Recaps are brought to you by Bralin Technology Solutions
Written by: Shane Tomayer
After a solid win Wednesday evening the Bobcats were looking to the Thanksgiving weekend to keep things rolling against two teams that have struggled out of the gates on the 23/24 season.
Competition kicked off Friday night against the Olds Grizzly’s, who had lost three straight; the Bobcats knew Olds would be hungry to get back into the win column.
From the opening drop the Bobcats dictated the pace of the game and played the style of uptempo hockey that has warranted them any success they’ve had this season. They would find themselves tied at two after forty minutes with goals by Steinke (3) & McGillivray (5) and twenty minutes to determine the outcome. Again the Bobcats set the pace outshooting the visitors 15-8 in the final frame with goals by Setter (5) and Juck (1) before Cababa set up Mittoo (4) on an empty net to seal the deal.
Perhaps the biggest highlight of the game was the improved powerplay success. Wednesday against Spruce Grove the Cats were 0/6 with the extra attacker. Friday night they were a perfect 4/4, while also killing all 3 power plays they handed the Grizzly’s. Coach Brad Rihela was beyond pleased with the improvement on special teams, “A lot of work goes into that, and the players responded really well today. It’s really nice to see them get rewarded”.
On the outcome Rihela put a lot of the weight onto the third period success, “Great effort. I liked the way we played the third period. I thought we handled ourselves really well, and we were mature with how we approached that period and ended up coming out with the win”.
Saturday provided an opportunity to extend to a three game win streak against a Canmore Eagles team who had started the season 2-5 but were coming off a Friday evening win at the RJ Lalonde in Bonnyville.
Again the Bobcats set the pace early and Luke Fritz opened the scoring with his first in the AJHL 3:13 into the period. However by the near midpoint of the second period the Eagles had scored 4 unanswered and the Bobcats found themselves looking at an uphill battle. Ben Aucoin capitalized on an opportunity and stopped the barrage the Cats had faced. 43 seconds later Setter scored his sixth and granted new life to the home side. But as the tide tends to do it changed 2 minutes later when the Cats were back down by a pair.
However the Bobcats continued to show resilience and a fantastic shorthanded effort by Kade Fendelet generated opportunity for another Lloydminster native in Teague McAllister who was ecstatic to put away his first AJHL goal. With 6 minutes and change remaining the Cats continued to rush looking to even the score. Strong play by MacPherson between the pipes for the Eagles would prevent the Cats from tying things up through the balance of the second period or at all in the final frame. The Canmore goalie would make 46 saves and ultimately backstop the Eagles to an upset victory over the Bobcats.
While still a loss there were plenty of positives for the Bobcats. Caden Steinke went down late in period one after taking a hit away from the play. Then in the second period captain Caden Cabana was penalized with a 2 and 10 for a blow to the head with 7 minutes left in the period. The misconduct kept him in the penalty box until nearly the 14 minute mark of the third period. With the Bobcats top two centres out/unavailable for a prolonged period the Cats lines went into a blender and a number of rookies were put into roles they wouldn’t typically be in. Each of them stepped up well and performed beyond expectations. Brad Rihela was pleased with what he saw, “A lot of guys stepped up. You lose two of your top centres, it’s not ideal, but that’s what being a team is all about. Guys rising to the occasion and I thought the guys did that tonight.”
All told while the outcome was not what was planned for Rihela was pleased with resilience shown, “One we want to have but looking at the positives, like every night there was no quit in our group and that’s something important to us as an organization. I thought the guys threw everything at it in third and just weren’t able to cash in”.
The Bobcats will have a new chance to cash in this coming Wednesday when their rivals from the Lakeland make their way to the border, puck drop between the Bobcats and Pontiacs is scheduled for 7:00 at the Civic.