert, AB, Canada
19 Matthieu Gomercic LW Jul 21, 1997 6’3 201 L Winnipeg, MB, Canada
20 Logan Schatz C Sep 16, 1997 5’9 170 L Allan, SK, Canada
21 Nick Shumlanski C Jun 12, 1997 5-7 150 L Tisdale , SK, Canada
23 Derek Patter C Aug 12, 1998 5’9 180 R Edmonton, AB, Canada
26 Brayden Camrud C Jul 24, 1998 5’9 180 L Saskatoon, SK, Canada
3 Xavier Labelle D Nov 17, 1999 6’2 190 R Saskatoon, SK, Canada
5 Adam Herold D * Apr 12, 2001 6′ 180 L Montmartre, SK, Canada
7 Stephen Wack D Jan 25, 1997 6’6 220 R St. Albert, AB, Canada
10 Ryan Straschnitzki D Apr 20, 1999 5’11 185 R Aidrie, AB, Canada
14 Bryce Fiske D Nov 6, 1997 5’11 185 R La Ronge, SK, Canada
24 Morgan Gobeil D * Nov 11, 1999 5’11 185 L Humboldt, SK, Canada
27 Logan Boulet D Mar 2, 1997 6’2 192 L Lethbridge, AB, Canada
28 Layne Matechuk D * Feb 7, 2000 5’11 175 R Colonsay, SK, Canada
30 Parker Tobin G Sep 22, 1999 6′ 185 L Stoney Plain, AB, Canada L
31 Jacob Wassermann G * Jan 9, 2000 6’5 195 L Humboldt, SK, Canada L
Darcy Haugan Head Coach/GM
Chris Beaudry Assistant Coach
Mark Cross Assistant Coach

Trying To Regain Momentum

Lloydminster_bobcats2Why 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:

Out

Brett Everson

Ryan Ternes

Pat Geary

Allan McPherson

Ryan Hendrix

MacKenzie Bauer

Taylor Lotoski

Josh Giacomin

Zach McNeill

Brendan Kallis

Austin Yaremchuk

Marco Ballarin

 

In

Adam Berg

Stefan Wood

Greydon Robinson

Kris Spriggs

Brett Smythe

Greg Moro

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.

 

Follow me on Twitter @TJ_Soups

Royal BobCats

 

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Terrible I know.  It’s the best I could come up with.  I was going to go with “Lloydminster Bobcats Awarded RBC Cup”, but I didn’t want to be original.

 

Well if you’re a hockey fan, and you live in the Lloydminster area, things haven’t exactly sucked lately.  The reputation this city is getting for hosting these big events is nothing short of remarkable.  “Lloyd sucks, this town is such a hole”….you aren’t hearing a lot from “that guy” these days are you?

 

I had heard the team and city was going to be awarded the event roughly 3 weeks ago, but held off saying anything about it on twitter until last week.  And even then I didn’t exactly come out defiantly stating “it is coming!!!” despite knowing it was.  I would like to break a story if I can, but I also don’t want to be the guy who does anything to ruin something like hosting an event like the RBC Cup!

 

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Rapuano is one of many Bobcats who could play both on Hockey Day in Canada and the RBC Cup

I can’t help but think of how cool of a Jr.A career might it be for a kid like Pat Geary, or Troy Rapuano, or River Beattie, or Mitch Brennan or so many of these kids who played on Hockey Day in Canada and now could play for the host team in the RBC Cup?!  That would be a run likely never duplicated.  Now, who knows what might happen as far as trades or making jumps to the next level, etc.  But right now it has to be exciting for the guys who have at least 2 years left!

 

So now the preparation will begin, and could this organization ask for better people to set the table than Gary Van Hereweghe and the returning Gord Thibodeau?  Up until last season Jr.A hockey fans in this town had always been clamouring for the days of Thibodeau coaching the team.  His squads in 98-99 and 99-2000 had been the most successful Jr.A teams in town until Van Hereweghe showed up last season and took a team that was expected to do nothing all the way to game 7 of the North semi-final against the Thibodeau coached Fort Mac Oil Barons.

 

Now a year later the Bobcats have both in the fold, and a team that is setup to do some damage in the next few seasons.  And I really think Thibodeau and Van Hereweghe will work well together.  Both like their teams playing very disciplined and structured games.  Detail oriented guys and it really was a chess match between the two in the North semi-final this past season.  They can both recruit as well as anyone in the AJHL, so with the built in advantage of hosting the RBC in 2016 you can bet that the Bobcats will be a pretty talented team the next few seasons.  A pretty crazy turnaround from the start of last season, and REALLY crazy from the end of the 2012 season when it looked like they were headed to Whitecourt!

