By Shane Tomayer
Tuesday night with the end of the regular season on the horizon the Fort McMurray Oil Barons traveled South to Lloydminster to play the Bobcats for the 6th and final time of the 22/23 (regular) season. Home ice has been the advantage for both sides this season with the Barons winning all three close contests in Ft Mac while the Cats have won the two matchups in the Border City.
Nigel Dube was clear before the game that the key was again going to be playing with tempo and having a complete 60 minutes. Bobcats fans have seen time and time again this season that with a complete effort whistle to buzzer they can compete against any team in the AJHL.
A fan filled Civic Centre was treated to what felt like play off hockey. The rink was buzzing with fans clad in pink for the annual ‘Pink at the Rink’ game part of the Lloydminster and District Co-Ops kindness wins campaign.
The Cats came out flying in the first firing 16 shots on Andrew Ness in the Oil Barons goal while only allowing 6 against. Midway through the period the scoring started off the stick of Lloydminsters own Kade Fendelet. It was a play started just inside the offensive zone on the efforts of Ishan Mittoo who took possession on a failed Barons clearing attempt moved through two skaters and found Fendelet in front who transferred quickly backhand to forehand before finishing for the 8th of his rookie campaign.
The Bobcats and Oil Barons traded goals in the second period. The Cats goal came on the powerplay, their 39th team PPG of the season.
The Cats started the final frame short handed finishing off a late second period tripping minor. But they went to work. Mittoo cleared the puck from the Cats blueline and Connor Burke went on the hunt beating all competitors to the puck and lining up the end board rebound for a one-timer putting it through Ness to take a two goal lead. 6 minutes later it was an impressive individual effort by Jordan Borysiuk showing a wrap around attempt before feeding Fendelet for a tap-in as his second of the game and 9th of the year.
The Oil Barons would score at the midpoint of the period on a deflected shot that snuck past Syverson and then with an extra attacker on the ice with a puck batted out of the air at the 6 second mark but the efforts of the home side would pay off again and close out with a win.
Coach Dube was pleased at the effort and result though seeing room for improvement, “It was a game where we stuck to the plan and made sure to work, our second period had a short spell where we didn’t manage the puck but we came back with a strong third.” Special teams have been inconsistent as of late but looked better Tuesday – stopping both power plays against and scoring once with the extra attacker. Dube commented on the results, “Special teams is key and it was big to get the PP going again tonight, much needed”.
Since the Christmas break the youth of the Bobcats has really come into their own. Development of the rookie pairing of Frankiw and Olson has been impressive. Ishan Mittoo has found another gear. Ben Aucoin has re-established himself as a scoring threat game in and game out. One who’s improvements maybe started a bit earlier but continue into the twilight of the season is Kade Fendelet. It was earlier in the season that he solidified himself as a regular in the Bobcats lineup. In his last 5 games Fendelet has averaged a point per game. But his play away from the puck has been equally impressive asserting himself as an aggressive forechecker and a dependable defender in his own zone. Comparables have been drawn to another local player and team leader Jayven Leslie – high praise to be sure. Dube talked about the rookie forward, “Fonzy and our young guys have been having a big month and playing strong. He was rewarded for the hard work that’s been put in all year and got himself to the spots to be a shooter”.
The Bobcats playoff spot is set with some uncertainty as to who they will face in round one of the playoffs. First things first they’ll wrap up the regular season this weekend with games Saturday and Sunday against the Grande Prairie Storm, puck drop is at 7:00 and 2:30 respectively. After the Sunday match up there will be one more chance for young fans to skate with the Bobcats immediately following the final buzzer. Watch Bobcat social media for weekend food and drink specials.
Make a day of it at the Civic Centre Sunday and stick around to cheer on the Inland Steel U18AAA Bobcats for game 2 of their second round playoff series against the St. Albert Raiders following the skate, puck drop for that one is scheduled for 6:15.