By Shane Tomayer
Games 54/55 – Family Day weekend
Friday of the long weekend the Bobcats played host to the Sherwood Park Crusaders. The home side was riding a 4 game win streak – their longest of the season. A streak that started February 8th in a shootout win over those same Crusaders. Through the 4 game stretch the Cats had not played their best hockey, but they’d found ways to score goals and win hockey games. Friday night was similar but not where it mattered. Simply put the Bobcats struggled in all 3 zones Friday night yet managed to keep the game very close against a potential first round (playoff) match up. Coaches and players alike acknowledged that something was simply missing through the fully 60. The Bobcats managed to outshoot the Crusaders, Fendelet and Krulicki were both able to notch goals, Syverson had 26 saves but nothing “clicked” where it needed to and the orange and black would ultimately fall 4-2 after an empty net goal against late in the third.
The Bobcats were able to hit the reset button with a day off on Saturday. A practice and re-focus Sunday and then back to the action on holiday Monday in a very important game as far as the standings are concerned.
Grande Prairie lost in Sherwood Park Sunday before heading east to Lloydminster, and so both teams would be left with something to prove. Especially given that the Storm at puck drop were just 4 points behind the home team in the North Division standings.
It wasn’t long into the game before it seemed like that four point gap would increase. From the opening of the first the Bobcats were tenacious. They poured the offence onto the visiting side and thanks largely to the play of Adam Kelly (goalie for the Storm) after 20 minutes the score was deadlocked at 0. However the Cats lead on the shot clock 15 to 4.
Period 2 changed that. Under 4 minutes into the frame a strong individual effort by Ishan Mittoo set a speeding Connor Burke free at the Bobcats blue line as he went up ice and opened the scoring with his 10th of the season. The middle frame also saw the home team celebrate goals by Fendelet and a shorthanded marker by Swanson. For Fendelet it was his second goal in as many games, his second time scoring in back to back games in under a month. Second period shooting wasn’t much closer, as after 40 minutes the Cats lead the Secure Energy Services Shot Clock 36 – 12 and the Storm had yet to beat Matthew Syverson – back in net for the Cats.
The third period brought little reprieve for the visitors from the Peace Country. Though they did manage to outshoot the Bobcats in the final frame (11-9) a great effort by Jack Parker set up a wide open Hayden Prosofsky for a tap-in to make it 4-0 with 7:35 to go in regulation. From that point the Cats focus seemed to shift. With the game well under control priority changed to their own end. Rookie goalie Matthew Syverson was on the cusp of a milestone and the Cats sought to make it happen.
Regulation ended with Syverson stopping. 23 shots enroute to his first shut out in the Alberta Junior Hockey League. When asked about it post game he was certainly proud but more focussed on the team game in front of him. While Syverson may have been humble Nigel Dube was proud of the milestone for his goaltender, “Great for him to get rewarded, our success in the second half is a group playing with a lot of confidence with him behind them. Something we were lacking in the first half”.
One thing Dube has talked about over the last several weeks even during a 4 game win streak has been a complete effort and seeing a full 60 minutes from his team. He got that Monday afternoon, “It was a good response to the performance from Friday, I thought our group came out on a mission and had a lot of purpose to everything they did”.
Again the Bobcats had a strong look to the future with contributions from all lines and rookies who are showing their value late in the season especially with key players injured and out of the line up, Dube commented on the efforts of some of his younger players, “between injuries we’ve had a lot of young guys step up. I think at a point Fendelet, Herring and Mittoo have lead the momentum shifts for us. You need that, especially at this time of year”.
The Bobcats home stand will continue Friday when they host the Camrose Kodiaks for the first time Friday night at the Civic. The Kodiaks will arrive in Lloydminster 3-5 in the month of February sitting just ahead of the Canmore Eagles for the 5th seed in the AJHL South Division. Puck drop is at 7:00, stay tuned to Bobcat social media for in game food and drink specials.