The Bobcats went into this past weekend on the cusp of being in the top half of the AJHL standings and just outside a 500 record. Grande Prairie made the trip South and East to the border coming off a pair of home games against tough competition looking to build off their Monday matinee win over the Saints. Alternatively the home side was looking to get back into the win column after a pair of losses against Okotoks and Sherwood Park.
On paper the two squads are shockingly similar. Solid goaltending backstopping a fast moving team with high potency offense on their top lines. Coaching mindset between Eric Thurston of Grande Prairie and the Bobcats Brad Rihela is also quite relatable, play with hard work and tempo and try to force mistakes from the other side.
On Friday evening the Storm opened the scoring and held the lead until Blake Setter evened the score at the 10 minute mark of the second period, with his second goal of the night. Setter would complete the hattrick with just under four minutes left in the second period again tying the game. The action continued in the third period when rookie forward Alessio Nardelli scored his first AJHL goal to give the Bobcats the lead for the first time in the contest. His goal would be voided by a Storm goal with just 22 seconds in regulation that forced overtime.
The overtime pace was as though players had fresh legs with high tempo plays at both ends of the rink. Both sides would strike iron in the extra period leaving fans gasping and cheering.Then with under a second in OT Orin Olson set for a shot from the right circle that found its way over the Storm netminder and into the goal. His third of the season matched his goal total from last year’s rookie campaign.
Neither coach was excited about the play of their respective club Friday night. Missed opportunities and blown assignments were a common discussion and so both would hit the reset button and prepare for Saturday’s rematch.
The Bobcats would enter the game with a shuffle to the line up. Missing from Fridays match up were rookie Matthew Hikida and Captain Caden Cabana. After two assists Friday Cabana will need to look down the schedule to extend his 13 game point streak.
With the leagues 4th leading scorer (at puck drop) sidelined the Cats would need to call on some of their depth to fill in at the top centre spot. Local Teague McAllister would get the tap to head up ice with veterans Setter and MacGillivray on his flanks. McAllister filled in admirably, creating opportunities, defending well and dominating at the faceoff circle. He ended the game with 1 assist and a couple of grade A scoring chances.
While McAllister didn’t find twine, a different local product did. Assistant captain and sophomore Kade Fendelet netted his 5th of the season just over three minutes into the first to open up the scoring. The storm answered under a minute later but the Bobcats did not relent. After 40 minutes the Cats led by a pair and would head into the third period with a two goal lead. The second period forced both teams to shuffle their lineups with two Storm players receiving game misconducts one for a check from behind and one for fighting. The Bobcats were down an additional player as well with Fendelet being penalized and ejected for a blow to the head.
With the play of the second as physical as it was, fans could feel they were in for an intense third period. The 17 minute intermission did nothing to calm the waters at the Civic centre. Fans expected a rough and tumble third period and that’s exactly what they got. Through the third 20 penalties were handed out and five more players were ejected from the game. Through the mayhem Ishan Mittoo scored his 7th of the season to shut down the Storm. While the visitors would add a second goal in the closing minutes it was too little too late and the home side came out victorious. The win Saturday pushed their record to 14-14 and a tie with the Storm for 7th spot in the AJHL standings.
Sunday morning the Grande Prairie Storm were assessed a combined 5 games in suspensions across 3 players. At the time of writing no update was given regarding Bobcat supplemental discipline.
Bobcats next home action comes December 1 when they will play host to the Sherwood Park Crusaders. In the meantime they will travel to Brooks and Drumheller November 24 and 25 respectively, both games will be available on Flo Hockey.