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.
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