MacLean Leads the Bobcats to Silence the Saints
By Shane Tomayer
The easy story line in Wednesday evenings North Division matchup would be teams going in opposite directions. The Saints, riding high having won their last 15 straight contests and having not lost in regulation since October 13 – their last loss came via shootout against Camrose on October 15th. The Bobcats on the other hand entered Wednesday after losing their last 3 consecutive and falling back below 500.
However if you’ve followed this season series closely you’d know the scores of the 5 previous contests were not indicative of how close the games were. The two teams last faced each other November 9th in Spruce Grove when the Saints pulled out a 3-2 shootout win.
The score sheet stayed clean through 20 minutes. No penalties. No goals. Even back and forth hockey between the North Division rivals. It would be nearly 15 minutes into the middle frame before Benicasa of the Saints would deflect a point shot past Thornton to open the scoring. A play that was so clean it’s hard to imagine what goalie on the planet could have adjusted to make the save. After 40 minutes the game was still very much up for grabs with the Saints holding on to the 1-0 lead.
In period three the visitors adjusted their game plan. Much more aggressive and certainly working to take the home side off their game. There was definite concern the Cats would take the bait and find themselves in penalty trouble against the number 2 powerplay in the AJHL. The Saints would strike again 3:12 into the 3rd on a power play with Tyler Schendel in the penalty box for roughing. Certainly room for concern with the top team in the North having a two goal cushion and time ticking away. But key the dramatic music as the Bobcats would not lay down.
Chase Visser responded just 34 seconds later. A great play from Hoogendoorn found Visser in the slot who wasted no time putting away his fifth of the season to bring the home side within 1. 3:39 later (on the power play) the Cats swarmed the net and Jayven Leslie continued to improve on his career best numbers pushing his 6th of the season across the line to tie things at two. 1:37 later at the 17:20 mark a great series by the border city squad was capped off as the captain Chad MacLean would score his 4th of the season to take the lead for the first time on the night. This was MacLeans first goal in 9 games and one that had the bench and the 400 plus fans in attendance on their feet.
The Saints would continue to push however the Bobcats would keep an even keel and hold on to the lead for the win.
MacLean post game spoke about what the win and a 2-3-1 season series (against Spruce Grove) means, “It shows the guys ina the room that we can beat anybody in the league if we bring it every night, and that’s a good feeling to have when you’re suiting up for 60”. On the come from behind win, “Down 0-2 it shows the character we have in the room to score 3 unanswered. It’s the last time we’ll play those guys in the regular season and it feels good to get a win against them”.
Looking at this win you’d find plenty of positives. The Bobcats improved on their power play numbers going 20% on the evening. Goaltender Kolby Thornton continued his impressive play, stopping 32 of 34 shots for his 11th win of the season.
Coach Dube was rightfully pleased with the outcome. “Overall I thought our guys maintained their composure through the game. I think when a few words got spoke to our bench (from Saints players) it lit an extra fire to our guys and Viss’ line lead the charge right after that.”
On the play of MacLean and the game winner, “Chads our captain, it’s been a great learning curve for our young guys to see a veteran of the league who wasn’t able to find the back of the net but continued to play a 200′ game and do what he can to help the team have success. Then he got rewarded with a big goal tonight.”.
The line up saw some adjustments from the standard lines that have been rolling the last few games, “We shuffled the deck a little bit, our young guys are understanding what it takes each night. They’ve stuck with it, our veterans have been great leaders in getting the most out of them”.
A scary moment 7 minutes into the third period saw assistant captain Tyson Kowaluk take a check deep in the Bobcats zone that landed Brett Pfoh of the Saint in the penalty box for boarding. Dube commented on the play, “I thought it was a bad hit, we will be without Tyson for quite some time. He was in a vulnerable spot and it’s an area of the game there is no room for. It’s unfortunate Tys has been playing his best hockey”.
Finally on the season series between the Saints and the Bobcats Nigel closed out, “overall record of 2-3-1 is a big change from years past. The rivalry has grown between the two clubs and our guys rose to the occasion”.
Things don’t get much easier for the Bobcats in the near future as they will host the Oil Barons this coming Friday and Saturday. The Mob come into Lloydminster with a 21-5-0 record. The two teams have faced each other 3 times with the Oil Barons taking all three contests in regulation. Safe to say however that the Oil Barons will be seeing a much different Lloydminster team as the Cats are 8-5-1 since last facing Ft McMurray on October 13.
Puck drop on the 26th is 7:30 at the CCC and the same time on the 27th. If you can’t be at the rink you can always catch the action live on Hockey TV or MixLr for audio only.