Bounce Back Falls Flat
By Shane Tomayer
The Cats travelled as far North as possible late last week intent on continuing their three game win streak. The Oil Barons had different plans as they won both contests. Returning home mid week to now host the MOB, the Bobcats hoped that home cooking would turn their fate in the early season 3 game series against their North division rival but again the Fort Mac club had other intentions.
In one of four AJHL matchups Wednesday evening the border city club would get things off on the right foot. Just over 4 minutes into the first the home side had the jump and a great play from Swanson would set things in motion as he dropped a pass back to Rawji who would find Lloydminsters own Jayven Leslie alone on the left post where he would tuck away his second of the season to make it a 1-0 hockey game. Leslie, who took the extended off season to work on strength and adding to his offensive game has already matched his goal total from 2019/20 the Cats last full season and Leslies first full season in jr hockey.
Three minutes later a shot from the top of the face off circle to the right of Freddie Halyk was deflected in front and would get behind the rookie goaltender to even things at 1. Through the rest of the first things would continue back and forth with the score remaining even after 20 minutes.
Through the middle frame flow of the game was a little more choppy as both teams seemed to fight the puck. The Oil Barons, perhaps slightly less so as they would score the lone goal of the period to lead 2-1 after 40 minutes. Full credit to Halyk in the second period as he made a number of quality stops keeping the game close in his first regular season appearance at the Civic.
Period number 3 would bring around a somewhat different story. Just under a minute in the Oil Barons would extend to a two goal lead. One minute after that Ryan Schendel would put forth a great individual effort to battle through a defender to poke home his first AJHL goal, while being hauled to the ice drawing a penalty. Back within one there was definite light for the home squad, a light that would be extinguished just 18 seconds later Tristan Kimmen of the Oil Barons would go wide then drive across the goal mouth and tuck one past the Bobcats netminder. From there the score sheet was all on the visitors side as they would notch another three goals to close out the Cats plans for redemption.
This was a game that would show much closer than the score sheet would indicate. Much of the game was very back and forth hockey with chances at both ends and some stellar saves by both goalies. Josh Nadler would be a difference maker for the Oil Barons making 35 saves on the night for the road club. Notable for the home side was the elevation of physical play. Several good checks through the game would keep the home fans cheering and engaged. The Bobcats certainly didn’t lay down in this match up and while the results weren’t there, effort was certainly shown.
Speaking on the loss head coach and general manager Nigel Dube offered, “It’s a process of learning a lot. Tonight we learned it’s going to take three periods of hockey. I thought our group did a really good job in the first two periods of the game and didn’t have the same execution or effort in the third period. Fort McMurray is a team that is going to make you be at your best every shift. We didn’t have that in the third.”
The Cats will look to turn the tide this coming Friday when the North division leading Drayton Valley Thunder make their way to the border. The home side will look for the answer as they work to improve on their 4-7 record. Puck drop from the Civic is at 7:30 with the pregame show on Hockey TV and MixLr at 7:15.