Kris Spriggs got things started by tying an AJHL record on Friday night, and ended the game by sealing his first hat trick as a Bobcat as his team picked up a 6-1 victory over the Drayton Valley Thunder on Friday night at the Centennial Civic Centre.
Just 0:06 into the contest, Spriggs intercepted an errant pass from a Thunder defender and broke in alone on goal tender Brett Zarowny before beating him with a backhand to put the Bobcats ahead 1-0. This is tied for the fastest opening goal in AJHL history, and it's the fifth time the feat has been accomplished.
The Bobcats continued to pressure throughout the first period, pouring 18 shots on goal, but it wasn't until the waning seconds when they struck again. Taking a feed from Christian Lloyd, Nick Quillan broke down the wing and snapped a shot high on Zarowny, who was able to make the save, but the rebound came out onto the tape of Brett Smythe who slid it past Zarowny for his second goal as a Bobcat in his first game against his former team to make it 2-0 after 20 minutes.
Although the Thunder put 13 shots on goal in the first period, few were quality chances and Bobcats netminder Pierce Diamond was up to the challenge when tested.
The second period started very similar to the first, as Spriggs went to the net in the opening minute and put a rebound past Matt Berlin – who took over the crease after the first period – for his second of the night to make it 3-0 for the Cats. Despite having to kill four minutes of penalties during the middle frame, the Bobcats poured it on and outshot the Thunder 16-6 by the time the 40 minute mark was reached. Within two minutes of the buzzer, it was Smythe again book ending the period after Eric Benshadle won a footrace into Thunder territory, shook off a defender, and fed his teammate in front who made no mistake. With two goals in the game, Smythe now has three as a Bobcat and nine overall between his two teams this year.
Once again, Diamond turned aside every Thunder challenge to keep a blank sheet heading into the third.
Near the midway point of the final period, Benshadle once again won a puck battle in Thunder territory, this time feeding Quillan in the high slot who snapped a one-timer past Berlin to increase the Bobcats lead to 5-0.
With a power play opportunity minutes later, the Thunder were able to bust Diamond's shutout bid as Jean-Francois Plourde fired a one-timer from the point that found a way through to make it a 5-1 game.
However, the Bobcats would have the final say as Spriggs completed the hat trick with a rising wrist shot that fooled Berlin to make it 6-1 Bobcats at the 15:44 mark of the third period.
The final shot tally favoured the home team 38-25 as the Bobcats carried the play for the majority of the contest.
On special teams, the Thunder scored one power play goal on three opportunities, while the Cats were 0 for 2.
The Bobcats will now be off for the rest of the weekend before starting a run of four consecutive road games on Tuesday night in Fort McMurray.