New goaltender Alex Leclerc wasted little time getting into the groove with the Lloydminster Bobcats.
After playing in the Australian Ice Hockey League's championship game in Melbourne on Sunday, Leclerc was back on the ice six days later and 14,210 km away. All that travel didn't seem to affect him one bit, as the Longueuil, PQ native turned aside all 21 shots faced for his first shutout as a Bobcat.
After a scoreless first period, in which the Bobcats outshot the Battlefords Stars 7-3, the 'Cats started to get into a rhythm and generate offensively in the second. Rookie Noah Bauld added to what has already been an impressive preseason with two goals just over three minutes apart in the second frame to give Lloydminster a 2-0 lead after two periods of play.
As the third period rolled along, frustrations continued to mount for the Stars who had a hard time generating quality chances, and every time they did, Leclerc was ready with an answer. The final frame was full of penalties on both sides of the ice, leading to Alex Pernitsky finding the back of the net with a 4 on 3 powerplay marker at the 15:16 mark of the period.
Shortly after, fisticuffs began as Kendall Fransoo of the Stars got into a heated exchange with Lloydminster's Evan Tschumi, with both players dropping their gloves and falling to the ice in a wrestling match. During the same stoppage, Patrick Geary of the Bobcats took exception to comments from Jordan Wiest, and the two players got into the ring for an impressive bout, with both players wearing down at the end.
In the waning minutes, the Stars struggled to generate anything offensively, and time and time again Leclerc was ready with the answer, earning his first shutout in his first game with the Bobcats.
One preseason game remains for the Bobcats tomorrow afternoon in Mayerthorpe against the Whitecourt Wolverines. Shortly after, Coach and General Manager Gord Thibodeau and his staff will make final decisions to pare the lineup down to the allowed amount to begin the regular season.
Included in those decisions will be which 20 year-old player will not remain with the team, Leclerc, Austin Yaremchuk, Christian Lloyd, Marco Ballarin, Patrick Geary, Taylor Allan, and Taylor Mulder are all entering their final year of junior eligibility, but with the team only allowed six 20 year-old players on the roster, a decision must be made.
The Bobcats final roster will be on display on Friday night in Bonnyville when they open the season against the Pontiacs.