Bralin Technology Game Recap
By Shane Tomayer
The Bobcats faced some significant adversity last week at the AJHL showcase. They faced two strong teams and lost both matches with a combined score of 14-3. A couple of days of practice and video would provide the insights necessary to try and right the ship before it slipped over a waterfall. Tricky thing with that would be the competition – the Spruce Grove Saints. Fans of the league know the Saints to be perennially among the leagues elite. As such the Lloydminster squad has struggled mightily against them. The Cats were unable to register a win against the Saints all of last season, and have not won over Spruce Grove since November 21, 2021. Not an ideal match up for a bounce back.
However history was just that Wednesday night, something certainly to be respected, but not something that would play a factor in the match ahead. The Cats opened the scoring Wednesday on a strong play in front of the goal when Blake Setter notched his 3rd of the season. He would add his fourth minutes later to hand the Cats a two goal lead going into the second period.
The middle frame saw the Saints climb back within one, but that would be as close as it would get until the visitors had a goal called back with just over 4 minutes left in regulation. With a one goal lead re-set the Cats continued to push to the finish line until Lloydminsters own Kade Fendelet scored shorthanded on an empty net with less than a minute to play.
Hard to look at game 8 of the season as being a big one but this was a crucial test for the homeside early in the year to test their resilience. Against a strong Saints squad that resilience was certainly tested and the Bobcats passed in all three zones. Brad Rhiela spoke about the effort of the Border City club, “Good effort for our guys. I’m super excited for them and they earned it. it was a good 60 minute effort with lots of positives.”.
A common factor for Bobcats victories has been the play of Jack Solomon. He was huge for the Cats through the month of September and seemed to roll that over straight into October with a 39 save performance. Always happy to talk about the teams number one netminder Rihela was beaming again, “He was just solid like he’s been every time. You look back to the past weekend and nothing was on him as far as I’m concerned. At the end of the day your best penalty killer has to be your goalie and he was that for us tonight.”
A fine segway if ever there was one. A considerable question mark for the Bobcats going into Wednesday night has been the effectiveness of their penalty kill. Only a 76% success rate through the first 7 games the team knew they needed to be better when down a man. They were given plenty of opportunity to work on their shorthanded play against the Saints giving up 6 power plays. That could spell disaster for most any team however on Wednesday while down a man or two the Bobcats tightened up and played well. They also benefited from a goaltender who seemed to be stopping beach balls Wednesday. While Rihela didn’t get exactly what he wanted he could be described as content, “I”d like to have 100% powerplay and 100% PK but at the end of the day its about wins and losses. There’s obviously things and details to shore up but it was one of those games where both teams struggled to score and it was more of a defensive effort, so we’ll take it and we’ll keep making adjustments moving forward.”
The window of time for adjustments is a narrow one. The Bobcats are back to the Civic Centre Friday and Saturday night against the Olds Grizzly’s and Canmore Eagles, a standard 7:00 puck drop for both games.