Down to 14 skaters, and coming off a lacklustre effort the previous evening, the Lloydminster Bobcats made the Whitecourt Wolverines earn every bit of a 5-3 victory on Saturday night.
After falling behind 2-0 to start the game, the Bobcats would answer back three separate times to draw within a goal, but midway through the third period Eric Krienke found a loose puck in the high slot and put a slap shot through traffic and past goaltender Pierce Diamond. Krienke’s 15th goal of the year extended his current point streak to 12 games, and served as the final nail in the coffin as the Bobcats weren’t able to claw back.
PHOTO: FIVEPENNY PHOTOS
Despite a relatively even start to the game, the Wolverines were able to capitalize on a pair of opportunities to take a 2-0 lead as first Dondre Watson and then Erik Pedersen put the home side on the board. Pedersen’s goal was the first power play marker that the Wolverines had managed in 10 opportunities dating back to last weekend against Brooks. For the Bobcats, their penalty kill streak ended at 15 consecutive successful kills. After taking a commanding early lead, the Wolverines wouldn’t escape the first period unscathed.
In the waning seconds of the opening frame, converted forward Cole Josefchak tracked down a rebound in front of the net and threw a backhand shot past Wolverines goaltender Joshua Dechaine to cut the lead in half and provide a spark for the ‘Cats heading into the dressing room. The momentum didn’t carry over however, as the Wolverines would strike quickly in the second.
It only took 32 seconds on the fresh sheet of ice for the Wolverines to re-establish their two-goal margin, as Cory Santoro banged home his sixth goal of the year to make it 3-1. Unlike Friday night, the Bobcats continued to dig in and elevate their game when faced with adversity.
Just 3:25 later, the Bobcats responded once again as Morgan Messenger chose to shoot on a 2-on-1 rush, beating Dechaine on the glove side to pull his team back within one. The goal was Messenger’s 14th of the season, and the second scored against his former team at the Scott Safety Centre in three games since coming to the 'Cats in an offseason trade. It also marked a career high in the AJHL, surpassing the 13 Messenger scored last year with the Wolverines. With momentum on their side, a Bobcats power play later in the period looked to be a fortunate opportunity, but quickly backfired.
After going 30 games without allowing a shorthanded goal, the Bobcats allowed two in back-to-back games this weekend as Matt Gervais gathered a rebound in the high slot after a rush from teammate Hubert Delisle, and beat Diamond to again establish a two goal lead for the Wolverines. This comes on the heels of last night's shorthanded marker by Justin Young, the first allowed all season by the Bobcats. In another gut check moment, the 'Cats answered the bell.
Immediately following Gervais’ shorthanded marker, Zac Giroux led a rush up ice and snapped a quick shot over the glove of Dechaine and in for his second goal in as many games to bring the contest within one goal again. Giroux's 11th of the campaign came on the same power play as Gervais’ goal, and broke a run of 20 consecutive man advantage opportunities without a conversion for the Bobcats. Once again the visitors would land the last blow prior to the intermission.
With twenty minutes remaining, the Bobcats came out of the gate flying and registered the first five shots of the third period, buzzing the net in an effort to draw even for the first time since the scoreless tie was broken in the first. However, they were unable to break through and Krienke’s goal was the only marker of the final frame, putting a lid on a weekend sweep by the Wolverines.
Pierce Diamond got the nod in place of Alex Leclerc, and continued to build on his strong play in a relief effort last night. The high-powered Wolverines put 35 shots on goal, and Diamond continued to come up with key saves throughout the game to help give his team a chance to win.
Despite a determined effort, the shorthanded Bobcats couldn’t avenge Friday’s loss, and will now look ahead to a matchup in Sherwood Park on Wednesday night when they'll have a chance to break the two game skid.