The Lloydminster Bobcats were looking to build off of perhaps their most impressive weekend of the season on Wednesday evening against the Grand Prairie Storm. A 1-1 weekend may not look like much of an accomplishment, but given the two games were against the top-ranked team in the CJHL in the Brooks Bandits, and the (at the time) 6th ranked Okotoks Oilers. A 4-3 win and a hard fought 5-3 loss is a weekend any team in the AJHL would gladly take facing those two clubs. However, despite another very good effort, the puck luck simply wasn’t there and the Cats came out on the short end of the stick by a score of 3-2.
The Cats had a lot of good jump early on and just 2:20 in it was Brendan Morrow taking the pass from Chad MacLean in the slot and finding the back of the net to make it 1-0. MacLean then had a glorious opportunity to make it 2-0 as he came off the bench while the Cats controlled the puck in the Storm zone. As MacLean got in the play the puck rolled to him in the high slot which he was able to skate into and get everything behind a wrist shot. Unfortunately for MacLean and the Cats, the puck went off the crossbar. This may have been the turning point in the game, as the Storm seemed to get a lift from that break. Juliano Santalucia would tie the game for the Storm as he beat Bobcats starter Josh Dias with a good wrist shot at 10:01 of the period. Then after killing off the only man advantage of the period, the Storm would take the lead at 14:18 as the puck found the stick of Cade Mason who sent a rocket passed Dias. Ethan Strang would make it 3-1 for the Storm before the period was through and the Cats were reeling after a period of play.
Josh Dias held the fort for the Cats in the 2nd period as the Storm were throwing everything they possibly could on goal, but Dias held strong. Unfortunately for the Cats, the Storm’s starting netminder Kaeden Lane was just as good in this contest and he wasn’t going to make life easy for the Bobcats, including stopping Cam Aucoin who got in all alone short-handed in the frame. Neither goaltender was beaten in the period and it remained 3-1 heading into the 3rd.
The Cats made a strong push in the 3rd period as they looked to cut the lead to 1. A Jack Zayat cross checking penalty put the Storm down 5 on 3 for 49 seconds with 9:07 remaining in the 3rd. Off the face off one of the Storm penalty killers would break his stick, essentially putting them down 5 on 2. However “fortunately” for Lane…the net would be knocked off before the Bobcats could capitalize, and the Storm would be able to regroup and subsequently win the next face-off, clear the zone, and kill the rest of the 5 on 3. The Cats would finally break through late in the 5 on 4 power play however as a Gunner Kinniburgh point shot found it’s way to the back of the net. It appeared as though the shot was tipped in front by Nolen Coventry, but nevertheless the Cats were within 1 with 6:19 remaining. In the dying seconds the Cats made a very hard push, but once again as the Cats looked like they may be ready to tie the game, Lane once again “caught a break” with the net coming off its moorings to stop play. Credit where it’s due however, as Lane played a great game stopping 33 of 35 shots and made some big saves late in the game. The Cats were unable to capitalize with the 6th attacker on the ice, the Storm held on for the 3-2 win.
I caught up with Bobcats head coach Nigel Dube after the game who had these thoughts. “I thought we came out with a good start, we did some really good things early on, but then we got away from the hard work. They put their work boots on, and it wasn’t pretty but it started ending up in the back of our net and we simply got outworked. But we came back good and out chanced them in the 2nd, and then in the 3rd it was a nail biter right til the end. I thought we fully controlled play in the 3rd and just didn’t come up with enough. But when you don’t have your work boots on for a full 60, and we learned that the hard way tonight.” I asked the coach what he thought of Storm starter Kaeden Lane knocking his net off its moorings going uncalled late in the game and Dube simply said: “We thought they should have been called, but they weren’t and we just have to move on.”
The Bobcats are on the road this weekend with two games in Drayton Valley and one in Whitecourt sandwiched between those two games. All three games this weekend can be found on Hockey TV, puck drop for Friday’s tilt in Drayton Valley is 7 PM. The Cats next home game will be Friday, January 31st as they’ll host of the Whitecourt Wolverines. As always, if you can’t make it down to the rink, Shane Tomayer (though NOT myself as I will be out of town, much to the delight of our viewers I’m sure!) will have the call for you on Hockey TV, and on the MixLR app!
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