For the second time in less than a week, the Bobcats forced extra time with a third period goal from Kevin Darrar, enjoyed stellar shootout goaltending from Pierce Diamond, and came out on top in a game that never felt like it was in control.
Much like Thursday night's shootout win in Camrose, the Lloydminster Bobcats found themselves fighting from behind in the third period tonight against the Drayton Valley Thunder. Nearing the midway point of the third period, on the man advantage, 'Cats forward Kevin Darrar found himself with space along the half wall in the Thunder zone. Walking towards the centre of the ice, Darrar unleashed a wrist shot over the glove hand of goaltender Garrett Mason, nearly a mirror image of his game-tying goal against the Kodiaks last week.
Over the final 10:39 of the third period, neither team was able to find a goal, so the North Division matchup headed to overtime. Drayton Valley came out strong in the 3-on-3 tiebreaker and had a golden opportunity within the first minute of overtime, as Jordan McConnell came off the bench and found himself alone in front of the Lloydminster goal. Getting the feed in the slot, McConnell directed a one-timer at the net but Pierce Diamond came up big for the Bobcats with a glove save.
Moments later, Evan Tschumi was sprung for a partial breakaway and was able to get a shot away, but he too was unable to end the game as Mason turned him aside. Then it was Cole Josefchak bearing down on Mason later in the sequence, trying to tuck his shot under the cross bar but instead putting it over the net into the glass. 2:40 into the overtime period, Kevin Darrar was hauled down at the conclusion of an end-to-end rush as he tried to drive towards the Thunder net, and Nicholas Rasovic was sent off for tripping.
For most of the next two minutes, the Bobcats controlled the puck on a 4-on-3 powerplay but were unable to take advantage, as Mason made several saves to keep the game knotted at three. With just 0:20 of four-on-four hockey after the penalty to Rasovic expired, the Thunder were able to stall the puck in their own zone and force a shootout.
First up for the Bobcats was Troy Van Tetering, who ended the game with a shootout goal in Camrose last week, but he lost the handle on the puck. For the Thunder came McConnell, who tried to slide the puck five hole but was turned aside by Diamond. On to round two, where Zac Giroux drove in and beating Mason clean on the glove side with a wrist shot to put the 'Cats ahead. Up next in the second round was Nolan Krewusik for the Thunder, who tried to beat Diamond's glove hand but the Bobcats netminder was able to snag it and hang on. With the game on his stick, Morgan Messenger skated in for the 'Cats, and after briefly losing the puck, tucked it right under the crossbar to give the Bobcats their ninth win of the year.
The game started on a good note for the 'Cats, with Giroux putting his team on the board just 2:44 into the first period with his sixth goal of the season, which is the most by any Bobcat. Later in the period, Giroux found himself stuck in the penalty box on a boarding call, and could only watch as Brodie Clowes sent a wrist shot from the blue line that was able to find it's way past Diamond to even the score at one. The Bobcats woud regain the lead before the end of the first as Marco Ballarin found the puck on his stick as he drove towards the slot and ripped it over the blocker of Mason.
Late in the first, Jordan Taupert of the Thunder would get his stick up on Bobcats defenceman Cole Josefchak, giving the Bobcats a four minute powerplay to start the second period. Despite the man advantage, the 'Cats were unable to do any damage, and the 2-1 lead would remain until late in the second when momentum began to shift in Drayton Valley's favour. After several long shifts in the Bobcats zone, the Thunder were able to get the game even as former 'Cat Troy Rapuano slapped a rebound past Diamond. Just two and a half minutes later, in the final minute of the second period, Matt McNeil tracked down a loose puck near the Bobcats goal and gave the Thunder their first lead of the night, which would hold until Darrar's tying goal in the third.
With the loss, Drayton Valley has now dropped their last five games, with two of those losses coming in a shootout. The Bobcats have gone 0.500 over their last four games, and are now a perfect 2-0 in shootouts this season.
Not in the lineup for the Bobcats tonight were forward Taylor Mulder (injury), forward MacKenzie Bauer (personal), defenceman Graydon Smith (injury), and goaltender Alex Leclerc (suspension). Leclerc will return to the lineup tomorrow night after serving his five-game suspension, but the status of Mulder and Smith is uncertain. Leaving the game for the Bobcats were defencemen Christian Lloyd and Nick Quillan, and forward Taylor Lotoski.
Tomorrow night, the Bobcats head to Spruce Grove for another showdown of the top two teams in the AJHL, with puck drop at 7:00PM at Grant Fuhr Arena.