In what turned out to be a high-scoring affair, a quick start by Kevin Darrar and the Lloydminster Bobcats ended up being the difference in tonight’s 7-4 victory over the Camrose Kodiaks.
The ‘Cats were able to break the ice just 52 seconds into the game, with Darrar, Noah Bauld, and Morgan Messenger putting together a slick passing play leading to a 1-0 lead. Before the midway point of the first period, Darrar was able to get the ‘Cats on the board again. From there, the game took on a rougher tone as there were 49 minutes in penalties over the final six minutes of the opening act.
Included in the penalties were fighting majors to Taylor Mulder of the Bobcats and Trevor Costello of the Kodiaks. Mulder won the bout handily, with Costello coming off the ice worse for wear. Near the end of the period, Bobcats forward Evan Tschumi was given a five minute major and a game misconduct or a blow to the head, as he made contact with a helmetless Nelson Gadoury as the two players fell to the ice behind the Kodiaks net. Before the buzzer sounded, Kodiaks forward Estian Coetzee received a two minute penalty for boarding to nullify the Kodiaks man advantage and set the teams at four on four to start the second period.
Early in the second, Camrose Defenceman TJ Brown was called for holding, giving the Bobcats a four on three powerplay. The ‘Cats took advantage, with Darrar scoring another goal, and his third point of the game, on a one-timer from the top of the circle. However, despite a three goal lead for the ‘Cats, the game was far from over as a see saw battle ensued.
38 seconds after Darrar’s powerplay goal, the Kodiaks would get on the board with Gadoury finding captain Cam Gotaas at the backdoor, getting the puck behind Bobcats goaltender Alex Leclerc to make the game 3-1. The Bobcats would regain their three goal lead about five minutes later, as Morgan Messenger redirected a pass from Noah Bauld past Kodiaks net minder Brodan Salmond. The assist was Bauld’s third point of the night and the game hadn’t even reached the midway point yet.
Camrose would begin to push back shortly after Messenger’s goal, and cut the lead in half four minutes later as Scott Ferguson snuck one past Leclerc for his fourth goal of the season. The comeback push would continue, and Tanner Fleck pulled the Kodiaks within one with just less than five minutes left in the second period. From there, the rough stuff would continue.
With Bobcats forward Austin O’Rourke engaged in a puck battle along the end wall in Kodiaks territory, Camrose defenceman Stefan Danielson delivered a blow to the back of O’Rourke’s head, triggering a roughing call from the referee. Danielson did not stop there, and continued throwing punches at O’Rourke, who did his best to get himself in a position to defend himself. Once O’Rourke had Danielson’s arms tied up, he began to take over the tussle, and ended up taking the defenceman down with a couple hard blows in return. At the end of it all, the Bobcats were given a five minute powerplay, as Danielson was given five minutes for fighting, two minutes for roughing, two minutes for instigating, and a game misconduct, while O’Rourke received four minutes for roughing. The ‘Cats powerplay couldn’t convert in a minute of opportunity to end the second period, but would break through early in the third.
Finding himself with space just off the wall in the Kodiaks zone, Bobcats forward Taylor Allan walked in towards the net and snapped a shot past Salmond with 13 seconds left on the powerplay to make it 5-3 ‘Cats. With the goal, Allan extended his points streak to six games.
Despite being down a pair again, the Kodiaks continued to press and cut the lead in half again with Fleck’s second of the night at the 8:24 mark of the third period. Fleck’s marker would set the stage for a ten minute battle for the victory.
The Bobcats were quick to respond, as less than two minutes after the Kodiaks fourth goal, O’Rourke pulled the puck out of a crowd and into the Camrose corner, spotting defenceman Brendan Kallis sneaking down on the backside. O’Rourke put it on his tape, and Kallis made no mistake putting a one-timer off the post and in for this first AJHL goal to re-establish a two goal cushion.
The Kodiaks never let up, and pushed hard over the next nine minutes, but were unable to solve Leclerc. With Salmond on the bench and an extra attacker on the ice, Bauld was able to skate the puck into open ice in the neutral zone before crossing into Kodiaks territory and sliding it into the open net. This would be the final marker of the night, icing for the ‘Cats a 7-4 victory.
Stopping 16 of 20 shots, Leclerc’s record as Bobcats starter improved to 9-0. In the Kodiaks crease, Salmond turned aside 27 of 33 shots, with the seventh goal being scored into the empty net.
The Bobcats powerplay struck twice in three opportunities, while the Kodiaks failed to strike on the man advantage in four chances.
Riding a seven-game winning streak, the ‘Cats will head to Bonnyville on Wednesday night for a showdown with the Pontiacs.