Courtesy of @AndrewBrethauer with The Lloydminster Source
Original article posted on lloydminstersource.com
The Spruce Grove Saints still find themselves on top of the Canadian Junior Hockey League rankings. But in the eyes of the Lloydminster Bobcats, there may be a small asterisk beside their name, after the ‘Cats handed the Saints a 4-3 loss Saturday night.
It was the first time this season the Bobcats have defeated the nation’s top ranked team, dropping all four of their previous meetings, including a 7-1 thumping back in December.
But coming off the emotional ride with the nation’s eyes on the Bobcats during Scotiabank Hockey Day in Canada, it seemed only fitting that the Bobcats would continue to live up to the national hype and take down the top team in Canada.
“Today, we went in with a little bit of a swagger and it paid off for us,” said Bobcats defenceman Linden Springer. “We don’t have too many games left, and we look at our schedule and it’s pretty tough. It’s a great way to get the fire burning.”
This season, Lloydminster had never scored more than two goals on the Saints, but Saturday took only five minutes to see the ‘Cats put the goal light on twice. Braden Crone opened the scoring in the first with his 17th goal of the season, while Troy Rapuano would follow suit just over two minutes later to give the Bobcats a 2-0 lead.
Unfortunately, the Bobcats undisciplined play returned in the second half of the period, giving the Saints two opportunities on the power play, something they have been able to capitalize on all season. Carson Samoridny cut the lead, and a minute later Macklin Pichonsky would tie it.
The power play would have a drastic effect on the remainder of the game, as after a scoreless second period, Lloydminster would recoup their lead, as Taylor Mulder got a long shot to squeak under the pads of Kenny Cameron for a 3-2 lead.
A Grant Baker penalty would put the Bobcats back on the penalty kill, and making it a perfect night with the man advantage for the Saints, Cameron Hughes would jam in a loose puck in the crease to knot the game at 3-3.
With time winding down and the game looking to head to overtime, the Bobcats found themselves a man up with under a minute remaining. Patrick Geary would use the lively end boards to put a pass onto the stick of Cole Porter, who quickly sent a shot on net, beating Cameron high with only 19 seconds remaining.
“I thought time was running out,” said Porter. “I looked at the clock, saw the two, and didn’t even look, just shot it.”
The victory is the Bobcats second in a row, coming off last week’s 3-0 shutout over Sherwood Park. Devin Green made 19 saves in the victory.
With only 13 games remaining in the season, the playoff atmosphere is alive and well for the Bobcats, who had a week off after playing four in five nights the previous week. Even with the rest, Lloydminster still came out Saturday against the nation’s best and played a physical game, while also limiting the Saints to just 22 shots on net, including just five in the third period.
And with little breathing space up and down the North Division, the rest of the season is going to feel like a playoff game.
“Every game from here on out is a playoff game,” said Springer. “You are going to get every team’s best effort, and when you are playing the number one team in Canada, you know they are up there for a reason, so they don’t take nights off.”
The victory keeps the Bobcats in third place in the North Division, just two points up on Sherwood Park, who, since appearing on Hockey Day with the Bobcats the previous Saturday, have made up ground on the ‘Cats with a busy schedule of four games in six nights, winning three, and closing the gap.
The Crusaders will play the Saints on Wednesday, setting up a possible showdown on Friday night with the Bobcats for third place in the Nort. Both Lloydminster and Sherwood Park will come into Friday’s game having played 49 games and depending on Wednesday’s game, could mean both teams come in with 52 points.
So while the victory over the Saints is a huge weight off the shoulders of the Bobcats, it is only the start of what is to come heading down the stretch.
“This can just be a start of what has got to happen,” said Bobcats head coach Garry VanHereweghe. “We got a tough schedule and if we want to try and stay in third place, no one is going to help us. We got to win these games.”