Chris Roberts/Courtesy of lloydminstersource.com
Unfortunately for the Lloydminster Bobcats, effort alone does not win hockey games.
If it did, we would surely be looking at a team that has a better record than 5-15-4 and that dropped a pair of weekend games against the Drayton Valley Thunder.
After a subpar performance on Friday night, losing 5-1 to the Thunder, the ‘Cats bounced back with one of their better efforts of the season on Saturday. But in what has become more than a trend with this team, they were unable to capitalize on their chances and close out a game they should have won, losing 1-0 in a shootout.
“When you work like that, wins will come,” said Bobcats head coach Ryan Parent. “The work ethic was there, the game plan was there, we didn’t give Drayton anything all day. Obviously, we hit a lot of crossbars, they might have hit one, but I know we hit more than that.”
A lot of crossbars may even be an understatement; after Dustin Lebrun scored first for the Bobcats in the shootout, they hit iron on three of their final four shots while the Thunder capitalized on two of their five shots.
“It was definitely a heart-breaker, you know, hitting three posts,” said recently-acquired forward Tanner Dunkle following the game. “I thought we had it in the books there when we got that first goal, but they come down and get that lucky one and then we go down and hit the posts, it’s just not going for us right now.”
Saturday night was nothing new for the ‘Cats however: despite dwelling in the AJHL basement nearing the halfway mark of the season, the Bobcats have now lost 13 games by two goals or less.
In his first weekend with the team, however, Dunkle liked what he saw from the Bobcats, particularly on Saturday.
“I think we just have to keep going at it like we did tonight… I think it’ll come as we keep coming together like we are,” he said.
The Bobcats set the pace for the opening two periods, obviously hoping to put Friday night’s result behind them, but Thunder goaltender Mitch Maraschiello was equal to the 21 shots he faced. Martin was good for the ‘Cats when he needed to be as well, though he wasn’t tested much, having to stop just 10 shots in the opening two frames.
And though the Bobcats only gave up five shots in the third, they were quality chances and Martin was forced to make big saves, most notably a pair of breakaway stops nearing the end of regulation.
“We had the goaltending, we defended well … Chase gives us a chance to win every day,” Parent said.
For the Bobcats, their best chance in the third period came halfway through the frame as Jason Wark circled behind the net, sticking close to the boards before throwing the puck across the ice to a pinching Spencer Johnstone who was denied by the sprawling Maraschiello.
The officials let the two teams play in the fast-paced third period, but Parent was a little critical of a minor handed out to defenceman Linden Springer at the end of regulation. Drayton Valley’s Nathan Smith gave Springer a shot to the face and it had looked as though the Bobcats would get the man advantage heading into overtime, but Springer was sent to the box to join Smith after some deliberation by the officials.
“I thought for sure when Springer got hit in the face he didn’t punch back,” Parent said. “Those are opportunities when your team’s disciplined and you expect to be rewarded with a power play.”
Instead, the two teams played an up-tempo three-on-three overtime that solved nothing before the Thunder stole the victory in the shootout.
“They’ll come, it’s a bit of a grind but that’s the game,” Parent added.
The Bobcats are next in action tomorrow night against the Crusaders when they visit Sherwood Park.
They’ll host the Okotoks Oilers Saturday night at the Centennial Civic Centre.