 

Guaranteed the city of Lloydminster will knock it out of the park with this event like they do all the others.  Expectations will be high, because this town has set the bar pretty high!  As someone who has lived here most of his life, you constantly hear about the negatives.  Well we must be doing SOMETHING right, because big events keep coming and people from other parts of the country keep raving about the job we do putting them on.  Well, I use the term “we” loosely.  My sister is usually working her ass off helping put events like this on, I just look to leach off the credit she gets and then write about it all afterwards.  Damn, said that out loud…

 

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Lost the Battle, Won the War

 

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It sucks.  Flat out sucks.  I was messaging with Bobcats Captain Grant Baker for a bit after the game last night and I just felt sick for him.  Felt sick for the entire team.  I was fortunate enough to start doing the color (yes I use American spelling for you first time readers) commentary for their games back in January and frankly I sat in on one pre game interview with play by play man Shane Tomayer and didn’t really have anything to do with anyone on the team except for Grant and rookie forward River Beattie whom my sister and brother in law were billets for.  But nevertheless you get attached to a team when they go on a ride like this.  But even though it is now over, what an unbelievable run it was!

 

Whether it has been the Bobcats, the Blazers, or even the Lancers which I’m too young to have watched (don’t get to say that much anymore), this city hasn’t seen much quality Jr. A hockey over the years.  The Blazers had some pretty good years in the late 90’s/early 2000’s (as I hit on too many times during our broadcasts), they had a few years where they maybe would win a round, but nothing special.  The ONE season they had a team capable of winning the league happened to be the 99-2000 season, when Fort McMurray was hosting the RBC Cup and had bought…sorry, no backspace button….had BROUGHT in one of the best teams ever to play in the AJHL.  So I guess you could say this city has been snake bit when it comes to the Blazers/Bobcats.

 

It’s pretty tough to gain any traction when a team just seems to have 1 disappointment after another.  It finally looked like things had changed a few years ago when Brian Curran did a tremendous job here and was really the best coached we’ve had in Lloyd for a long time.  Curran had the Bobcats 3rd in the North and it looked as though they were about to go on a pretty good playoff run.  But just when it looked like things were turning, the team was swept in the first round and came close to being moved to Whitecourt.  Curran moved on to Drumheller, and even though the team was staying they were back to the bottom yet again.

 

Even after that scare of the team leaving, and now being basically community owned, it’s been tough to draw fans because quite frankly it doesn’t matter how anyone thinks the team will do, anyone from Lloyd just expects the team to never come close.  This season the team gets off to a very surprising start, maintains there spot in the top half of the North all season long, has maybe their best game of the regular season on Hockey Day in Canada in front of a packed house, yet games 1 and 2 against Whitecourt even though the crowds were solid, you could simply tell that people weren’t buying in.  Man did they ever start buying in….

 

I know I wrote all about it in my last piece on the team but game 4 in Whitecourt, trailing 2-0 in the 2nd to a dysfunctional but very talented Wolverines team, and they fight back to tie it.  Go down 3-2, tie it.  Go down 4-3 late in the 3rd of that game, and still down by that score with under 30 seconds to play.  Most teams don’t mean to quit in that situation, but you can’t help but get rushed, panicked, and frustrated.  They kept their heads though and guess who…Austin McDonald scored to tie it with just 10 seconds left and take it to OT where Taylor Mulder wasted no time ending things.

 

A winner take all game 5 is of course going to bring people out to the rink, but don’t think for a second the way they fought back in game 4 had nothing to do with it.  And they just kept building…oh hold on a second, I have to respond to Tyler King’s tweets as once again his picture of himself trying to look professional followed by his childish twitter fights are clogging up my timeline….ANYWAY, they just kept building momentum and this town really started to take notice this team wasn’t your normal Bobcats/Blazers team, they had something special going on.

 

The 99 team wasn’t as good as the 2000 team, but the 99 team came closer to going to the league final.  They were up 3-0 on the then St.Albert Saints with game 4 at home.  That team was led by Mark Hallem whom of course everyone who goes to the Civic knows because he’s the only one with his number retired.  But they were carried by mid season pickup Ray Fraser who had been with the Seattle Thunderbirds and was lights out for the Blazers.  He got hurt in game 4 of that series and everything simply fell apart from that point on.

 

So why bring that up…in the middle of talking about how great this year’s team was?  Well because this just had such a better route to game 7.  They go down 3-1 in this series and simply weren’t getting ANY breaks, especially in game 4 where they really controlled the game.  It would have been the easiest thing ever for this crew to pack it in.  It was already a successful season.  They were down 1-0 going into the 3rd and AGAIN they don’t die.  Fort Mac ties the game late, and AGAIN they don’t die.  Tanner Dunkle comes up huge in OT and they bring it home.

