After a week off over Thanksgiving, the Lloydminster Bobcats were able to overcome “a lot of turkey” to defeat the Sherwood Park Crusaders 3-1 at the Centennial Civic Centre in Lloydminster tonight.
After a slugglish forty minutes, in which neither team was able to get any momentum, Austin O'Rourke was able to break a 1-1 tie with an impressive effort to beat the Crusaders' defencemen and get alone on goaltender Zac Klassen before putting the puck through five hole. The play was immediately discussed by the on-ice officials as O'Rourke followed the puck into the net and knocked it off its moorings, but it was determined that the puck crossed the line first, and O'Rourke recorded his first AJHL goal. With the marker, the White, Georgia product pushed his season totals to one goal and and three assists in eleven games played.
This goal would stand as the game-winner, breaking a 1-1 tie that was set in place after forty minutes. The Bobcats were the first to get on the board tonight, with Taylor Allan finding the puck on the receiving end of a fortunate bounce. Affiliated player Ryan Schoettler, a member of the Lloydminster AAA Midget Bobcats, crossed the red line and dumped the puck into Crusaders territory, where it kicked off the end wall as Klassen stepped out behind his net to play it and landed right on Allan's stick in front of the net. Allan made no mistake in knocking in his fifth goal of the year, and for Schoettler it only took 8:03 into his first game to get on the score sheet.
Some rough play followed later in the period, as Crusaders defenceman Ben McLeod dropped his shoulder on Allan just inside the Crusaders blue line. Allan was knocked to the ice, and a scrum would ensue with all players on the ice getting involved. After the dust settled, McLeod was issued two minutes and a ten minute misconduct for a blow to the head, but the upcoming powerplay was offset by a roughing penalty issued after the play to O'Rourke.
In the second, the Crusaders were able to bring the game back to even, as Tyler Maltby scooped the puck out of the circle on an offensive zone draw for the Crusaders and got the puck to his stick before beating Bobcats goaltender Alex Leclerc with a quick backhand. The goal was Maltby's tenth of the season, and brought the score to 1-1 with 7:25 to go in the second period.
Later in the frame, O'Rourke was called for roughing, and the Bobcats found themselves on the penalty kill to end the period. The 'Cats were able to keep the puck outside and kill off the remainder of the period, and wiped out the remaining 0:46 left on the penalty at the start of the third. Just over three minutes later, O'Rourke put the Bobcats ahead for good with his first.
With 7:12 remaining in the game, Morgan Messenger put the game away for good, converting a beautiful pass from Marco Ballarin to make it 3-1 Bobcats. The scoring play was initiated by Schoettler, evading pressure and working the puck up the wall to Taylor Allan, who in turn moved it ahead to Ballarin moving through the zone with speed. Ballarin outskated the Crusaders defence and drove the puck towards the goal before slipping it backdoor to Messenger, with Klassen having no chance on the play.
In the Bobcats net, Leclerc improved his record to 6-0 on the season, turning aside 28 of 29 shots directed his way.
The homestand continues for the 'Cats this weekend as the Canmore Eagles come to town on Saturday night, and the Calgary Mustangs arrive for a Sunday matinee at 2:30.