Decimated by injuries and facing one of the hottest teams in the league, the Lloydminster Bobcats were able to pick up a hard-earned 2-1 overtime victory in Sherwood Park Saturday night.
Having trailed 1-0 for two periods, the Bobcats were finally able to break through Crusaders netminder Zac Klassen when Morgan Messenger found himself alone in front of the net and slid the puck five hole. For Messenger, it was his twelth goal of the season and his second third period goal in as many nights. The goal rewarded Alex Leclerc for his hard night's work, and helped the Bobcats earn at least one point as the two teams headed to overtime.
PHOTO: FIVEPENNY PHOTOS
For the first minute and a half of 3-on-3 overtime, the Crusaders controlled the puck and generated a couple scoring chances, but were unable to get anything past Leclerc. Having survived the early push, the Bobcats were able to regroup and break up ice. Graydon Smith worked the puck ahead to Troy Van Tetering in the neutral zone, springing a 2-on-1 along with Zac Giroux. Van Tetering was able to freeze Klassen before beating him with a wrist shot on the blocker side, clinching a gritty overtime victory for the 'Cats.
For the second straight night, Alex Leclerc was stellar for the Bobcats, shutting the door completely after getting beat on a deflection in the opening five minutes. Tyler Maltby earned his 18th goal of the season on the play, but that was the last time that Leclerc would allow a goal in the game.
At the other end of the ice, Zac Klassen was able to shut down all shots directed his way by the Bobcats until Messenger broke the shutout early in the third.
The Bobcats started tonight's game without leading scorer Kevin Darrar, third leading scorer Noah Bauld, forward Evan Tschumi, and defenceman Nick Quillan, as all players are currently dealing with injuries. In the second period of tonight's game, the forward group was further set back as Austin O'Rourke left the game. Defenceman Brendan Kallis was moved up to the wing, giving the team nine forwards and six defencemen for the third period and overtime.
Making his Bobcats debut was defenceman Stefan Wood, who was acquired from the Nipawin Hawks this week in exchange for Taylor Lotoski.
With the win, the Bobcats now sit tied for first in the AJHL with the Spruce Grove Saints with 42 points each, and each team has now played 25 games. The two sides will collide one week from tonight when the 'Cats see their next action in a road trip to Spruce Grove.