Bobcats Outshoot but fall short to Spruce Grove
By Shane Tomayer
Tuesday evening the Cats played host to the AJHL North Division leading Spruce Grove Saints. The Saints (to no surprise) have been very strong again this season, entering Lloydminster with a record of 22-6-1-1. The home side has struggled for the end result as of late as they’ve been plagued by illness and injury with key players either out of the line up or not 100%. The Bobcats having lost their last 4 were optimistic for a turn of fate against the Saints.
Our home side played the Saints very strong. The visitors scored a pair of goals early in the first but Bobcats players stepped up and responded with physical play and tempo. After one the Bobcats were outshooting the Saints 14-11. One minute into the second period Connor Burke would be rewarded for his efforts and would put the home side within 1. After the middle period the home team lead the shot clock 26-21, however largely due to a hot goalie on the other end the Cats trailed by two.
In the third, the newest Bobcat Hayden Prosofsky capitalized on a turnover and scored his first as a Bobcat (3rd on the year) while shorthanded. The Cats continued to put on the pressure being boosted by the Profosky marker. They played aggressively and through some frustration but ultimately couldn’t even things. The Saints increased back to a two goal lead late in the third. Still a tight game the Bobcats answered pulling Halyk from the goal with just under 1:30 left in regulation. With the extra attacker Connor Burke took hold of a loose puck and delivered to Swanson who wasted no time putting away his 11th of the season. The Cats poured the pressure on their opponent and maintained control with their net empty again but they would not find a fourth goal and would fall in regulation.
Head Coach Nigel Dube has spoken a lot about buy-in and needing a full 60 minutes from his players. Again he saw that effort Tuesday night, “The boys had the work boots on tonight, they went to work and were playing the way we wanted.”
One notable name out of the line up for the second straight game was Ben Bygrove. The Cats captain and defensive leader missed his second straight game, which is saying something. You would have to look back to the 2019/20 season to find the last time Bygrove was out of the line up for a regular season game. That resulted in someone stepping up to take on some serious minutes. You don’t replace Ben Bygrove with one player so it was handled by committee. What maybe stood out the most was the play of Carter Frankiw and Orin Olson. Dube spoke about the two young defenders, “Frankiw and Olly have taken steps since the start of the year and are taking on more responsibilities each day that goes by.” The other notable player stepping up was assistant captain Tyson Kowaluk, “Ty has played big minutes as of late, he gives it everything every night.”
Cats star of the game was Connor Burke. In 43 games last year as a rookie Burke ended the season with 1 goal and 5 points. Through the first 29 games this year he’s improved to 6 goals and a total of 11 points. Factoring on 2 of 3 goals he was clearly a big factor, Dube spoke on the sophomore forward, “The lineup has been changing depending on the day/game. Connor Burke has increased our offensive drive of late and he was rewarded for it with his one and one.”
The struggle has been real for the Bobcats as of late. Very close games which doesn’t make the losses any easier to take. Dube was asked if it is one consistent problem or a different story each night, “Timelines are a big part. We have created more opportunities and need to find a way to put more in, at the same time we need to defend better and get bigger stops at timely spots.”
The border city squad will try and turn things back around Friday when they travel to the AJHLs most northern city to face off against the Oil Barons for a pair of games Friday/Saturday. Next home action for the Cats comes Tuesday the 13th when they will host the MOB, facing them for the third consecutive game.