A bad bounce that led to the game winning goal was the exclamation point of an ugly third period for the Lloydminster Bobcats as the Sherwood Park Crusaders picked up a 2-1 victory on Wednesday night.
With less than ten minutes to play, and the game tied 1-1, Crusaders forward Cameron Brezinski threw a centring pass into the slot from behind the Bobcats net, and instead of finding a teammate, the puck bounced off a Bobcats foot and past Alex Leclerc.
Despite a late push, the Bobcats were unable to draw even as Crusaders goal tender Zac Klassen kept everything out of his cage.
The loss didn’t come from a lack of opportunity for the Bobcats, who directed 37 shots on goal throughout the game, including 19 in the first period. The Cats were able to generate high-quality scoring opportunities with great frequency through the opening 30 minutes before the tide started to turn in favour of the Crusaders.
Under a barrage from the opposition, Klassen was able to keep his team afloat until Crusaders forward Cole Chorney broke the ice at 5:46 of the second period to make it 1-0 Sherwood Park.
With Crusaders Luke Kempf and Chase Torontow in the penalty box, the Bobcats were finally able to get on the board just shy of three minutes after Chorney’s opener, as Eric Benshadle knocked a loose puck past Klassen to draw the game even at one. The goal was Benshadle’s sixth as a Bobcat, and the forward now has four goals and four assists for eight points over a six-game point streak.
The draw held up until past the midway point of the third period, but the momentum had fully switched back to the Crusaders by then. Having held a shot advantage of 28-14 late in the second period, the Bobcats found themselves on the wrong end of a 10-0 run of shots that brought the gap down to three.
At 13:03 of the third, Brezinski’s pass found the net to give the Crusaders their final lead of the night.
Starring early and doing what he needed to do late, Klassen made 36 saves on 37 shots to earn the win for the Crusaders. In the Bobcats goal, Alex Leclerc stopped 31 of 33 shots, including several highlight reel stops early in the third to keep the game tied 1-1, but suffered his ninth loss of the year.
The Crusaders were unable to strike on two power play opportunities, pushing the Bobcats to five straight games without a power play goal against, a run of 20 consecutive opportunities. The Cats power play converted once on four opportunities.
Next action for the Bobcats will come this weekend as the Drayton Valley Thunder come to town for two games. Puck drops at the Civic Centre on Friday and Saturday at 7:30PM.