With a beautiful move that froze Lloydminster Bobcats goaltender Alex Leclerc, Bonnyville Pontiacs forward Bobby McMann scored the lone shootout goal of tonight's matchup, putting an end to a pair of streaks for the 'Cats, and sealing a 3-2 victory for the visiting Pontiacs.
In the fourth game between these two rivals, the Pontiacs were able to get their first win over the Bobcats, and did so by coming back from behind twice to force extra time. Once there, the Pontiacs ended the Bobcats run of six straight overtime or shootout wins to start the season.
After a scoreless first period, the Bobcats were the first team to get on the board as Evan Tschumi picked up a neutral zone pass with from Kevin Darrar and broke in alone on Pontiacs goaltender Olivier Charest. The netminder got a piece of the puck with his glove, but not enough as it trickled behind and in to give the Bobcats a 1-0 lead. In his final game before heading to selection camp for Team Canada West at the World Jr. A Challenge, Tschumi was able to notch his sixth goal of the season.
It looked as if the Bobcats would take the 1-0 lead into the dressing room, but with less than one minute to play, McMann showed why he's the second leading scorer across the Alberta Junior Hockey League. Seemingly tied up in the corner, McMann was able to spin out of traffic and create space for himself behind the net before feeding teammate Zach Mills in front who went top shelf on Leclerc to level the game at one heading into the final frame.
Lloydminster pressed back to start the third period, and would eventually be rewarded as Morgan Messenger found himself alone in front, taking a feed from Darrar and beating Charest on the glove side to regain the lead at 2-1. With goals tough to come by, it appeared as if the Bobcats may be able to close out the game with the lead, but the Pontiacs elevated their game over the final seven minutes and struck back.
About two minutes after Messenger's go ahead goal, McMann busted into the offensive zone and threw a shot on goal from a wide angle. Leclerc was able to make the save, but the puck eventually found its way onto the stick of Brandon Whistle, who found the back of the net to tie the game with 5:21 to go. Both sides would have a chance or two to regain the lead before the end of the period, but nobody was able to score a difference maker.
In three-on-three overtime, the play was relatively level for the first three minutes, until Taylor Allan was called for a cross check on Derek Brown to give the Pontiacs a 4-on-3 powerplay for the duration of the period. The Pontiacs would control the puck for the most part, and directed a number of pucks toward the goal, but Leclerc and the Bobcats penalty killers did a good job of getting in front of the pucks and keeping it out. After all that, the teams would head to a shootout.
McMann was the first skater up for the Pontiacs, and froze Leclerc as he moved left to right in the slot and quickly tucked a shot into the top left corner over Leclerc's blocker to put the Pontiacs ahead. Kris Spriggs was next up for the Bobcats, and attempted to beat Charest low to the blocker side but couldn't get it over the goaltender's right pad. Next up was Pontiacs defenceman Bryan Gerstenfeld, with an opportunit to put his team ahead 2-0. Gerstenfeld made a move to the left but was unable to get it past Leclerc. Up for the 'Cats was Darrar, who faked a shot and moved across to his left and got Charest to go down, but the puck rolled off his stick before he could get a shot away. After Darrar was Pontiacs forward Kyler Hehn with a chance to win it, but he could not solve Leclerc either. Out came Noah Bauld to keep the game alive for the Bobcats, and he successfully faked out Charest as he moved to his right, but rang the puck off the post and out, securing the Pontiacs victory.
Leclerc suffered his third loss of the year, and first in extra time, while making 34 saves on 36 shots. For the Pontiacs, Charest turned aside 28 of 30.
The Bobcats will have this weekend off before their last home game of 2015 next Wednesday, December 9th against Spruce Grove.