Nik Hoogendoorn Scores in Overtime for a 4-3 Bobcats Win!
by Shane Tomayer
They came, they saw, they cheered…. loudly. 811 fans filed into the Centennial Civic Centre on a rainy Friday night to kick off the 2022/23 regular season. A win to start the season has been elusive for the Bobcats. They’ve not won their first game of the season, let alone the home opener in 5 years – almost to the day. September 15, 2017 was the last time the Cats won the season opener. It was a 4-2 win over the Pontiacs. For perspective, not a player in the Bobcats lineup Friday night was able to drive themselves to the rink, the last time the Bobcats started the season in the win column.
The Bobcats got out to a rough start. An early pair of penalties provided the Wolverines a two man advantage. However the defense stepped up in a big way blocking multiple shots killing off the disadvantage, while Freddy Halyk stood tall behind them. Almost 10 minute later the home team would move to the power play themselves for the first time. That quickly changed to a two man advantage and seconds later the Bobcats were leading 1-0. With the man advantage the puck moved round the blue line before Jack Parker fed Ben Bygrove in the high slot for a strong one timer that would beat Carson Ironside between the pipes for the visitors. Two minutes into the second period the Bobcats found themselves with the man advantage again. Again an impressive power play wrapped up in positive results. A Kowaluk point shot would be blocked by a defender but the puck dropped straight on the tape of Jayven Leslie who wasted no time finding the back of the net, Parker would be credited with an assist on the second goal as well.
The second goal lit a spark for the Wolverines. They took control of the play and would score two goals to tie things before the end of the middle frame. With a tie going into the third period the home side needed to find the gear they played with for the first twenty minutes. A penalty to Whitecourt as the clock hit zero in the second would give the Bobcats power play a chance to be heros again to start the third. The Wolverines would kill the penalty but 27 seconds later a pair of rookies would make sure they got noticed. A heads up play by Ben Aucoin would find Rylan Ringor just a few feet out in front of him. A quick pass would have Ringor streaking ahead of the visiting defenders alone on Ironside who wouldn’t be able to stop the breakaway chance and again the Cats would have the lead. The 3-2 advantage wouldn’t last long. Less than 5 minutes later the Wolverines would rush the net and Komzak would score to even things up at three and ultimately force overtime.
Fans in attendance couldn’t have asked for much more. It started as they entered the rink, when they were greeted by local realtor and Bobcat sponsor Dave Kadun handing out noise makers. And make noise they did. Players talked post game about the rattling in the stands and the lift that it gave them down the stretch. After 60 minutes of good back and forth action fans were treated to OT. An overtime that was not the typical methodical back and forth you often see in 3 on 3. The teams rushed back and forth, with odd man advantages at both ends of the rink leaving fans, coaches and players gasping and groaning with excitement. With 1:20 left in the extra period the Wolverines missed on a breakaway opportunity. Connor Burke picked up the loose puck from the corner and rushed up the right wing wall. As he crossed the far blue line a 3 on 2 advantage had formed. A simple feed to the high slot for Jack Parker would set things off. Parker leaned in and faked a shot that the Wolverines goalie bit on. Parker instead snapped a pass onto the tape of Nik Hoogendoorn behind the two defenders. With Ironside already stretched for the shot that never came, Hoogendoorn moved across the crease and lifted the back hand over the tender to stop the clock. Decibel meters would have been pushed to their limits as the border city fans jumped to their feet cheering on the season opening win. Post game Nigel Dube was asked about the 3 assist performance by Jack Parker, “We talk about our guys needing to step up from last season and have expectations to do so. It was good to see a quick start for Parks”.
On the victory and the noise from the stands Head Coach Nigel Dube quoted, “Fun night at the Civic Centre. Big shout out to Dave Kadun Realty for handing out the cowbells. Really think it made for quite the atmosphere for both teams”. He continued about the home fans, “What a crowd for opening night. It’s been a busy two weeks around the border city celebrating 40 years of junior hockey and it was proven tonight why we have the best support any team could ever ask for”.
The Bobcats will host the Wolverines again Saturday night at the CCC with a 7:00 puck drop. The last time Lloydminster opened a campaign 2-0, Alex Leclerc backstopped them to a 4-0 win over the Pontiacs back on September 12 of 2015. As always the best way to support the Bobcats is live at the Civic Centre. If you can’t be there, tune in on Hockey TV or MixLr for all the action.