60 Minutes Just Not Enough
Written by Shane Tomayer
Goal Highlights: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AulRVt6IsZ0
Monday night at the Centenial Civic Centre was host to perhaps above all else a playoff preview. Weekend success by the Bobcats pushed them up the standings into fifth spot, while also clinching a playoff birth for the club for the first time in Nigel Dube’s tenure. Beyond that its the first time Lloydminster will enjoy playoff games since 2018. The visiting Drayton Valley Thunder sit 4th in division standings meaning if playoffs started tomorrow they would host the Bobcats in round one. The Thunder traveled East to Lloydminster on a two game losing skid. The home side settled in having one their last three..
The game got off to a quick start. Just 1:51 into the game Hassan Akl created a neutral zone turnover and raced into the offensive zone. He and Borysiuk would play pass in front of Drayton Valley netminder Byron Fancy before Akl would finish the play with a left side tap in. The two sides would trade goals over the next 6 minutes leaving the score at 2-2 at the first media timeout with Fancy having been chased from the goal. The game would tighten up and while fundamentally sound would see no change to the score until overtime.
3:20 into the extra frame the Thunder would get caught with too many men on the ice, Giving the home side a golden opportunity. With the extra attacker the Bobcats took full advantage and owned the puck. With the powerplay set out a series of passes around the top of the zone shuffled the defense creating an opening for Ethan Aucoin on the right side in the faceoff circle. Bygrove fed the pass and Aucoin wasted no time letting go of the one-timer. Jackson Berry who had been perfect to that point caught a piece of the shot but not nearly enough and the Cats would claim victory.
Dube was naturally pleased with the result, “I thought we came out with a lot of fire, from a fans perspective it was probably a really exciting 7 minutes of the game. We kept to it after that as they are always hard played games, against Drayton Valley.”
Aucoins goal to end things Monday night was the 30th of his rookie campaign. Not a small feet. One which interestingly enough hasn’t happened since Zach Kaiser did it in 2017/18 – the last time the Cats saw the playoffs. Dube was asked about the accomplishment and the player achieving it, “He plays with a lot of energy and excitement and likes to shoot the puck. He leads our team in shot attempts as well and he continues to be a driving offensive force.”
One big change for the Cats in this match up was discipline. The line to the penalty box has been longer than desired by Dube, Duffin and Wiebe. The penalty kill has been better as of late however giving extra attacker opportunities is not a great recipe for success. Dube on the change for the team, “We chatted about discipline since the Whitecourt games and being aware of what kind of penalties we were taking, it was another night in the right direction”.
Things don’t get any easier in the near future. Friday the Bobcats will head to Whitecourt to face the Wolverines before returning home Saturday and Sunday. to play Brooks and Okotoks. On the weekend ahead Dube said, “As we’ve talked, it’s another big one. We need to be ready to go from the start and know its going to take a lot of hard work to earn every inch.”
On Friday the Cats will have familiar faces having seen the Wolverines 4 times in recent weeks. Brooks on Saturday will be a significant test – as one would expect when you face the top Jr A team in the country. When the two teams last squared off November 20th, the Bobcats played what was one of their best games of the season to that point but fell 5-2. The CCC atmosphere over the last couple months has been electric, the Bobcats will look to feed off that energy and reverse their fate against the Bandits. Sunday the Cats will provide a Super Bowl warm up against the Oilers. When they played October 22 the Cats came out on top at the Pason Centennial arena 4-3 in a game that required extra time.