Chris Roberts/Courtesy of lloydminstersource.com
Change isn’t always a good thing, but for the Lloydminster Bobcats a change behind the bench seems to have sparked a fire within some of the players.
That was particularly evident on Saturday night as the Bobcats won their fourth game in a row, a 6-3 slaying of the Drumheller Dragons.
Eleven different Bobcats registered a point, mirroring the team effort put forth on Friday night as the ‘Cats won on the road in Camrose 5-1, halting the Kodiaks seven-game win streak.
“Every man is playing for the guy next to him, and our play as of late has really proven that with teamwork we can accomplish a lot,” said Bobcats forward Braden Crone, who extended his goal streak to three games with a second-period tally.
It was a game that had no shortage of storylines as Bobcats interim head coach Kyle Tapp, in just his second game as the bench boss, was up against Brian Curran, the ‘Cats head coach last season.
Players praised Tapp’s efforts through his first two games as the team’s head coach.
“It’s been a lot of changes but Kyle’s leading us in the right direction, we’ve changed a lot of our systems and it’s paying off,” said veteran Bobcat Casey Knight.
One of those changes, Tapp explained, was a defensive-zone system in which the Bobcats would clog the shooting lanes, blocking as many first-chance opportunities as possible.
“All we’ve done is preach the team, team, team, and you saw from the style of play we were playing tonight that we just need everybody … leaving four guys in front of the net to block shots, giving up a whole whack of (shots), but try to keep the quality (chances) down,” said Tapp.
Eric Therrien opened the scoring 8:42 into the first period, coming out from behind the net on a broken play and sliding the puck past Dragons netminder Adam Beukeboom, a standout rookie goaltender who had one of his worst starts of the season, surrendering five goals on 25 shots.
On the other side of the play, for Therrien it was his most productive game of the season as he picked up a pair of goals and an assist. In total, he picked up five points over the weekend after recording just eight points through the first 38 games of the season.
Former Bobcat Bryton Mills tied the game at one with his late first-period goal, but a strong second period from the Bobcats gave them a 3-1 edge heading into the final frame.
Jason Wark and Braden Crone both added a tally in the second, scoring in similar fashion with a quick shot in the slot over the glove of Beukeboom.
Crone, however, shifted a lot of the credit to his teammates for his goal and his recent surge in offence.
“It was a good read by Eric (Therrien) to get the shot and he picked up the rebound and I saw the hole so I just started yelling his name,” he said. “He made a lovely pass and I was able to put it away.”
The ‘Cats appeared to put the game out of reach twice in the third period, but the Dragons responded after each goal. On the power play, forward Kelvin Walz, who was playing the point after Cole Berreth left with an injury, snuck into the slot and took a pass from Grant Baker, who was behind the net, and made no mistake, elevating the puck over the the glove of Beukeboom, giving the ‘Cats a 4-1 edge.
However a short-handed marker from Mills put the Dragons back within two. Brennan Baxandall would also score with just over five minutes to play, bringing the difference to two once again after an Austin McDonald goal.
Though he gave up three goals, Chase Martin made some big saves late for the Bobcats and had a great game overall, stopping 36 of 39 shots.
“Chase played very well, but I think a lot of credit has got to go the four guys that were in front of him laying out in front of one-timers and blocking shots,” explained Tapp. “Chase is a great goalie but I think if you were to ask him he’d probably say the same thing.”
Therrien added an empty netter with just five seconds left, firing the puck down the ice from his own zone into the yawning cage
“The guys have responded, kudos to them, they execute, guys are sacrificing ice time, sacrificing their body, they’re just making sacrifices for each other and as a coach that’s all you want,” added Tapp.
With a season-high four-game win streak, Tapp said his team can’t afford to take their foot off the pedal as they enter their most important stretch of the season.
“It’s two games, we can’t get too excited, if our goal really is to get in the playoffs, let’s enjoy it for five minutes, but we’ve got a whole lot of work to do.”
The Bobcats host the Whitecourt Wolverines and the Calgary Canucks this weekend before playing three straight against Sherwood Park, a team that holds a 10-point advantage over them for the seventh and final playoff spot in the North.
“If we don’t do well, if we don’t (win) three of the next four, four of the next five, then our playoff dreams are done,” said Tapp.