 

BjizFxjCMAA8zDjThere have been atmosphere’s as good as game 6 was at the Civic Centre, but not for a Jr. A hockey game.  And they didn’t let the fans down either.  For 60 minutes they played fantastic.  Chris Tai had a 32 save shutout and at the end of the broadcast I didn’t really even consider him for player of the game.  Wasn’t because he was in anyway bad, it was because while Fort Mac had 32 shots on goal, the Bobcats really gave them maybe 2 quality scoring chances.

 

If you tell someone at the start of the season that the Bobcats are going to game 7 of the North semi-final and the team is taking both a fan bus and a fan PLANE to the game and people all over town were gathering at each others homes to watch the game, simply saying you would be laughed out of the room doesn’t do that any kind of justice.  That would have been the equivalent of me telling you right now that the Oilers are trading Sam Gagner and Jeff Petry for Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty this off season.  If you thought I was serious what would your reaction be?  Exactly, yet the former actually happened.

 

Again, it sucks how it ended.  No power plays in game 7?  Brendan Saulnier wasn’t suspended after yet ANOTHER head shot on a player in this series?  It sounds like sour grapes to say things like “the refs cost us the game”, but it’s no secret with anyone who knows the league that  Fort Mac somehow magically gets the benefit of the calls a hell of a lot more often than not so I don’t blame anyone for saying that stuff.  But man alive does this team have nothing to hang their heads about.  They battled their asses off all season long.  A simply amazing coaching job by Gary Vanhereweghe.  I had been told prior to the season by former Blazer bench boss (and my brother in law, but that makes it sound less professional) Danny Haygarth “unreal hire, he’s a GREAT coach”, and that turned out to be an understatement.

 

Selfishly I have to take a minute in here to thank Shane Tomayer for having me join him on the broadcasts.  This is the last time we will be doing the broadcasts and it sucks because Shane has done both play by play and color for the games for a lot of years and he does a great job as I’m sure a lot of you have found out.  Don’t know why he wanted me to come in a wreck that….I was horribly rough at the start and by game 6 of the semi-final I was only below average, but I had such a blast doing the games!

 

But this is about the team and I don’t know how many of the boys, if any, will read this.  They’re setup to have some great years in the seasons to come, but this group will be known as the one that started it all.  Every single one of those kids bought into Vanhereweghe’s system and battled every single night.  Changing the culture is the hardest thing to do in sports, even in junior hockey where rosters are turned over dramatically and no team has more than a 1 or 2 year window to win.  Trust me though, there have been some pretty talented teams in this town who had little to no success at all.  This team changed the culture.  It was an unreal run, you got the city buzzing about the team, tough for the boys to be pumped about this right now but this was an insanely successful season, today this town is saluting you guys.

 

Crowd Salute

 

Follow me on twitter @TJ_Soups

Clawing Back

 

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See what I did there?  Clever hey?  I wonder how many guys in this town have come up with the same headline?  Colin Budd, Robb Fenton, Chris Roberts, now Andrew Brethauer….I’m going to guess they all used the exact same headline at some point, so really it’s not anything creative.  Having said that, it’s as fitting as it gets.

 

On the road, goalie Chris Tai pulled for the extra man, trailing almost the entire 120 minutes while on the road for games 3 and 4 in Whitecourt, and with 10 seconds left in their season Austin McDonald came up huge and gave the Lloydminster Bobcats new life.  For the Whitecourt Wolverines, there is simply no way in their minds they weren’t already on the bus headed for Spruce Grove to start their 2nd round series against the Saints.  It’s only natural that they would have been thinking that way.

 

Taylor Mulder was able to complete the epic game 4 comeback 4:35 into OT forcing the 5th and final game in Lloyd.  And for the Wolverines, what is about a 5 hour bus ride to Lloyd likely felt like 5 days.  To comeback from that kind of kick in the stomach is a pretty tough task.  But the Bobcats had a similar kick in the gut in game 2.  Blowing leads of 3-0, 4-3, and 5-4 before finally losing in OT 6-5.  And not only that, but they had to deal with an injury to their captain and top D-man Grant Baker, and Chris Tai after posting a shutout in game 1 was sidelined with food poisoning for game 2 and 3, and probably still wasn’t feeling all that great in game 4.

