Despite outshooting the Fort McMurray Oil Barons 18-4 in the second period, the Lloydminster Bobcats clung to a one-goal lead after forty minutes and needed goaltender Alex Leclerc to come up big to help the visitors to a 4-1 victory Tuesday night.
With a 2-1 lead after a dominant middle frame, the Cats were caught on their heels to start the third period, allowing a number of quality chances as the Oil Barons came close to tying the game several times. However, Leclerc had an answer for nearly everything tonight and he was able to hold the fort long enough for his team to find some insurance.
With 6:48 to go in the contest, Kevin Darrar took advantage of a turnover deep in Oil Barons territory by finding line mate Noah Bauld in front of the net who snuck a shot by Fort McMurray goaltender Eric Szudor to make it 3-1 for the Bobcats.
The home team would continue to press, but Leclerc continued to shut everything down, punctuating his game with a highlight reel glove save on Hayden Ursulak in the dying minutes of the third period.
Moments later, Christian Lloyd was able to intercept a pass in the neutral zone and salt the game away with an empty net goal in the final minute, sealing a 4-1 victory.
The Cats were sluggish to start tonight’s contest, taking back-to-back penalties in the opening minutes and forcing Leclerc to come up big to keep the game at even. The Oil Barons generated the majority of the chances in the opening period, but Leclerc held his team in it until Kris Spriggs beat the Oil Barons to a loose puck, bearing in on Szudor alone before beating him with a backhand deke to put the Cats ahead 1-0. The goal extended Spriggs’ point streak to nine games, which is currently the longest streak in the AJHL.
After a hat trick on Friday night, Spriggs kept the momentum going as the Bobcats came out flying in the second period.
Stepping up their intensity, the Bobcats poured pressure on the home team right from puck drop in the second period, leading to a string of power plays. Despite controlling the play and generating chances, the Cats were unable to break through until their second man advantage just past the midway point of the period, as Spriggs picked up a deflection in the slot and put it past Szudor for his second of the night.
However, the Oil Barons would strike back moments later on a 2-on-1 rush as Jackson McKinstry got a piece of a cross ice pass, fooling Leclerc with an off speed shot that trickled just inside the far post to cut the Bobcats lead in half.
For the remainder of the period, the Bobcats continued to control the period but were unable to convert a number of quality scoring chances, ultimately leaving the period with a one goal lead.
The Bobcats power play goal in the second period was the first conversion in 13 opportunities, dating back to January 5th vs. Camrose. Lloydminster finished the night 1 for 3 on the man advantage, while Fort McMurray was 0 for 6.
With the win, the Bobcats pull within one point of the Bonnyville Pontiacs for third place in the Viterra AJHL North Division, while still holding four games in hand.
The Cats busy week continues on Friday night as they kick off a three-game road trip against the Brooks Bandits – who ride a 16-game winning streak into the contest – with puck drop at 7:00PM at the Centennial Regional Arena.