Bobcats Win 5-2 over Pontiacs to finish Preseason
Recaps by Shane:
Friday was a busy day in the AJHL. The league released the schedule for the 32 game regular season as well as 8 teams continued in their exhibition season.
The Bobcats hosted one of the four games on the docket facing off against their Northern neighbors the Bonnyville Pontiacs for the first time this season. Both teams have struggled to some degree finding the win column. The home side came into the rivalry match up with a record of 1-5-1, and every game has been determined by a single goal – something all too familiar going back to last season. In an effort to add goals in the Lloydminster team added 4 WHL players (on loan until December 20), this would be the first time all 4 would be in the line up after adding Orrin Centazzo, to join Mason Ward, Jordan Borysiuk and Owen Pederson. Spoiler alert – it worked.
3 minutes into the first period Nathan Carl was found at the offensive blueline by Jayven Leslie where he would casually glide to the net and open the scoring against Matthew Hennessey. This would stand as the lone goal in the opening frame though the Pontiacs would outshoot the home side 12-5 through 20 minutes – 4 minutes of which the Pontiacs did have the man advantage.
The second period definitely built off of the first. 9 penalties and 5 goals would be shared between the two teams. Scoring started when Cole Jungwrith launched the puck (from the defensive zone) through the air resembling an endzone pass finding Ethan Aucoin across the far blue line. Patience would pay off as he maneuvered around Hennessey to make it a two goal lead. This was maybe a side of Jungwirth Bobcats fans have not seen a great deal of. He finished his rookie campaign with 7 assists in 33 games last year. This would be his first assist of the preseason but certainly showed what he’s capable of as he has been widely regarded as one of the most improved players since his arrival in Lloydminster a little more than a year ago. Coach Dube on the play of the Bloomington, MN product, “Jungwirth is a player who does a lot of the little things right and puts his work boots on and goes to work every day. He has a love for the game, his teammates and wants guys around him to succeed. He also has really bought into his role and we know we can lean on him. He’s a player that won’t be out on the first line of the PP but will be in the last minute of a period. Shows the importance of a player buying into the role. He’s come a long way with us, and he’s not done yet.”
The Cats would follow the second goal with a third on a tic tac toe power play goal from Nathan Carl to take a 3-0 lead, before the Pontiacs would answer back with a pair of goals on their own to get back within 1 and shift the momentum ever so slightly in the visitors favour. Lloydminster however would not relent and before the end of the frame with the man advantage Dalton Irvine would skate the puck up ice drop it for Orrin Centazzo who would snap his first as a Bobcat high to the far side to have the Cats back with a 2 goal lead.
Bonnyville would need a big third period in order to take the win on the border. That was complicated by a parade to the penalty box. It started just 30 seconds into the frame and would continue all through the third. All told 17 penalties would be handed out in the third. It would include a number of offsetting penalties but would grant the Cats an additional 5 power plays one of which Jordan Borysiuk would capitalize on to round out the 5-2 Bobcats win.
Post game was all smiles for the black and orange including Nigel Dube and his coaching staff. “I thought we came out with a big start and everyone got into it early. There were a few areas of our game that we challenged our players at and I thought they did a great job. We stuck to the game plan and were rewarded for it.”
Special teams were crucial in a match like this and the Bobcats saw their overall power play numbers improve to 17.65% and the penalty kill jump to 80.56%. The power play looked particularly well seasoned in this match up. A new first unit consisting of Carl, Schendel, & Centazzo with Morrow and either Irvine or Kinniburgh was particularly dazzling and owned puck possession each time they were sent out. Asked about the improvements Dube had plenty to say. “There’s a lot of time spent on special teams on both sides of the puck. Early there was a lot of rotation to try and find the right combination of personnel and then allow them time to work on it. We were 1 for 2 on Tuesday night in Viking as well. You don’t always need your PP to score but you do need it to create momentum. Our PK has really dug in and been willing to block shots, take the hit to send the puck 200′ and have good sticks. Again special teams is huge and we need to continually improve on it”.
The preseason will end Saturday evening in Bonnyville in the second game of the back to back match up. Dube knows that the team will need to stay sharp to win 2 in a row. “Bonnyville has a really tight rink. We need to get pucks to the net and recover the puck off shots to sustain offensive time and build on today. With it being the last exhibition game we will rotate some bodies into the line up again before the regular season gets started.”
The Bobcats will open their regular season at home against Fort McMurray on November 20th. Tickets will be made available the start of that week. Make sure you’re ready for the season with your own Bobcats gear. New items are being added regularly and are available for on-line purchase via the Bobcats facebook page and at the Bobcats office.