 

After seeing how the series changed after game 2, it was tough to imagine the Wolverines could stay with the Bobcats in game 5.  The Bobcats had all the momentum and it showed early in game 5.  Lloyd controlled the play early, and the Wolverines D had a lot of trouble handling the Bobcats forecheck and it burned them early as the goals by McDonald and Tanner Dunkle were both a result of the Whitecourt D were unable to handle the pressure.

 

After that, Tai took over as the Wolverines tried to push back.  Late in the 1st, the AJHL’s leading scorer Colten Mayor got left all alone as the puck game to him in the slot, and Tai made an acrobatic 10 bell save to keep it a 2-0 game.  Late in the 2nd on the PK, after Lukas Biensch scored a back breaker to make it 3-0, he once again stepped up as Wolverines defenceman Tyson Helgeson who was able to unleash a bullet with a wide open lane to the net but again Tai stepped up.

 

Matt Abt, who was simply a stud all series long, got the Wolves on the board to make it 3-1 early in the 3rd, but then Austin McDonald, who might be the most dangerous player short handed in the AJHL, sniped an absolute beauty walking around Gionni Magone and going back hand, top cheese to basically seal the game and the series.  After that, despite getting a goal from Colten Mayor to make it 4-2, the Wolverines were completely out of gas.  Hardly any push in the final 10 minutes of the hockey game as having to lean on their star players all series while Bobcats head coach Gary Van Hereweghe was able to get quality minutes out of all 4 of his lines and all 6 of his D-men.

 

Quite a season for the Bobcats.  Not much was expected out of this team entering the year, and frankly this town never expects too much out of their teams.  The one time Lloyd had a look at going to RBC Cup was in 2000 when Fort McMurray was completely loaded due to hosting that year.  This was the first playoff series won at home in 10 years.  So this team has really overachieved in the fans mind this season.  Then of course hosting Hockey Day in Canada back in January, and now coming back from 2-1 down to a top heavy Whitecourt team on the road and closing the series out at home.

 

It won’t be easy in the 2nd round against the Fort McMurray Oil Barrons, but the Bobcats took 3 of 4 points to end the season at home against the Oil Barrons when the MOB were still fighting for 1st overall.  So they’ll have some confidence entering this series.  I’m expecting a great series.

 

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Beauty Day!

 

What a show put on by CBC and the city of Lloydminster this past week.  For those who don’t live in the area, it is fashionable for the locals to bash the city.  Not to be anything of a hypocrite, I find myself doing it from time to time.  Hey, I want to fit in with the cool kids at school….which isn’t easy for a 30 year old wannabe like myself!  But the truth is while it is a small town and definitely has it’s warts, the good far outweighs the bad.  And while I put up with some of the local bashing, when I hear it I also take it a little bit personal despite speaking up.  That’s where I grew up, my family lives, the large majority of my friends are from the area, I don’t really get a thrill out of hearing it to put it nicely.  ANYWAY, it’s nice to be able to stick the chest out a little and brag it up.  Hockey Day in Canada has allowed me to do just that.

 

Not in anyway a shock to me that this thing was such a huge hit.  And it was actually a hit.  Sometimes you hear that stuff from the people involved and the bigger names who come for it.  You HAVE to say those things no matter how the events go, nobody is ever going to be the guy that says “hey Lloyd, that was terrible, and the city should be ashamed of itself”.  But I got the chance to hang around Saturday night after the Bobcats game and talk to some of the alumni players and media members from out of town and off the record they were still singing the praises.  Greg Sansone now of Sportsnet was raving about it and said privately all the guys were as well.  That stuff really is great to hear and know that those guys aren’t just saying it because they have to.

 

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Tuesday morning’s unpleasant surprise

Obviously the concern on Tuesday was when the one corner of the outdoor rink blew down.  The thing that shocked me was how shocked everyone from out of town was that they were able to get the rink put back up in time.  Maybe I’m just used to that kind of work ethic from the community.  I mean I’m a guy who puts in 12 hours a day, 6 days a week, tries (sometimes successfully, sometimes not) to get a workout in and possibly to post something that’s worth your while to read on here at some point after work.  Yet there are a lot of days where I question my work ethic because I’m flooded by people who do that and then some every day as well.

 

Rusway had a big part in putting the rink back together.  Well my dad and Uncle’s company (Valley C, for whom I work for as well) do just about every job along side Rusway.  Very rarely a day goes by that there isn’t a Rusway/Valley C combination on a job site.  There are days where I talk to their foreman Bert more than I talk to guys I work with!  But anyway the point is it just never ever crossed my mind that it wouldn’t get done.  That’s because that is what I’ve grown up in.  Everyone chips in, things get done, they done quickly, and they get done right.

