It was looking like deja vu, as the Bobcats and Fort McMurray Oil Barons remained tied 1-1 after 40 minutes of play despite a territorial advantage for the home team, but Zac Giroux made sure 1360 fans would leave the Civic Centre happy as he knocked in a pair of goals early in the third to seal a 3-1 victory.
After an abbreviated and unproductive powerplay expired a minutes into the third period, Giroux found a loose puck at the faceoff dot and darted to the slot, where he was able to get a shot away that fooled Oil Barons goaltender Ravi Dattani to put the Bobcats ahead 2-1. The game to that point was reminiscent of the last contest between the two teams on Saturday, November 7th, when the 'Cats were unable to find a second goal and dropped their second straight on home ice. Giroux's eighth goal of the season wouldn't be all, however, as he struck minutes later.
Just past the five minute mark of the period, Evan Tschumi directed a puck towards the goal that ended up on Taylor Mulder's stick at the backdoor. Mulder redirected it towards the open net but rang the puck off the post. However, the rebound kicked into the blue paint where Giroux came crashing in to notch an insurance marker to seal the 3-1 victory for the 'Cats. After starting the season with six goals in his first 10 games, Giroux had cooled off with only one in the last 15. Tonight he was able to bust the slump in style as he helped his team bounce back into the win column after a tough loss in Spruce Grove last weekend.
New addition Kris Spriggs took no time to familiarize himself with the home fans, as he brought teddy bears raining down onto the ice 7:01 into the first period to get the game started on a good note for the 'Cats. After scoring 14 goals in 23 games with the Nipawin Hawks in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League this season, Spriggs picked right up where he left off, sneaking a shot off the rush through a screen and past Dattani to make it 1-0. The game was delayed for approximately three minutes as volunteers cleared the ice surface of hundreds of stuffed animals that will all be donated to The Gift of Christmas this holiday season.
Although the Bobcats continued to push the pace and generate chances, the Oil Barons would answer back about four minutes later as Dylan Rauh unleashed a one-timer off of an offensive zone faceoff, beating Bobcats netminder Alex Leclerc for his second goal of the year. From there, the game would settle in, and nobody would light the lamp until Giroux scored the eventual game-winner early in the third period.
Dattani played another strong game for the Oil Barons, turning aside 38 of 41 shots in total, and 29 of 30 through the first 40 minutes. At the other end of the rink, Leclerc was his usual self, allowing one goal on 24 shots en route to his 15th win of the season.
Specialty teams were a virtual non-factor in the contest, as the Oil Barons went 0-for-2 on the man advantage, while the 'Cats were 0-for-3, with two of those opportunities coming in the final five minutes of play.
It's a quick turnaround for both teams as they will meet again at the Civic Centre tomorrow night at 7:30 PM.