Kicking off a massive weekend set to start the New Year, the Drayton Valley Thunder got a leg up with a 6-3 victory over the Lloydminster Bobcats at the Civic Centre Friday night.
The Bobcats were paced with a first period goal from Zach Kaiser, and a pair from Kobe Walker, while Austin McGrath faced 49 shots in goal.
Lloydminster got the scoring going first as Walker drove the puck deep into the zone before finding Kaiser in the slot, who ripped his eighth goal of the season off the post and in. However, Drayton Valley countered with a pair of goals, first off the stick of Zach Cox with assists to Mackenzie Harden and Rhett Willcox, and the second coming from Levi Johnson, assisted by Matt Benko and Chris Breese.
The Cats struck back before the period was done as Caden Benson pounced on a turnover, working the puck to Wilson Northey at front where it eventually found Walker who ripped it home to knot the game at 2-2, but Drayton Valley tagged another before the opening frame was over, with Breese finding the twine assisted by Sam Anzai and Johnson.
After a high-scoring, evenly played first period, the Thunder got the edge in the second with a pair of goals from Nolan Dawson assisted by Derek Willson, and Harden from Willcox and Andrew Troy. Despite outshooting the Thunder 16-12 in the middle frame, the Cats found themselves trailing 5-2.
Lloydminster was first on the board in the third as Walker pounced on a turnover and fired a shot off the cross bar and in for an unassisted marker, his second of the night. However, the Thunder stole any momentum the Cats had as Matt Benko fooled McGrath with a screened shot from the blue line, with an assist to Willcox.
Drayton Valley now has a four point lead on the Bobcats for the seventh and final playoff spot in the Viterra AJHL North Division, but the Bobcats retain three games in hand. The two teams meet again at the Civic Centre on Saturday night at 7:30PM.