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Written by Shane Tomayer
The Bobcats returned home Friday evening coming off a brief but disappointing road trip where they picked up only 2 of 6 points against Brooks, Drumheller and Spruce Grove. Friday evening vs the Pontiacs offered an opportunity to get back to their winning ways at home, and get redemption for an October 11th loss to their regional rivals.
After the opening 20 the home side trailed 3-1 with Aucoin giving the Bobcats their lone marker on the power play. With 40 minutes to change their fates the Cats scrapped and clawed, dictated the play for healthy portions of the second and third periods but were unable to add goals to their tally. Jack Solomon was strong between the pipes, stopping all 22 shots faced in the final periods including a number that left the Bobcat faithful gasping in shock and cheering with excitement.
Not to search out excuses but the Bobcats played with 5 defencemen and were forced to call upon the services of local affiliate Rylan Wieler to fill in on the right wing. 7 players combined to make up the Bobcats injury list causing the shortage of regular bodies. It also meant players normally in and out of the lineup were leaned upon to play critical minutes. Truthfully these factors couldn’t be labeled excuses post game, as Wieler filled in very well and the short defence squad played admirably in a losing effort.
Regarding the loss coach Rihela tried to remain positive, “Tough game. I thought our guys competed right to the end. I thought we had some good looks, but full credit to their goaltender. A couple mistakes in the first cost us.”
Rookie Lucas Magowan played just his 8th game of the season on the blueline and looked like a seasoned vet, Rihela was smiling talking about the young defender, “I thought he played real well. Made some great decisions with the puck. We used him a lot in the back half and he should be proud of himself”.
Saturday there was a small hope that the Bobcats could see some of their regulars back into the lineup as they prepared to face the Kodiaks who sat tied with the Bobcats in the standings at puck drop. While veteran Orin Olson was able to play by game time he simply replaced Michael Carter on the back end and Wieler would again be called upon to complete the forward squad once more. With 19 skaters dressed for the second consecutive day the Bobcats would need their best players to be at their best.
That is exactly what they got.
Just under 9 minutes into the first period Caden Cabana fired on goal. Ty Hodge of the Kodiaks attempted to help out his goalie by giving him the puck to cover but slid it under Zolin and into the back of the net, handing the Bobcats the early lead. Cabana may have been given a freebie to start the games scoring but he went on to add 3 assists. Post game Brad Rihela was very pleased with the play of his captain, “Cabs pulled us into the fight right from the get go, really nice to see him rewarded”.
The Bobcats would not sleep on the gift given and Luke Fritz scored a far more legitimate goal 90 seconds later dashing across the crease and tucking the puck into the right side of the net before going airborn for a two goal lead over the visitors.
In the second period Aucoin added two goals to his season total and Brody Juck added insurance for a 5-1 lead after 40 minutes.
The third period was as much formality as anything, though Jaxan Hopko scored his first of the season for good measure.
The effort of the Cats in the second game of the weekend was impressive at the very least. In addition to their other roster changes they were backstopped by Kaiden Kirkwood for the first time. Kirkwood signed a letter of intent with the Bobcats in the spring of 2022 before joining the Gatineau Olympiques of the QMJHL. The Cats retained Kirkwoods CJHL rights during his stint in the Q. Those rights became all the more valuable when Sebastian Resar was injured against the Saints. Kirkwood played admirably in his first AJHL start, stopping 30 of 31 shots against. The lone goal against coming in the second period on a rebound that found him somewhat handcuffed.
Saturdays somewhat lopsided win was the result of a number of things. Grit, determination, staying inside the systems and strong special teams. The Cats scored twice on the power play and killed all 6 odd man advantages against. Ultimately 11 players added to their point totals and 5 different players found twine. Huge for a team who in that 3 game road stand struggled to find the back of the net. Rihela was impressed with what he saw, “Really great effort from our group. They showed a lot of resiliency”.
With a number of their injuries expected to linger, the Bobcats will need some more of that resilience when they head South this coming weekend to begin what will ultimately be 7 road games over the course of 14 days between October 27th and November 8th. They’ll be back at the Civic Centre November 11th when they host the Okotoks Oilers for a pair of weekend games. Follow along on the Bobcats app for scores while they’re on the road or tune in on Flo Hockey.