 

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Tomayer and Campbell look good behind that desk, I know you’re reading this Scott Moore…

The week seemingly went flawless, at least I never noticed anything going wrong (after the rink was fixed up), all the events were amazing, other than being windy as hell the weather was awesome which made it easy for people to actually want to go out to the events, and the big thrill for me was getting to join Shane Tomayer in the broadcast booth and do color commentary for the game on FASTHockey.com.  And Shane did an unreal job on the play by play because I’m sure you all seen the Bobcats uni’s for the game…it was NOT easy to see those numbers!!  Add to that, Sherwood Park’s uni’s didn’t have numbers on the shoulders, and it isn’t as if we have a monitor to see the game more clearly than we can from the North East corner of the Civic Centre.  Yet the man was flawless in his call of the game, and does not only a damn good call of the game, but an entertaining call as well.

 

We mentioned it A LOT on the broadcast, but it was so difficult to do with so many distractions.  I can’t think of anything witty in this spot so I’ll just go with the cliche…I was a kid in a candy store!  Craig MacTavish and Mark Napier standing right in front of us during the broadcast.  Lanny McDonald going out of his way to come introduce himself to Shane and I while doing the opening for the game.  Dirk Irvin whom I simply had to go mid broadcast just to shake his hand and say hello while he wasn’t being bothered.  Darcy Tucker during the 2nd intermission doing the same as Lanny did and since we weren’t on the air talked us up for a good 10 minutes all on his own.  Marty McSorley doing the same thing after the broadcast was over.  Greg Sansone from Sportsnet who came down to check out some things for Rogers who will be running that show from now on talked to Shane and myself for probably 15-20 minutes near the end of the night.  And all chatting us up like we had all hung out before.  Now I’m not stupid, they had some “influence” in their system which usually brings the personality out in people….but nonetheless they were all just awesome!

 

Maybe the most relieving part for me was that the Bobcats were able to maintain a high energy level for the full 60 minutes in a 3-0 win.  When it was still only 1-0 after 2, I was pretty paranoid that the Crusaders were going to get that one golden opportunity, and with Devin Green seeing hardly any action all game long they would be able to snipe and take all the air out of the arena.  But luckily Green did a great job of staying focused, made the big save when he had to, and the Tanner Dunkle put 2 home at the other end to seal a huge victory not only because it was on HNIC, but the Crusaders and Bobcats are neck and neck in the standings.  From start to finish, the Bobcats dominated out shooting Sherwood Park 35-15.  Awesome to see!

 

I’m still not sure how after 30 years of being so hockey obsessed that it’s my sister who gets to stand behind Don Cherry and not me.  Just because she was one of the “organizers” and actually put in a lot of work for the event, that’s just ridiculous that she gets rewarded for hard work….in all seriousness that was pretty cool to see, although for myself I was stressing the entire time knowing that she would want me taking pictures of it with HER camera and I didn’t have it…but that’s another story.

 

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Ron and Don during Coaches Corner

Of course I can’t end this without talking about Ron McLean.  Grapes gets all the glory, and understandably so.  But McLean is simply one of the finest Canadians walking the earth today.  Think I’m overstating that?  You can think that all you want, I honestly believe that.  He lives this event every year more than anyone else.  The whole week he is involved in absolutely everything he possibly can be.  The man had to of put in hundreds of hours reading up on Lloyd alone, let alone all the other work he would have had to do to get ready for the event.  He stands on the ice during hockey day and rattles off fact after fact and stories and name drops the local teams and people he had literally just met and does it with no assistance.  No prompter, nobody feeding him this through his earpiece, it’s all him.

 

My buddy Drew Dalby from the GOAT was telling me that when he came into studio last week, Ron had studied up on Drew!  And then name dropped him on the broadcast Saturday!  And while I unfortunately didn’t have the privilege to meet him (despite being literally 10 feet away from him most of Saturday night), anything you ever hear about the man is how genuinely nice of a man he is.  Has all the time in the world for everyone and nobody has one bad thing to say about the man.  He is as hard working, successful, famous and yet the most humble man and I simply cannot say enough great things about Ron McLean.

 

So hats off to not only Lloyd but the entire region.  The people of Kitscoty, Paradise Valley, Marwayne, Lashburn, Maidstone and all the small communities around the region shouldn’t be forgotten.  Easy for me to remember that since I grew up with a Lloyd address and phone number, went to school in Marwayne, and played hockey in both Dewberry and PV (is that mixed race?)  So many people from the area chipped in to put this thing on and did so willingly.  This was a once in a lifetime chance for the city and it sniped top shelf.

 

Follow me on twitter @TJ_Soups