Chris Roberts/Courtesy of lloydminstersource.com
With just four defencemen, the Lloydminster Bobcats shook off Friday’s loss to Whitecourt with an impressive team effort on Saturday, defeating the Calgary Canucks 4-1.
The team dressed just five defencemen with second-year blueliner Jordyn Wozniak out with an injury, and Linden Springer was ejected just two minutes into the game for checking from behind.
“It’s a pretty big grind but I think everyone just wanted to win so badly it didn’t even matter,” said the team’s new captain Grant Baker, who had two goals on the night.
The ‘Cats went with four defencemen – Baker, Austin Yaremchuk, Ray Bell and Spencer Johnstone – for much of the game before forward Josh Cook began taking a regular shift on the back-end in the third period.
Interim head coach Kyle Tapp explained that the team simply didn’t have any choice but to dress only five defenders.
“Stefan Freter was the only close AP we could’ve used (but) he just played an hour before so we weren’t going to ask him to play,” said Tapp.
“Josh Cook did a great job back there patching it up, kudos to the D, they logged a lot of ice.”
Minutes after killing off the major to Springer, leading scorer Dustin Lebrun got the Bobcats on the board, finishing off some fine forechecking work from Kelvin Walz and Austin McDonald.
Lebrun would score his second of the game – and the eventual game winner – to start the second period, capitalizing on a fake shot, cross-ice pass from Johnstone.
Tapp explained that Lebrun’s production was simply a result of following the game plan.
“Dustin didn’t do anything special, Dustin did his job, did what was asked of him, stayed within the structure of the team and got rewarded for it.”
Less than two minutes later Baker scored the first of his two goals on the night, firing the puck on net from the sideboards while using Cook as a screen in front of Canucks goaltender Colin Cooper.
With a 3-0 lead, the ‘Cats would have been OK to let the clock run down and hold tight to their lead, particularly with just four defencemen, but to their credit they continued to press, playing out what might have been their most complete game of the season.
“All the spirits are great inside the room, at home we talk with everybody we’re hanging out, and even the chemistry with the new guys, the twins – (Mitch and Liam McNamara) – players can go in there and play well with them and have great chemistry,” said Lebrun.
Baker would add a third period goal while rookie netminder Devin Green made 23 saves to earn the win.
Tapp added that with just four defencemen for almost the entire game, the team was forced to adjust on the fly, particularly after two periods.
“You see a little bit of soccer in our game where we’ll go back instead of just giving (the puck) up to go chase it again. Then we realized quickly that you’ve got to be able to skate to do that and to ask four guys to do that is difficult, so going into the third (it was) get (to) the red (line), get it in, let’s use our forecheck, which the boys love,” the interim head coach explained.
Still, that didn’t make their performance any less impressive.
“They’re so tired in there and I think they played well, and big props to (Josh) Cook there that went on the back-end and played a hell of a game, it’s good to see that players can play in those roles,” Lebrun added.
The Bobcats have now won five of their past six games, but remain nine points behind the Sherwood Park Crusaders for the final playoff spot in the North with just 16 games remaining.
Though quite a large gap, the schedule presents an opportunity to the ‘Cats as they play their next three games against the Crusaders – one tomorrow night in Sherwood Park followed by back-to-back games in the Border City.
“These next three games we’ve got to win all three,” said a confident Baker.