Chris Roberts/Courtesy of lloydminstersource.com
The Lloydminster Bobcats playoff chances were left staggering after last Wednesday’s loss to the Sherwood Park Crusaders, and in the first five minutes of Saturday night’s contest, the Crusaders delivered the likely knockout blow.
Andrew Taverner scored a pair and Arthur Gordon added one for the Crusaders in those five minutes, all but sealing the fate of the Bobcats season as they fell 14 points out of a playoff spot with just 14 games remaining.
Interim head coach Kyle Tapp said his team simply wasn’t prepared to skate at the beginning of the game.
“Whether it’s preparation or whatever, two mental errors on stuff that we worked on for two weeks, that’s all we’ve worked on, and then come game time (we’re) kind of stunned, (causing) a couple bad turnovers,” said Tapp. “That’s the game, any time you make it easy on a team you’re going to look bad, and we made it easy on them twice in a row.”
Taverner’s first goal came just 28 seconds into the game, with a few of the 1,000-plus fans still settling into their seats. His second goal, the Crusader’s third of the game, knocked goaltender Chase Martin from the game. Martin made just one save on four shots.
“I was on that shift, I had a couple mess ups, it’s the way it goes, and after that it just kept coming and coming,” said forward Dustin Lebrun of the game’s opening shift.
“I feel a little responsible myself, I should’ve done a little better on that first shift to get the guys going.”
A late period goal from Danny Smith gave the Crusaders a 4-0 edge heading into the second period. By that point, the game had been settled.
The first period was a huge departure from the inspired effort the team gave at home last Saturday in a game in which they simply dominated with just four defencemen. Simply put, it appeared as though the ‘Cats had reverted back to the team they were throughout the first half of the season.
“We played two playoff games, and in two weeks you’re not going to take a team that’s kind of been licking their wounds and sitting in the cellar for three months and all of a sudden have all the habits and intangible qualities needed to play playoff hockey,” said Tapp. “And Sherwood Park knew that … they wanted all three (games) as bad as we wanted all three.”
The two teams play the third of three straight games tonight at the Civic Centre.
A Tanner Clarkson goal midway through the second period gave some life to the ‘Cats, as did the play of goaltender Devin Green in relief of Martin. But a second period goal from Crusader Stefan Bazar, finishing off a beautiful tic-tac-toe passing play, crushed any bit of Bobcats momentum.
“I feel bad for the guys in that room, but you turn 60 pucks over in two games at the blue line, you can’t win playing like that,” said Tapp.
Green was the lone bright spot for the ‘Cats, stopping 29 of 31 shots, including a flurry of four spectacular saves in a row in the third period, earning the biggest applause of the night from the crowd.
“It’s like the more saves he made the more shots we started to give up. Kudos to him for being ready, it’s a tough job,” said Tapp before confirming that Green will get the start tonight.
Lebrun said the team’s confidence has certainly taken a hit with these last two games, and playoff shot or not, finishing out the season strong is important.
“We need to regain our confidence, getting leaders like myself and other people (to) bring the other guys back up somehow.”
Puck drop for tonight’s contest is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.