Déjà vu at Civic Centre

Chris Roberts/Courtesy of lloydminstersource.com

If you’ve been to one Bobcats game you’ve been to them all, or at least that seems to be the case recently.
Despite their poor record, the Lloydminster Bobcats continue to play in close games, often battling back but never quite able to get over that hump and win close games consistently. Instead, they have now lost three of their last four games, all of which have been by one goal, including this Saturday’s 4-3 overtime loss to the Okotoks Oilers.
The Bobcats battled back from a 3-1 deficit with a late second period goal and a third-period power-play marker from Tanner Dunkle, but were victims of the wide-open three-on-three overtime hockey as the Oilers’ Chris Collins scored his ninth of the year in the extra frame to sink the Bobcats. It was eerily similar to the last time the Bobcats played at home, when they lost a 1-0 shootout decision to Drayton Valley.
“We’ve been kind of battling back all season but we’ve just been that one goal short on lots of them,” said a subdued Casey Knight following the game.
The loss was the Bobcats fifth one-goal loss this month alone and head coach Ryan Parent knows his team needs to be better in close games.
“We dropped this three-on-three and we dropped the last one,” said the first-year coach. “It’s a time when you have to bear down and … you have to be responsible man-to-man in your own end.”
Collins was left alone in front of the net just under a minute into overtime and was able to put home a Robert Hamilton rebound, giving the Oilers their 15th win of the season.
“Three on three is kind of a yard sale, and it’s hard to kind of prepare for, all you have to do is be man-on-man and we just kind of got a little scattered, couldn’t get a shift, and it cost us the game,” explained Knight, the team’s captain.
After Braden Crone tied the game at one in the first period, the Bobcats struggled coming out of the gate to start the second, giving up a power-play goal in the first minute of play.
Oilers’ Scott Bolland was left wide open on the left side of the net and buried a nice pass from Tanner Olstad past an outstretched Chase Martin to give the Oilers a 2-1 lead. They would add on to that lead just eight minutes later on a fluke play as Colton Sheen, coming down his off-wing, attempted to pass the puck through the slot; instead of finding a teammate, the puck deflected off of the Bobcats’ Nolan Yaremchuk’s stick and found the back of the net.
A team defined by grit and hard work, the Bobcats answered with their fists, getting in a pair of fights before Jason Wark jammed the puck into the back of the Oilers net with just 11 seconds left in the frame to bring the ‘Cats within one.
Parent was pleased with his team’s effort in the second period, particularly that of Austin Yaremchuk, who seemed to get the decision in his fight with John Edwardh.
“If that’s what it takes to get into it,” said Parent when asked if he liked his players dropping the mitts in the second period. “Young Yaremchuk there, he came out, he likes to play a gritty, mean game, he likes to mix it up a bit and that’s OK, that’s what we needed. The guy’s 17, he’s one of our youngest guys, and he’s sticking his nose in there, and I commend him for that, for sure.”
Dunkle’s power-play marker came with just over five minutes left in the game, and seemed to swing the momentum heavily in the Bobcats favour, but again, the team was unable to capitalize as they fell to 6-16-5.
“It just takes a man’s effort and the guys know that, we’re just going to have to be better going forward,” said Parent, reiterating something he has gotten all too used to saying this season.
The Bobcats continue their six-game homestand as they host the North Division-leading Spruce Grove Saints (16-9-4) tomorrow night at 7:30 p.m.