The Spruce Grove Saints lit the lamp six times – four times on the power play – and sent the Lloydminster Bobcats home empty handed on Sunday afternoon at the Grant Fuhr Arena with a 6-3 victory.
The Saints got started quickly, as Riley Simpson banged home a rebound on an early game power play just 1:59 into the contest to make it 1-0. Minutes later, with the Bobcats once again on the penalty kill, Saints forward Josh Harris took a feed from Macklin Pichonsky and beat goaltender Alex Leclerc to push the lead to two.
Finding themselves in an early hole, the Bobcats were able to respond in the dying seconds of the opening frame as Christian Lloyd jumped up on the rush and beat Saints net minder Matthew Murray on the blocker side to cut the Saints lead to 2-1. New Bobcat forward Eric Benshadle – acquired in a trade late Friday – got involved early in his first game in helping set up the goal. However, it was the Saints who came out in the second period and got back in the driver’s seat.
Shortly past the five minute mark of the middle frame, Saints defenceman Connor James found a lane and put a puck through a screen and past Leclerc to regain a two goal lead for the home side. It was the start of a big second period for the AJHL’s top team, as Brandon Biro and Cole Nicholson (PP) also got in the scoring to increase the lead to 5-1 after the second period.
Unlike the second period, the Bobcats got the early jump in the third period, and after getting hauled down on a partial breakaway Kris Spriggs was awarded a penalty shot. At the 5:31 mark of the final stanza Spriggs beat Murray to put the Bobcats back on the board.
Two minutes later, Noah Bauld won a race to a loose puck deep in Saints territory and worked up the wall before driving towards the slot and beating Murray with a low wrist shot to make it 5-3. Murray’s day was done at that point, as Ravi Dattani came in to mind the net for the Saints, just like Pierce Diamond had done for the Bobcats after Spruce Grove’s fifth goal.
With momentum on their side, the Bobcats stumbled as forward Morgan Messenger was assessed a two minute minor and a game misconduct for checking from behind against Saints captain Tyler Busch, giving Spruce Grove their fourth power play opportunity.
For the fourth straight time, the Saints were able to strike with the man advantage as Trey Fix-Wolansky shot a one-timer through a crowd that got past Pierce Diamond to make it 6-3. That would be the final dagger as the Bobcats weren’t able to resume the comeback before the clock ran out.
Special teams were a major factor in this one as Spruce Grove went 4-for-5 on the power play, with their lone failed opportunity coming in the final minute of the third. On the other side, the Bobcats were unable to break through on four power play opportunities.
The Saints now lead the Bobcats by seven points in the Viterra AJHL North Division, and have a three point margin on the second-place Whitecourt Wolverines.
The Bobcats will be off all week leading up to a Friday night home contest against the Drayton Valley Thunder.