Story & Picture appear courtesy of Andrew Brethauer/lloydminstersource.com
The next time members of the Lloydminster Bobcats enter their locker room on the west side of the Civic Centre, it will be the start of their journey towards the RBC Cup. On Tuesday afternoon, the members of the 2014-15 Bobcats parted ways for the last time this year, as the players return home for the summer after being eliminated in the second round of the Alberta Junior Hockey League playoffs against Bonnyville.
With seven possible future consideration players coming into the mix, spring camp opening in two weeks and new recruits finding their way to Lloydminster, it will be an eventful summer to say the least for the Bobcats, who now have to piece together a team ready to take on not only the best in the AJHL, but also the best in the country.
“It’s going to be very competitive,” said head coach Garry VanHereweghe. “We are going to have to be better next year coming into the season than we were leaving this year. That throws the opportunities and the work back to them. They are going to have to get into the gyms, have to get on the ice, they are going to have to do a lot of things so that we are bigger, we are stronger and mentally tougher than we were in that last series against Bonnyville.”
The season was marked by three high-profile deals that sent, at the time, 20-year-old leading scorers Tyler Kunz, Linden Springer and Lukas Biensch to different teams in exchange for players and future considerations. They were tough decisions for the Bobcats management to make, and signaled to some that the Bobcats were playing for next season. However, new stars emerged on the team, as the opportunity to play larger roles was given to the younger Bobcats who will be around for next season.
Despite the trade movement, Lloydminster remained a competitive team at the top of the North Division and the players acquired in the trades, defencemen Allan MacPherson and Shane Switzer, as well as forward Taylor Allan, turned into positive additions for the Bobcats, with all three leading the team in scoring through the playoffs.
Of the 23 man roster that finished the season, 21 are able to return next season. 20-year-old goalie Devin Green will graduate this season, and will look to move on to play college hockey, while Switzer’s time with the Bobcats will be cut short after the defenceman was offered a scholarship to Boston University and will be part of the Terriers next season.
With the future considerations and recruitment class still to join the team, some tough decisions will need to be made over the summer about who still has a future with the Lloydminster Bobcats next season.
“We need to win next year and we need to have a lot more pushback,” said VanHereweghe. “We can’t put ourselves in a situation like we did this year. If there is one positive to it, it certainly opened our eyes and identified there are some areas in this organization that need to be stronger on the ice. That will be our challenge and we are well into that already.”
Evaluation of the players has been an on going process all season. With the 2014-15 campaign coming to an end, the Bobcats will look at the areas they had success and where they could do a better job next season. VanHereweghe said he wants to see more push back from the team going forward, and when they return for main training camp in August, he wants to see a faster, stronger and more determined Lloydminster Bobcats hockey team.
“We can’t rest on our laurels, we got to be better,” said VanHereweghe. “Players are going to have to take that onto their shoulders. Those that want to be here and want to compete to be here, will. Those that don’t, it’s probably going to show up in August, as opposed to showing up in March and April of next year.”
(Pictured: Graduating goaltender Devin Green signs his final autographs as a Bobcat)