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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