The Lloydminster Bobcats struggled to find their legs out of the gate, but once they broke through to get the first goal it was all downhill as the 'Cats knocked off the Grande Prairie Storm 6-1 at the Centennial Civic Centre.
The two combatants came into tonight's match up with recent histories that nearly mirrored each other. On day two of the AJHL Showcase in Camrose on October 2nd, the Bobcats fell to the Brooks Bandits 4-1, and later on that same day the Storm defeated the Canmore Eagles 3-2. Looking at a 60-game season, neither of those games matter. However, the Bobcats and Storm have headed in completely opposite directions since then – the Storm dropped nine straight games in regulation coming into tonight after the win on October 2nd, while the 'Cats have not lost since their defeat at the hands of the Bandits.
PHOTO CREDIT: FIVEPENNY PHOTOS
Although recent results would suggest the Bobcats would pick up a win tonight, the game started with the Storm pressing against the 'Cats. For the first ten minutes of the first period, Lloydminster struggled to get anything going offensively, and found themselves under siege in their own zone. Around the midway point of the first period, Storm forward Michael Grant had a golden opportunity in front of the Bobcats net to give the Storm the lead. Instead, Alex Leclerc came up with a glove save that changed the tone of the game. Having pressured for over ten minutes without any results, the Storm soon found themselves on their heels.
Shortly after the save by Leclerc, 'Cats forward Taylor Allan spotted teammate Kevin Darrar at the Storm blue line and sprung him in alone with a feed. Darrar moved in on goaltender Arik Weersink before beating him blocker side to give the 'Cats a 1-0 lead. From there, the 'Cats continued to press.
Within three minutes, Troy Van Tetering forced a turnover in the offensive zone and worked the puck to Taylor Mulder behind the net. The captain spotted Van Tetering heading for the front of the net and worked a give and go to perfection, with Van Tetering sliding the puck five hole on Weersink to take a 2-0 lead. Despite a powerplay late in the first period, the 'Cats were unable to further add to their momentum in the first period, and the teams would head to the dressing room with the score sitting at 2-0 in favour of the home side.
In the second period, the play continued on as it had gone for the latter half of the first, with the Bobcats continuing to apply pressure on the Storm. Just over two minutes into the middle frame, Bobcats forward Marco Ballarin drove the puck into Storm territory, and continued behind the net when he couldn't find the shot he wanted, quickly wrapping the puck around the backside of the goal and beating Weersink to push the lead to three goals. The goal was Ballarin's fourth of the season.With the game snowballing in the Bobcats favour, the Storm were able to find a chink in the Bobcats armour.
With the referee signalling a delayed penalty against the Bobcats, Storm defenceman Carter Wolski gathered the puck in the high slot and found a lane to put a shot on goal. His wrist shot went just underneath the crossbar over Leclerc's glove hand, putting the Storm on the board. For Wolski, it was his first career AJHL goal, and it came in highlight fashion. Unfortunately for the Storm, this wasn't the beginning of a comeback as the Bobcats wouldn't take long to answer back.
On the tail end of a powerplay, with Ian McLellan serving an elbowing minor, Bobcats defenceman Nick Quillan threw the puck on net through traffic, and the point shot was able to find it's way past the crowd and into the net. Quillan's marker would be the 'Cats only powerplay marker of the night, as they went 1 for 6 with the man advantage over the course of the game.
The Bobcats would add another even strength goal in the second period, with Austin Yaremchuk taking a shot that immediately deflected off of a defenders stick, putting it high in the air and continuing over top of a searching Weersink and into the net to put the Bobcats lead at four. As soon as the puck was sent into the air, the goaltender lost sight of it and never tracked it down as it arced through the offensive zone and into the goal.
In the third period, the home team would add one more off the stick of Morgan Messenger to bring the game to it's final score of 6-1. With the goal, Messenger joined linemate Darrar as the first two players on this Bobcats team to reach 10 goals this season.
With the win, the 'Cats win streak now sits at nine games, while Grande Prairie's losing skid extends to ten. Bobcats netminder Alex Leclerc still hasn't suffered a loss since coming to Lloydminster, with his record now a sparkling 11-0-0.
The two teams will get back at it Saturday night at 7:30 PM at the Civic Center. Fans are encouraged to come to the Halloween contest in full costume, as there will be trick or treating and a prize for the best-dressed fan.