For the fourth time in just 15 starts this season, Alex Leclerc earned a shutout as the Bobcats ended a two-game losing skid with 3-0 victory over the Calgary Canucks.
Early in the first period, Austin O'Rourke scored what stood to be the game winner, as he knocked in a rebound on a shot from Kevin Darrar to put the 'Cats ahead 1-0 just 3:27 into the first period. In retrospect the goal held up as the difference in the game, but at the team it felt like anything but the case. The Bobcats would finish the first period with a strong effort, outshooting the Canucks 14-7, but the tables began to turn in the second.
PHOTO: FIVEPENNY PHOTOS
Out of the gate in the middle frame, the visitors dictated the pace of play against the Bobcats, and held the puck in the Lloydminster zone for long stretches at a time. Despite an early powerplay, the Bobcats were unable to get much going, and even gave up a shorthanded 3-on-1 towards the end of the penalty but the Canucks were unable to convert. Lloydminster ended up on the powerplay again at the 16:40 mark as Reed Morison was called for boarding, but it was an abbreviated man advantage as Graydon Smith took a slashing penalty a minute later which led to 4-on-4 play. Neither side would register a goal in the second period, but the Canucks outshot the 'Cats 13-5 and took over all the momentum.
Early in the third period, the Canucks continued to press, but the tide began to shift a little over five minutes in as the Bobcats were able to take advantage of stellar goaltending from Leclerc and put together a number of shifts in the offensive zone. Finally, the 'Cats broke through shortly after the midway point of the third period as Morgan Messenger got in alone on a breakaway and beat Canucks goaltender Caiden Kraitz with a beautiful shot under the crossbar to put some life into the Civic Centre and put the home team ahead.
The goal seemed to lift the Bobcats, and they skated with more confidence the rest of the way through. The crowd would be given another reason to cheer minutes later as Taylor Allan knocked in a powerplay goal, his eighth of the year, to put the final nail in the coffin.
Leclerc turned aside 32 shots on the night, and most importantly stood tall in the second period as the Canucks continued to apply pressure on the 'Cats.
With key players Noah Bauld, Nick Quillan, and Evan Tschumi missing to injury, and Taylor Lotoski out of the lineup for undisclosed reasons, the Bobcats brought up two affiliated players from the Midget AAA Bobcats in Zach Bendall and Parker Saretsky who skated in their first Junior A games. Forming a line with centre Connor Odelein, the trio served as arguably the best line the Bobcats had throughout the night.
Adding to injury issues, Bobcats forward Kevin Darrar left the ice in pain late in the second period and didn't return the rest of the night.
Tomorrow, the Bobcats face a big test on the road against the Sherwood Park Crusaders, who are now on a four-game winning streak after defeating the Bonnyville Pontiacs tonight. Puck drop is at 7:00 at the Sherwood Park Arena, and the call will be on 95.9 Lloyd FM with pregame at 6:40.